Volume 12, Number 5 Rosh Hashanah 2022
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Why Didn’t The US Save More Jews From The Nazis’ Clutches? The American People Were Against It.
By Stewart Ain
The inscription on the Supreme Court building reads "equal justice under law." (Jens Grabenstein/Flickr Commons)
Why didn’t the United States do more to help Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust? This question haunts the history of the United States and the Holocaust, and lurks behind practically every storyline in the new film on the subject from Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein, to be aired for three consecutive nights on PBS beginning Sept. 18. The question, of course, isn’t just about the Holocaust, but about the years before the war, when the Nazi vise tightened around the Jews of Germany and more than half of them sought to obtain visas to immigrate to the United States. The vast majority never made it in. The simple answer to this question is that the American public was against granting Jews refuge in the United States, and in this area President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration hewed close to public opinion. But, as the documentary, “The U.S. and the Holocaust,” demonstrates, there is more to it than that. “There were multiple factors, and the film Burns made helps viewers understand that the answers are complicated,” said Daniel Greene, curator of an exhibit at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington on America and the Holocaust. “Between 1917 and 1924, immigration laws made it difficult to get in. And there were severe limits between 1929 and 1930, the first year of the Great Depression,” he said. “Antisemitism and xenophobia keep refugees out, but we are also in the depths of one of the worst economic depressions this country has ever faced.” At a time when there were bread lines in the United States and one in four Americans was unemployed at the peak of the Great Depression in THE
933, letting in Jewish refugees who would compete for jobs was out of the question, Greene observed. Once the war began, some officials in the U.S. State Department and others stoked fears that Jewish refugees from Germany could be spies for the Nazis. In 1940, Peter Bergson, a leader of the Irgun Jewish militia in Palestine who also was known as Hillel Kook, arrived in the United States from Palestine to lobby for a Jewish army that would both assist in the war effort and help create a Jewish homeland in Palestine. “He was trying to lobby politicians and the U.S. government to create this army, saying there are American Jews and Hebrews in Palestine who wanted to fight and that they should be allowed to fight under one flag,” said Rebecca Erbelding, a historian and author. “He argued that he could get tens of thousands of Jews from all over the world who would fight and who had a stronger motivation to fight than the Allied nations did. He just needed the Allies to agree to the creation of this army.” Bergson’s group circulated peti-
Immigrants waiting to be transferred to the U.S. mainland from Ellis Island, Oct. 30, 1912. Congress significantly tightened its immigration policies in 1924, making immigration more difficult for Jews fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. (Library of Congress)
tions, did radio interviews, ran newspaper ads, held dinners and staged We Will Never Die pageants across the country both to call for a Jewish army and for a stronger U.S. response to the Holocaust. Among the group’s supporters were artist Arthur Szyk, screen writer Ben Hecht, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes and Rep. Will Rogers, Jr. In the end, however, there wasn’t enough support for the army’s creation. “I think Middle East and British/ American politics had a lot to do with their lack of clear success,”
said Erbelding. Another factor in America’s shortcomings in helping European Jews was the inability of Americans — including Jews — to grasp the magnitude of the Nazi genocide. A Gallup poll in early January 1943 found that fewer than half of the respondents believed the Nazis could have killed 2 million Jews (by that time 4 million actually had been murdered). With one notable exception — the resettlement of nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees in 1944 to a specially built refugee camp in Fort Ontario, New York, on condition they return home after the war — “Americans were very reluctant to let in refugees,” Greene noted. This was true even after the war. A poll in December 1945 asked Americans if the U.S. should let in more refugees than the country had admitted prior to the war, and only 5 percent agreed. About 37 percent said the U.S. should allow in fewer. The United States actually had no formal refugee policies or protections until after World War II. During the war’s later years, the official U.S. line was that the best way to help the Jews of Europe and liberate the concentration camps was to defeat the Nazis on the battlefield. As Greene put it: “We rally as a nation to defeat fascism, we just don’t rally as a nation to rescue the victims of fascism.”
Why didn’t U.S. forces bomb the rail lines leading to Auschwitz, or even Auschwitz itself? In the first years after the United States declared war, when the Nazis’ killing machine was at its most intense in 1942 and early 1943, U.S. aircraft based in Britain were not capable of reaching any of the killing centers by air, according to the documentary. By the time U.S. troops first reached mainland Europe, in southern Italy in September 1943, 75% of the Holocaust’s 6 million Jewish victims already had been killed. The Allies did discuss bombing the rail lines to Auschwitz-Birkenau, but the War Department claimed that the lines would have been quickly and easily repaired, and that it was best to devote air resources to fighting the Nazis directly. In addition, the documentary notes, bombing in World War II was hardly precise. One study showed that just one bomber out of five hit within five miles of its intended target. At least once, Allied bombs intended for a nearby forced labor factory actually hit Birkenau, several miles away, killing dozens. Although one prisoner later said he and his fellow prisoners were terrified by the bombing, others, includSee NAZIS' CLUTCHES on Page
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NAZIS' CLUTCHES Continued from Page 3 ing author Elie Wiesel, who was an inmate at Auschwitz, said they would have been willing to die by U.S. bombs if it would have ended Nazi exterminations. “We were no longer afraid of death; at any rate, not of that death,” Wiesel later wrote. “Every bomb filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life.” There is no contemporaneous evidence that Roosevelt ever seriously considered bombing Auschwitz, according to the documentary. However, years later, John McCloy, a U.S. Assistant Secretary of War during World War II, claimed to have spoken with Roosevelt about the matter and that he flatly rejected it, saying: “I won’t have anything to do with it. We’ll be accused of participating in this horrible business.” Historian Deborah Lipstadt, who now serves as U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, said she believes the U.S. should have bombed Auschwitz — “not because it would have rescued a major portion of the 6 million, but as a statement, as a message to the Germans: ‘We know what you are doing. We cannot abide by what
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you are doing. This is our response to what you are doing.’ Yes, it could have done that.” Freda Kirchwey, editor of The Nation magazine, might have agreed. In 1943, Kirchwey wrote, “In this country you and I and the President and the Congress and the State Department are accessories to the crime and share Hitler’s guilt. If we had behaved like humane and generous people instead of complacent, cowardly ones, the Jews lying today in the earth of Poland and Hitler’s other crowded grave yards would be alive and safe; and other millions yet to die would have found sanctuary. We had it in our power to rescue these doomed people and we did not lift a hand to do it. Or perhaps it would be fair to say that we lifted just one cautious hand encased in the tight-fitting gloves of quotas and visas and affidavits and the thick layer of prejudice.” This story was sponsored by and produced in collaboration with PBS, which will air “The U.S. and the Holocaust” on three consecutive nights beginning Sunday, September 18 at 8 P.M. Eastern. This article was produced by JTA's native content team.
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New Mexico’s Jewish Federation Is On Brink Of Collapse With No Staff Or Funding For Programs By Asaf Elia-Shalev
The inscription on the Supreme Court building reads "equal justice under law." (Jens Grabenstein/Flickr Commons)
(JTA)– The Jewish Federation of New Mexico has nearly run out of money and staff, and all of its programs have been suspended or are being handed over to other community entities, according to interviews and court records. The dysfunction is the result of mounting acrimony at a 74-yearold institution responsible for serving the state’s estimated 24,000 Jews. After board resignations, lawsuits and the flight of many longtime donors over the past two years, the board has been discussing dissolving the federation entirely. “All the programs are gone,” said federation board member Marina Rabinowitz, who agreed to join the embattled board in January in hope of turning things around. “The federation used to give grant money to almost all Jewish institutions across the state. But not anymore.” Among the programs and grantees affected are the Jewish Care Program, which aids the elderly, including Holocaust survivors, and is being transferred to the Jewish Community Center of Greater Albuquerque; PJ Library, which provides books for free to Jewish families; the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival; and the Hillel chapter at the University of New Mexico. “The situation in New Mexico is unacceptable and we will do everything in our power to ensure that the federation is able to continue serving the Jewish community, supporting Jewish infrastructure, uplifting Jewish life, and serving the most vulnerable,” said Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, which represents 450 communities across North America. What the future holds for New Mexico’s Jewish community is unclear. For now, all “central” programs traditionally supported through federation funding are still in operation, according to a JFNA spokesperson. But even if the federation folds, THE
donors could materialize to keep the programs afloat independently and the programs that have lost employees could be restaffed under new arrangements. The dispute in New Mexico, which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency first exposed in March, centers on the tenure of Rob Lennick, the federation’s former executive director, who departed recently. He has since been hired to head The Jewish Federation of Volusia & Flagler Counties, serving the area of Daytona Beach, Florida, a JFNA spokesperson has confirmed. Several staff members began complaining in late 2020 that Lennick was prone to fits of rage and was at times intimidating and hostile. Lennick denied those allegations, finding support among the executive committee of the federation’s board. The executive committee moved to offer Lennick a loan and a contract extension and the board approved the offer in a vote in February 2021. But shortly after, several board members accused the executive committee of concealing the complaints against Lennick before the vote. About half the board soon resigned and four members who stayed on filed a lawsuit. They are now asking a New Mexico court to take over the federation to ensure its management structure can be overhauled. Lennick is now considering filing his own lawsuit because he says he has been unfairly maligned, according to his attorney, Daymon Ely, who declined to say who might be targeted in the lawsuit. “I’m not going to name names, but you have people that have a little bit of power and in my judgment, have abused that power,” Ely said. “We’re considering bringing a lawsuit because he has left and they continue to blame him for things that were not his fault. They’re still talking about the acrimony being his responsibility, but I think he really did try to turn down the volume and I think the facts will show that he tried to do a good job.” Current members of the executive committee did not respond to requests for comment. David Blacher, who resigned as president of the federation, declined to comment. In January, with many of the
board seats vacant, the executive committee recruited Rabinowitz. An economist by profession, she agreed and saw an opportunity to contribute by sorting out what appeared as messy financial accounting. But she says that when she asked for access to the federation’s books, she was rebuffed by the executive committee. After repeatedly “begging,” she says she was finally given some numbers, such as a profit and loss statement, but not any documentation that would validate the figures. “I have no confidence that whatever is presented there is actually true,” Rabinowitz told JTA. What she has been able to establish is that the federation coffers recently dwindled to about $22,000, a minuscule amount for an organization with a proposed budget of about $1 million in 2020, and a massive drop from three years ago when the federation reported that it had 18 months in operating expenses in its reserves. Rabinowitz is not sure where the
money has gone. At least some of it is going to pay the lawyer representing the executive committee members in court, according to court records. “I do not know what here is mismanagement and what is fraud,” Rabinowitz said. “The only thing that I can tell you is that an organization that has existed for over 70 years was destroyed in the last three years.” Shelly Prant, the executive director of Albuquerque Jewish Community Center, said she believes the community will rally to ensure essential programs will continue and that her organization and others are prepared to pick up any slack created by the problems at the federation. “There’s a core group of people in Albuquerque and around the state that are really caring, passionate and philanthropic,” Prant said. “And they’re really taking all this very seriously and trying to help, and so at the end of the day, we’ll be okay even though right now, it is challenging.”
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IIsrael srael To Close Medical Schools For Foreign
Students, Ending Pathway Used By Many Americans By Philissa Cramer
A campus view of the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, Feb. 19, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
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(JTA) — Aaron Geller was mostly happy to have gotten into medical school anywhere. But after four years studying in a program for American students at the Technion in Haifa, Israel, he was grateful not only to be a doctor but also because he had seen a slice of Israeli life he otherwise might not have experienced. “We had Arab Israeli instructors; we were working in a very multilingual, multicultural setting,” recalled Geller, who had spent two years as a child living in Nahariya, a town in Israel’s north, and another two years studying at an Orthodox yeshiva after high school. “And seeing socialized medicine in practice also has educational value.” Geller’s experience is one that about 130 American and Canadian students a year have had, studying at three Israeli medical schools created just for them. Now, those programs are being closed as the Israeli government looks for ways to produce more doctors locally. The government recently announced that the American Medical Program at Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine; the Medical School for International Health at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba; and Geller’s school, the Technion American Medical School, would stop enrolling new students after this year.
Students who are currently enrolled side the country, at a rate higher or starting their studies this fall can than in most developed countries, stay on until they graduate. in part because there are not enough spots in Israeli medical schools and hospitals. It’s unclear whether the schools were given warning of the government’s decision — or whether they intend to press back against it. All of them had been advertising to prospective students until recently. At the Sackler school, the admissions section of the website now shows an error message, while the Technion school’s website says, “Please do not apply for the Class of 2027.” Meanwhile, the school at Ben Gurion University says on one page that it is beginning to collect applications for students who would enroll in 2023, Aaron Geller, left, takes a selfie during his but clicking “Apply today” leads to a medical school rotation at the Technion in page that says this: “At this time, 2011. (Courtesy) applications are not open for fall 2023. “The human resource shortage in Please check back with us soon.” the healthcare system is a national The three foreign medical schools problem that was neglected for opened between 1969 and 1998 and years, and today, most medical stu- have enrolled mostly American Jewdents study abroad,” Israel’s health ish students who do not get into minister, Nitzan Horowitz, said in a American medical schools or who statement. “These spaces are need- are not satisfied with where they are ed for Israeli students instead of admitted. foreign students who are not expectThose students have paid signified to work one day in the Israeli cantly less than they would in the healthcare system.” United States, where medical school While some graduates of the can cost upwards of $60,000 a year medical programs did eventually and many students graduate with move to Israel, most immediately significant debt, but far more than returned to the students from Israel, where medical United States school costs about $3,500 a year. to continue That means the three universities their training will be losing a major revenue and begin their stream because of the government careers. Lists decision. To incentivize them to posted by each enroll more Israelis, the governof the schools ment plans to dole out subsidies of showed that $18,000 per student, according to a g r a d u a t e s Times of Israel report. ended up in Geller, now a neurologist pracresidencies at a ticing in Denver, said he was conrange of uni- cerned about the disappearance of a versities and vital nontraditional training pathmedical centers way for American Jews who, like in the United him, might be suited for medical States, includ- school but not qualified for many ing a handful at American ones based on their p r e s t i g i o u s undergraduate records. institutions. But he said he understood the At the same rationale offered by Israeli authoritime, the major- ties for closing the school where he ity of Israelis trained. who train to “I certainly feel like I benefitted become doc- more than I contributed to Israel,” tors do so out- he said.
The Rise And Rise Of Itamar Ben-Gvir, The Far-Right Politician Holding The Key To Israel’s Next Coalition By Philissa Cramer
Itamar Ben-Gvir and right-wing activists protest against a meeting with bereaved Palestinian families outside the Rene Kasen high school in Jerusalem, March 29, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
(JTA) — In some ways, Itamar Ben-Gvir would seem an unlikely kingmaker in Israel’s upcoming election. By his own count, the far-right provocateur and ultranationalist member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, has been charged with crimes more than 50 times and convicted in eight cases, including once for providing support to a terrorist organization. After trying three times since 2019, he squeaked into the Knesset last year, when thenIsraeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was unfit to serve as a minister. Months later, Ben-Gvir played a notable role in the leadup to Israel’s deadly conflict with Hamas. Yet Ben-Gvir appears virtually assured of remaining part of Israel’s government after the upcoming
Nov. 1 election, not just as a rankand-file member of Knesset but as a senior minister — overtaking other right-wing politicians in influence and with Netanyahu directly contributing to his meteoric rise. In a powerful indicator of BenGvir’s mainstreaming, he was invited to participate last week in a mock debate held by Blich High School in Ramat Gan, a prestigious secular school famous for its role in hosting political candidates. His appearance there inflamed a nationwide debate about democracy and freedom of speech — and a screaming match between dueling protesters outside the school’s gates that required the intervention of dozens of police officers. “Fascists, racists, you are enabling Hamas and Hezbollah. You want Israel to be a religious state, just like Iran and Saudi Arabia,” shouted one left-wing activist at the predominantly young religious boys and men holding signs in support of Ben-Gvir. “Death to terrorists. Left-wing traitors, terror supporters. You don’t belong here, go home,” a far-right activist shouted back. Some chanted “May your village burn down,” a racist soccer hooligans’ slogan usually directed at Arabs.
The ascendance of Ben-Gvir and the far-right party he represents — Otzma Yehudit, Hebrew for Jewish Power — is among the most notable aspects of the upcoming election, Israel’s fifth in three years. A protege of Meir Kahane, the AmericanIsraeli Jewish extremist-turned-politician who advocated for openly racist policies, Ben-Gvir was once shunned by political parties and by the media for his extremist positions, racist ideology and violent activity. He has gone from outcast to the in crowd in just a handful of years: Netanyahu, who understands that his political comeback depends on uniting Israel’s right, hosted BenGvir and Religious Zionism party leader Bezalel Smotrich at his home in Caesarea last month. Afterwards, they announced that they would all work together to ensure that the right wing prevails in November. Ben-Gvir and Smotrich combined their parties into one slate, which is now expected to win 12 or 13 seats of the Knesset’s 120. On Tuesday,
Smotrich predicted that Ben-Gvir would wield great influence in the next government. “According to the polling numbers, as of now, Itamar will certainly be a senior minister,” Smotrich said. “This is the meaning of democracy.” The dynamic has observers straining to identify precedents. When else, anywhere, has an openly and proudly racist candidate with a criminal record of supporting a terrorist group seized so much influence? “I’ve been trying to think of analogies and I think David Duke is one who comes to mind,” said Natan Sachs, an Israeli-American who directs the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, referring to the racist and antisemitic leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States who unsuccessfully ran for governor in Louisiana in 1991. “But he’s going to win a seat See BEN-GVIR on Page
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over the Temple Mount, where the Israel’s combustible friction points with a metaphoric oil can in hand. Al-Aqsa mosque is located. “Ben Gvir is incredibly dangerous, which David Duke never did, and both himself personally — he has a he’s being pushed to do so and long list of indictments — and for the facilitated very openly and very movement he represents, as the modpersonally by the former prime ern incarnation of the Meir Kahane,” minister and the current head of the said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, the American opposition,” he added. “This is a CEO of the rabbinic human rights watershed moment for Israel.” group T’ruah, who has called for a Itamar Ben-Gvir, on right, reacts during The situation would have been a vote in the Knesset, or the Israeli crackdown by U.S. authorities on hard to imagine three decades parliament, in Jerusalem, June 1, 2022. donations to groups tied to Ben-Gvir (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90) ago, when Ben-Gvir vaulted into and others like him. public awareness after he was As a lawyer, he has represented For his supporters, many of them interviewed on national TV hold- right-wing Jewish extremists. As an from the haredi Orthodox sector, ing an emblem he had broken off activist, he has showed up in sites Ben-Gvir’s identification with Kahof Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s of terror attacks, calling for collec- ane is often a boon. Like Kahane and car amid protests against Rabin’s tive punishment against the Pales- Ben-Gvir, they envision an Israel that willingness to concede land to the tinians. And as a member of Knes- is centered exclusively on Jewish Palestinians. “Just like we got to set, Ben-Gvir used his position to interests. They are also increasingly this emblem, we can get to him open a “field office” in the hotspot involved in politics beyond their too,” Ben-Gvir said. of Sheikh Jarrah during the 2022 immediate communities. Although he wasn’t implicated in flareup in the neighborhood, and “The haredim became much Rabin’s assassination three weeks led thousands in a “march of the more right-wing in the past 30 later, Ben Gvir, only 19 at the time, flags,” waving Israeli flags through years, undergoing what we call became the face of the incitement the city’s Muslim Quarter. In ‘Israelization’ — quite the opposite that led to it. Since then, he has December, he landed in the news from their traditional anti-Zionist made a name for himself by push- after pulling a gun on Arab security ideology and support of left-wing ing for the ideas that animated guards during a conflict over a governments,” said Dani Filc, a Rabin’s killer. He has called for parking spot. political scientist at Ben Gurion deporting Arabs who aren’t loyal to Political opponents and liberal University. “And that’s why many Israel, annexing the West Bank and pundits commonly accuse him of haredim are now voting for Benexercising full Israeli sovereignty being a “pyromaniac” roaming Gvir.” Before coming to Israel, Kahane was the leader of the militant JewHappy New Year to all My Friends ish Defense League in New York in the Jewish Community! City, and he served time in prison both in the United States and Israel. Louis Fitzmorris As an activist and then a political Assessor candidate, Kahane called for expelSt. Tammany Parish ling Arabs from Israel, banning intermarriages between Jews and Best Wishes to all my friends Arabs, segregating Jews and Arabs, in the Jewish Community! and revoking Israeli citizenship for non-Jews. His Kach party had a history of harassing Israeli Arabs. After Kahane was elected to the Knesset in 1984, despite wide“The People’s Appeals Court Judge!” spread opposition, the other legislators — including Prime Minister Election Day November 8 Yitzhak Shamir, a conservative, Early Voting October 25 – November 1 responded by walking out of the parliament en masse whenever he rose to speak. American Jewish groups also frequently spoke out Happy New Year! against him. A coalition of left- and right-wing lawmakers teamed up to pass a law that barred him from
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running for reelection in 1988. He was assassinated by an EgyptianAmerican fundamentalist at a hotel in New York two years later. Ben-Gvir, who grew up in a traditional Mizrahi family in Jerusalem, is a proud disciple of Kahane, a foot soldier since his teen years when he was radicalized by his opposition to the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinians, brokered by Rabin. He studied at a yeshiva founded by Kahane, handing out flyers and passing on Kahane’s racist credo to the younger generation as head of his youth outreach arm. While Ben-Gvir now says he disagrees with some of Kahane’s views, such as segregating Jews and Arabs, he still calls him a “hero.” Yet Ben-Gvir is experiencing little of the rejection his mentor faced. Unlike Kahane, Ben-Gvir became an accepted part of the Israeli right wing and is currently among the politicians covered most in Israeli mainstream media. Ben-Gvir’s anticipated electoral success reflects the rightward shift Israeli society has been experiencing for decades. A recent poll by Israel Democracy Institute revealed that a record-high 62% of Israelis place themselves on the right wing of the political map. As Israelis have moved to the right, the nature of the nationalist camp has changed dramatically as well, according to Filc. “Menachem Begin [Israel’s sixth prime minister and the founder of Likud, Netanyahu’s party] was a mix of inclusionary populism and more traditional liberal conservatism. But today you have three kinds of right-wing. The first is politicians like [current and interim Prime Minister] Yair Lapid, a progessive neoliberalist, whose economic policies are clearly right-wing. The second kind is Likud, which is right-wing populism similar to the far-right parties in Europe,” Filc said. “The third
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BEN-GIVR Continued from Page 8 kind is more extreme — the religious zionists, with people like BenGvir.” His speech at Blich High School’s mock election panel could provide an explanation for Ben-Gvir’s growing appeal among Israeli voters. Contrary to his mentor Kahane, who never yielded to public outrage and refused to soften his racist message, Ben-Gvir is well versed in the art of adjusting to an audience. In front of a hall full of secular teenage high school students, many of them liberal and hardly any of them extremists, Ben-Gvir dialed down much of his rhetoric. Though he had opposed gay pride marches in Israel, he told the students that LGBTQ Israelis “are my brothers.” On relations with Arab citizens of Israel, Ben-Gvir wrapped his call for expulsion and for tough punishments with a message of coexistence based on loyalty. “I have no problem with Arabs. I don’t advocate death to Arabs, God forbid, or expelling all the Arabs. Anyone who’s loyal, who wants to live here, ahlan wa sahlan,” he said, using the Arabic words for “welcome.” “But I do have a problem with anyone who throws Molotov cocktails at us.” The normalization of Ben-Gvir, said Nadav Eyal, a political commentator on Israel’s Channel 13 news and a columnist for Yediot Aharonot newspaper, is a result of both political necessity and the media dynamics that reward provocation. “Netanyahu made him a legitimate part of the right-wing bloc by inviting him to meetings and talking to him,” Eyal said. “And at the same time the media is bombarding Israelis [with Ben-Gvir]. He’s getting much more than his fair share of airtime compared to other politicians, including very senior minis-
ters. And I think that’s bad editing. It’s sensationalism.” Eyal noted that in the second election in Israel in 2019, Ben-Gvir didn’t cross the electoral threshold to enter the Knesset but was among the top three politicians in airtime. “I really think that’s a problem,” Eyal said. “He’s very talented in his relations with the media. He’s considered a reliable source for journalists, and he always comes to the studios when he’s invited. He knows how the news cycle works better than probably any politician in Israel today.”
Ben-Gvir attends a protest in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, March 2, 2022. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
By now, Ben-Gvir’s political clout is a given, as is the legitimacy he has earned among mainstream Likud leaders, who view him as not only a possible coalition partner, but as a coveted prize that could pave their way to victory in Israel’s political stalemate. In the public square, however, his presence still provokes heated emotions. Haim Shadmi, a prominent left-wing activist who demonstrated against him outside Blich High School, said Ben-Gvir’s status as a member of Knesset should not cause him to be accepted in normal discourse. “The Nazis were elected democratically too. And when they came to power, they changed the laws,” Shadmi said. “Israel is in a similar situation to 1930’s Germany, becoming more fascist and racist. And Ben-Gvir is the ultimate symbol of this.”
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On the other side of the street, 22-year-old Adir Busani was waving an Israeli flag in a small camp set up by Ben-Gvir’s party. “For years, the school invited left-wing politicians and ArabIsraeli parties to participate in these kinds of events. Now they want to silence Ben-Gvir. They want to silence us for supporting him. But we won’t allow that to happen. He loves his country, and we support him,” said Busani. Inside the school, Ben-Gvir was challenged by a student who questioned why he should listen to someone who called Baruch Goldstein — a Jewish extremist who killed 29 Palestinians in Hebron in 1994 — his “hero.” A TV interview in 2016 filmed at Ben-Gvir’s house in Hebron famously showed that he had a picture of Goldstein on the wall. Ben-Gvir admitted to Goldstein being his hero when he was 17, but that he changed his mind since
then. “I don’t think Goldstein is a hero,” he said. “And I don’t think we should kill Arabs, or need to deport Arabs.” In the last year, as his star has risen, Ben-Gvir has distanced himself from the “Death to Arabs” chant he and his followers long used. He has also spoken about leftwing Israelis, a shrinking group, in more tolerant terms than in the past. For his critics, the fact that BenGvir is tempering his message is less a relief than a cause for grave concern. “Ben-Gvir is smart about it. He tries to portray a slightly softer image,” said Sachs. “But while he may put on a responsible face for a while, it certainly makes everything more dangerous [to have him in the government] … And with normalization, I’m worried that it’s going to take a very long time to put the genie back in the bottle.” Jotam Confino contributed reporting from Israel.
Best Wishes to My Many Supporters for a Happy New Year Thomas J. Capella Jefferson Parish Assessor
Happy New Year to all my many friends in the Jewish Community. Thank you for your continued support. Best Wishes to My Many Supporters for a Happy New Year
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Turkey And Israel To Restore Full Diplomatic Relations After 4-Year Break By Ron Kampeas Ties were previously strained in 2010 after Israel’s deadly raid on a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, which sought to breach Israel’s blockade of Gaza, but Israel and Turkey had reconciled in 2016. Israel is seeking to build on the 2020 Abraham Accords, which norIsraeli President Isaac Herzog, left, malized relations with four Arab shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey, countries. Turkey wants to be part March 9, 2022. (Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu of Israeli-led plans to explore enerAgency via Getty Images) gy sources in the Mediterranean and is also seeking to repair ties (JTA) — Turkey and Israel will with countries in the region unsetreturn ambassadors to their coun- tled by revolution and repression tries ending a four-year rupture as since the explosion of the Arab each country seeks to expand ties Spring in the early 2010s. and influence in the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made the announcement on Tuesday after Lapid spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The agreement follows a visit to Ankara in March by Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who met with Erdogan. It was Erdogan who initiated a suspension of ties after violence flared on the Israel-Gaza border following the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in 2018. THE
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In Rare And Delicate Statement, Russia’s Chabad Rabbis Call To ‘End The Suffering’ By Cnaan Liphshiz
Russian Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar delivers a speech during an emergency gathering of rabbis in Moscow, Russia, Sept. 5, 2022. (Courtesy of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia)
(JTA) — For the first time since Russia invaded Ukraine six months ago, dozens of Russian rabbis from that country convened for an emergency meeting that ended with a politically fraught plea for an end to the bloodshed. At a two-day gathering in Moscow that recently ended, more than 75 Chabad-affiliated rabbis from across Russia issued a statement that read: “We pray that no more blood be spilled, and call upon people of good conscience everywhere to help aid those in need, including refugees, and end the suffering.” The statement does not use the
words “war” or “invasion,” which can carry legal risk in Russia when applied to the deadly offensive that Russian president Vladimir Putin initiated in February, nor does it mention Ukraine explicitly. But it can easily be construed as disapproval of the war at a time when other state-recognized clergy, including in the Russian Orthodox Church, have backed it. The church’s head, Patriarch Kirill, has justified the invasion of Ukraine on spiritual and ideological grounds. He’s called it a “metaphysical” battle with the West and has blessed Russian soldiers going into battle. He’s also dismissed the Ukrainian national identity, saying Ukrainians are really Russians. In contrast, Chabad rabbis have not joined the patriarch and other clergy in supporting the war from their pulpits. Russia’s chief rabbi, Berel Lazar, and his top deputy have each called for peace while engaging in a delicate balancing act aimed at maintaining safety and access to Jewish life for the country’s Jews.
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In the joint statement, the rabbis said, “We pray together that very soon the prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled, that, ‘nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’” Chabad is an international movement with many donors in Western countries, where there is little support for Russia’s war. In terms of following and funding, Chabad is also the main Jewish group both in Russia and in Ukraine. Those two countries have by far the largest Jewish population in Eastern Europe, estimated at 150,000 and 47,000 at least, respectively. The rabbis’ statement also spoke about the importance of rabbis staying put in Russia amid a wave of emigration by at least 15,000 Jews to Israel since the war broke out. Many of the immigrants left due to fears connected to Putin’s postinvasion crackdown on freedom of speech and the media, which were already receding before the war. The statement was understood by some to represent a veiled critique of Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow who lost his position after exiling himself when the war began. Goldschmidt, an Orthodox rabbi who is not affiliated with Chabad and said
Best wishes to my many friends & associates in the Jewish community as you celebrate the high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Thank you for your continued support.
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he faced pressure to back the war, has since embarked on an effort to warn that Jews are not safe in Putin’s Russia. But the comments also reflected Chabad’s ethos of committing to local communities and sticking with them through thick and thin. “Always being with their communities is the main task of religious leaders,” Lazar, the chief rabbi, said during a speech before the other rabbis. “A rabbi should always be with his Jews, even in the most difficult times.” Rabbis from across Europe and Israel, Israeli president Isaac Herzog, and Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who pushed for Israel to oppose Putin’s war more forcefully, all sent messages of support for the rabbis from abroad, according to a report published by Chabad’s news service. In a speech last week, Putin reiterated his commitment to continuing the invasion, which he has termed a “special military operation.” He said the effort was strengthening solidarity within Russia. “Everything that is unnecessary, harmful and everything that prevents us from moving forward will be rejected,” Putin said.
Happy New Year to all my friends in the Jewish Community! Thank you for your continued support! Maureen “MO” O’Brien St. Tammany Parish Council, District 10
Rosh Hashanah 2022
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This High Holiday Season, A Twitter ‘Repentance Bot’ Wants To Teach People How To Apologize For Real By Jackie Hajdenberg
Inspired by lessons from Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg's new book, "On Repentance and Repair", the Repentance Bot is an experiment in public education around apologies. (Carol Yepes / Getty)
(JTA) Move over, tashlich: Twitter is the new place to atone, thanks to a bot programmed by Jewish coders who want users to apologize better. While the tradition of symbolically throwing bread, representing sins, into a body of water may be a more familiar High Holiday custom, a new Twitter bot aims to address “fauxpologies” on social media. “Repentance Bot” allows users to tag the account when they see an apology that they believe falls short. The bot then replies to the apology with encouragement to do better and a comic strip laying out five steps to take to do so. The steps are those laid out in Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s forthcoming book, “On Repentance and Repair: Making Amends in an Unapologetic World.” Out next Tuesday, the book uses the traditional Jewish concepts taught by the 12th-century Jewish philosopher Maimonides to discuss contemporary issues of surviving violence and
lays out a framework for making amends in a meaningful way. Repentance Bot is meant to distill some of the lessons from the book and make them visible, Ruttenberg said. “We live in a culture where people do not have a roadmap when harm is caused,” Ruttenberg told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “This is basically an experiment in public education, to try to see if we can move the culture towards showing people what taking responsibility and making change looks like.” In one recent example, Repentance Bot was tagged underneath a video of the athletic director of Brigham Young University addressing fans after a Duke University volleyball player and her other Black teammates were attacked with racial slurs during a game against BYU. “You’re a 10, but you need some help doing the work of repentance and accountability,” reads the tweet, which references a recent meme and is followed by the cartoon. Unlike some Twitter bots that call out bad behavior on social media, including @RacismDog and its now-defunct cousin, @AntisemitismCow, Repentance Bot aims to do more than name and shame. It launched on the first day of the Jewish month of Elul — the last month of the Jewish year and the beginning of a period of reflection ahead of the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah
Happy New Year to all my friends in the Jewish Community. Thank you for your continued support. 12 Rosh Hashanah 2022
and Yom Kippur, the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement — and is meant to help people improve themselves. The ideas and prayers of Yom Kippur lend themselves to innovation, said David Zvi Kalman, who created an online Jewish confessional booth, AtoneNet, that offered an early intersection of ancient Jewish practices and contemporary digital tools. “In the same way that on Hanukkah people will innovate menorahs or on Pesach people will innovate Seder plates, on Yom Kippur, they want to innovate liturgies,” Kalman said. “What else are you going to innovate? You literally can’t eat anything. So it’s this.” Reboot, the Jewish arts nonprofit, offers 10Q, an annual online questionnaire that stores responses securely for a year, then returns them by email the following year to facilitate respondents’ reflection on their personal growth. And the Yom Kippur-themed eScapeGoat (also known as @Apologybot) appeared on Twitter in 2013 and would “collect” users’ sins when tagged. That bot was created by Russel Neiss, a Jewish technologist and educator who coded Repentance Bot and worked with the Jewish digital consulting company Tiny Windows to produce it on Ruttenberg’s behalf. Repentance Bot, as with many similar bots, has a sense of humor. It is meant to be “fun and funny,” while also serving as an educational tool, said Ruttenberg, who last month announced that she would be donating to the National Survivor Network to begin to make amends for personally benefiting from a Jewish foundation tied to sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
“People will engage with it to have a little fun with it as well as trying to do meaningful public education,” she added. In one meta-example, Repentance Bot had published a tweet in a robotic font that was not compatible with ALT text, an HTML attribute that allows for verbal image descriptions. Visually impaired readers may rely on a program that reads ALT text aloud, and if there’s no ALT text, they may not be able to interact with the text or image at all. Repentance Bot learned of the incompatibility and wrote an apology note for the error, along with an updated version of the previous tweet and a promise to “teach other bots this important human factoid.” Those vows reflect the to-do list in the bot’s comic strip, which begins with taking responsibility without making excuses and ends with making a different choice in the future. Repentance Bot is about “distilling [apologies] down to really oversimplified, easy steps,” Ruttenberg said. “And they’re not easy. None of those steps in real life are easy.”
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This Expanding Jewish University Is Doing Some Unusual Things By Stewart Ain
Pharmacy student Adina Kagan in the lab at the Touro College of Pharmacy. (William Taufic for Touro University)
When New York granted university status last February to what had been known until this year as Touro College, it signaled a milestone for what has become America’s largest Jewish-sponsored educational institution. Touro University, now celebrating its 50th year, has grown far beyond its roots as a small college established by Dr. Bernard Lander in 1971 to give religious Jews a place to obtain a college degree without compromising their Jewish principles while more broadly serving humanity, with a special focus on those who have been historically underserved. Today, Touro boasts 19,000 students across 36 schools spanning five U.S. states and four countries. Previously recognized as a university in California and Nevada before New York’s Board of Regents granted it university status, Touro offers everything from about half a dozen medical schools to a Jewish theological seminary and yeshiva constructed out of Jerusalem limestone. Here are a few other things about
this unique Jewish institution of higher learning that you might find surprising. Touro is preparing to open a new medical school in Montana Montanans long have lamented the lack of any medical schools in their state, which has the nation’s third-highest suicide rate, nintholdest population, and ranks in the bottom 10 when it comes to healthcare quality, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, US Census Bureau and healthcare rankings sources. Eleven of the state’s 56 counties don’t have doctors, and nearly every county has a shortage of healthcare professionals, according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Touro has plans to step into this vacuum with the establishment of a College of Osteopathic Medicine in Great Falls, a city of some 60,000 people. The school plans to accept 125 students to start and grow quickly to 500 students, with preference given for in-state residents. With studies showing that 39 percent of physicians practice in the state where they completed medical school, the new school is expected to help address Montana’s physician shortage. It would also further Touro’s commitment to educating a diverse student population: Montana has a high proportion of native American residents, and medical personnel at Tribal health facilities are in dire scarcity. Touro already runs colleges of
osteopathic medicine in the Las Vegas area, the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, the city of Middletown in upstate New York, and Vallejo, California, not far from San Francisco. Touro’s MD program is at New York Medical College, the leafy Westchester County campus school that Touro acquired from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in 2011. Today that campus includes programs in medicine, dentistry, physical therapy, speech pathology, public health, nursing, biostatistics, medical ethics and graduate-level biomedical sciences. Touro also runs several nursing and physician assistant programs around the country.
Uriel Waldman, a second-year year dental student, in the Simulation Lab at the Touro College of Dental Medicine. (William Taufic for Touro University)
Most of Touro’s students are not Jewish, but its programs reflect the university’s rich Jewish character In New York, Touro long has been known as a place where Orthodox students could obtain a college degree without compromising their religious observance. But nationwide Touro actually has more nonJewish students than Jews. It’s a
sign of Touro’s dual mission of serving not just the Jewish community, but the wider world. Nevertheless, Touro’s program and curricula reflect the university’s Jewish character. Every Touro campus offers kosher food, classes are suspended for the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, and professional training often includes Jewish elements. For example, at New York Medical College, religion is part and parcel of the study of medical ethics. Students learn about the role religion plays in medical decisionmaking, and classes recently took a field trip to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan where they discussed, among other things, the ethics of having an anesthesiologist participate in Israel’s capture of Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann in Argentina in 1960. The medical school is perhaps the only one in country in which students are required to take a course in the history of medicine that includes a segment on bioethics after the Holocaust. The school also has an endowed chair in that area of study. Touro is relocating its central campus to Times Square in Manhattan For many years, Touro’s headquarters were on 23rd Street in See EXPANDING on Page
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EXPANDING Continued from Page 13 Manhattan, with larger campuses in Queens and Brooklyn. Soon, the school will have its central campus located in the heart of New York: Times Square. Consolidated on eight floors of one of New York’s iconic skyscrapers at 3 Times Square, the 300,000 square feet of space, to be renamed the Cross River campus, will house Touro’s College of Pharmacy, the New York School of Career and Applied Studies, and graduate schools in business, education,
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Jewish studies, social work and technology. The space will be configured to accommodate not only classrooms but state-of-the-art science and technology labs, event spaces, offices, a library, student lounges and cafes. The building, which was originally designed as the North American headquarters for Reuters Group, will have a separate entrance and lobby for the university. More than 2,000 staff and students are expected to work and attend class there daily. The university expects to move into the
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new space next January. Touro’s other locations outside of New York State include campuses in Nevada, Illinois, New Mexico and California, and overseas in Jerusalem, Berlin and Moscow. In announcing its new Times Square campus under a 30-year lease, the university reaffirmed both its commitment to New York and the importance of in-person learning after having to transition during the pandemic to online and hybrid education. Touro actually introduced its first online doctoral program in 1998, making it the first-ever regionally accredited online doctoral program open to students worldwide. That program was particularly attractive to members of the U.S. armed services, who sought to advance their education while stationed abroad.
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An architectural rendering of the future home of Touro University at Times Square, in New York. (Touro)
Touro has a special focus on the underserved Touro’s dual mission to strengthen Jewish heritage while serving humanity generally, with a special focus on the historically underserved, is the idea behind not just the opening of the medical school in Montana, but also campuses in New York that serve largely Hispanic and African-American populations. In the areas around its osteopathic medical schools near Las Vegas and San Francisco, Touro sends mobile medical units to provide free health screenings to the elderly, homeless and other underserved populations. Touro was the brainchild of a sociologist rabbi who led the school into his 90s and is now run
by a doctor who has helped make it into a health-science powerhouse For decades, Touro was synonymous with the man who founded the university and turned it from a dream into an international institution: Bernard Lander, who designed Touro in a manner he hoped would enable observant Jews to go to college without enduring the secularizing influences of a large university campus. Students at Touro could schedule their classes around not just their religious obligations, but days spent in yeshiva. Many of Touro’s students still combine their academic studies (in the evenings) with yeshiva learning (during the daytime). A men’s college in Boro Park, Brooklyn, for example, caters largely to Hasidic students. Shortly before Lander’s death in 2010 at the age of 94, Touro brought in Dr. Alan Kadish as senior provost and COO. A prominent cardiologist, teacher and administrator originally from New York who had taught at University of Michigan and had a 19-year tenure at Northwestern University, Kadish soon succeeded Lander as president and set to work orchestrating a significant strategic expansion while upholding Touro’s special Jewish character. Today Touro has grown to encompass 36 programs — undergraduate as well as graduate and professional schools, including a dental school, six medical schools and a biomedical research institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Touro offers programs in accounting, psychology, occupational and physical therapy, pharmacy, nursing, education, Jewish studies, business, technology, and more. When Touro opened its dental school at New York Medical College in 2016, it became the state’s first new dental school in nearly 50 years. The third dental college in See EXPANDING on Page
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Can Young People Save The World? This Jewish Teen Environmental Activist Thinks So By Renee Ghert-Zand
Amelia Fortgang remembers her grandmother taking her to a peace march when she was just 3 years old. The pair held aloft a sign her grandmother made reading, “War causes global warming.” Amelia’s other grandmother was an elementary school art teacher. Decades ago, she planted a redwood tree with her students. “The students asked her what the point of planting it was when it wouldn’t grow quickly enough for them to enjoy,” Amelia said. “She told them that they were planting it for future generations.” Fifty years later, Amelia is that future generation. When she went to the same elementary school years later, she saw the redwood tree — now full grown and very tall — every day. The activism and environmentalism her grandmothers modeled is part of what animates Amelia, now 18, as she takes her own place as an activist in the fight over climate change. She is the founder of the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit, an entirely youth-led activist network that offers in-depth environmental justice workshops and mobilizes local Bay Area high schoolers to create and implement climate action plans (CAPs) in their communities and schools. Amelia, who will attend Yale University this fall to study environmental science and political science, recently received a 2022 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award in recognition of her work with the Summit. The $36,000 award is given annually to 15 extraordinary teenagers who exemplify the Jewish value of tikkun olam, repairing the world. The recipients can choose to use the funds toward their education or further their project, or both. As massive forest fires became more frequent in Northern California and schools began canceling classes due to poor air quality, Amelia felt she had to do something. THE
“When the sky over San Francisco turned bright orange, it was absolutely terrifying,” she recalled. Inspired by her grandmothers’ and other family members’ participation in The Kitchen, a progressive and innovative San Francisco Jewish community, Amelia decided to put her passion for social justice and environmentalism into action. First, she became the leader of her high school’s environmental club. Then she decided to launch the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit. Even as the pandemic halted inperson meetings, Amelia began rallying fellow students to the cause online. Together, they decided to plan an online summit for the summer of 2020. The summit featured 16 workshops and engaged 300 youth from 14 states and 88 schools. Participants were challenged to devise climate action plans to implement in their schools and report back on their progress. “The first summit was a huge success, so we decided to keep it going with monthly workshops,” Amelia said. To date, the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit has hosted three annual one-day summits and 55 workshops — some led by students and others by experts from partnering organizations. Workshop topics have included sustainable architecture,
connections between San Francisco housing and environmental justice, Bay Area air quality inequity, coral bleaching, fast fashion, and local waste management policy. The group also helped stage an environmental career expo, organized hands-on San Francisco Bay restoration work opportunities and, most notably, has helped implement 15 successful local climate action plans. These include the installation of air quality sensors in public schools in San Bruno, California; fundraising for school solar panels; creation of a community
garden; organization of a clothing swap, and the introduction of TerraCycle bins for hard-to-recycle materials usually rejected by municipal recycling programs. The Bay Area Youth Climate Summit advisory council now has 25 members from 15 schools. And years after going with her grandmother to that first march, Amelia again has taken to the streets of San Francisco to protest and share her voice See YOUNG PEOPLE` on Page
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YOUNG PEOPLE Continued from Page 15 Under her leadership, the Bay Area Youth Climate Summit coorganized the September 24, 2021 Youth Global Climate Strike in San Francisco, which saw hundreds of students leave school to demonstrate alongside indigenous community leaders and survivors of wildfires across California. Demonstrations were held in cities across the globe that day ahead of a United Nations climate conference held that November in Glasgow, Scotland. Amelia’s group also has been involved in federal and local political advocacy, advocating for the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, more climate-related funding, and halting the expansion of an oil pipeline running from Alberta to Wisconsin. With a heavy academic load, Amelia found her volunteer work a huge time commitment — up to 15 hours a week during the school year and as much as 40 per week in the summers. “Of course, it has been worth it,” she said. Despite feeling frustrated that the burning issue of climate change too
often is relegated to the back burner when extreme weather is not in the headlines, Amelia says she feels optimistic that so many young people are working on climate change issues. “Climate change is the most critical and pressing issue today because it magnifies the world’s existing inequities and threatens the future of all aspects of society,” Amelia explained. “Whether people are paying attention or not, it is still happening, and it’s still a crisis.” This article was sponsored by and produced in partnership with the Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, which celebrate tikkun olam, or “repairing the world.” Each year, the Helen Diller Family Foundation recognizes up to 15 extraordinary Jewish teenagers from across the United States with an award of $36,000 each to honor their initiatives to help change the world. Nominate a young leader today or teens can apply directly by January 5, 2023. This story was produced by JTA's native content team.
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the New York City region, it offers technically advanced training in digital dentistry. Underscoring the urgent need for more dental schools, Touro’s program currently attracts about 3,000 applications for its 110 slots, according to Touro officials. Touro Dental Health, the clinical teaching practice located at Touro’s dental school, recently launched a teledentistry service to serve patients online with urgent dental needs. “Our decisions on where and when to expand are strategic. We’re focusing on where there’s real synergy,” Kadish said. “In the last two years, we’ve launched major projects and programs in incredibly
short periods of time,” he added. “We’re able to launch a new medical school or physician’s assistant program, for example, because we have the expertise and experience, and because people at Touro are always ready to join forces to offer the insight and input needed to make things happen. Our staff, faculty and administration are extremely dedicated to the mission.” This story was sponsored by the Touro College and University System, which supports Jewish continuity and community while serving a diverse population of over 19,000 students across 30 schools. This article was produced by JTA’s native content team.
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spOrTs All The Jewish NFL Players To Watch This Season By Jacob Gurvis
rookie season, starting five at School he had to miss. Dillon has right tackle. Curhan will be an also made viral TikToks about important piece on Seattle’s being Jewish. offensive line this season. Michael Dunn, Cleveland
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weekly Jewish Sport Report newsletter here.
Jake Curhan, Seattle Seahawks Offensive Tackle A.J. Dillon of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after rushing for a first half touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens in Baltimore, Dec. 19, 2021. (Rob Carr/ Getty Images)
From left: Michael Dunn, Anthony Firsker, A.J. Dillon, Greg Joseph and Jake Curhan are five NFL players to watch this season. (Getty Images/Design by Grace Yagel)
(JTA) — The 103rd season of the National Football League kicks off on Thursday, and there are a number of Jewish players to keep an eye on this year. These are all of the Jewish players on NFL rosters entering Week 1 (listed in alphabetical order) and a few free agents who hope to return to the action soon. Did we miss anyone? Give us a shout at email@example.com. And to keep up with our coverage of these players, be sure to subscribe to our
Jake Curhan of the Seattle Seahawks looks on before the game against the Chicago Bears in Seattle, Dec. 26, 2021. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
This Jewish summer camp alum and self-described “Bear Jew” — possibly a reference to “Inglorious Basterds,” or his 6-foot-6 and 315-pound frame, or both — is starting his second season with the Seahawks, who signed Curhan as an undrafted free agent last year. The 24-yearold appeared in 15 games in his
The former Boston College star is entering his third season in the NFL, where he is the secondstring running back for Green Bay. Dillon rushed 803 yards last season with five rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns. He spoke about his Jewish identity at the BBYO Jewish teen movement convention earlier this year — mentioning the time his mother joked that he “better be really good at this football thing,” to justify how much Hebrew
Cleveland Browns offensive guard Michael Dunn leaves the field following a game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns n Cleveland, Ohio, Jan. 9, 2022. (Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Dunn begins his third season with the Browns as a backup lineman after playing at the University of Maryland — which has one of the largest Jewish student bodies in the country. Prior to his time in Cleveland, Dunn bounced around with other NFL teams, the nowdefunct Alliance of American Football and even the XFL. Dunn has appeared in 20 NFL games, including two starts. See JEWISH PLAYERS on Page
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JEWISH PLAYERS Continued from Page 18
Anthony Firkser, Atlanta Falcons Tight End
Atlanta Falcons tight end Anthony Firkser runs with the ball during a preseason game between the New York Jets and the Atlanta Falcons in East Rutherford, N.J., Aug. 22, 2022. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
After four years with the Tennessee Titans, Firkser heads to Atlanta this season, where he slates in as the second-string tight end. The Harvard alum — who had a bar mitzvah growing up in New Jersey and loves latkes — has started one game in each of the last three seasons and has scored five career touchdowns. Firkser is close with Greg Joseph (see below), a fellow Maccabiah Games alum, from their time together on the Tennessee Titans in 2019.
Greg Joseph, Minnesota Vikings Kicker
Greg Joseph of the Minnesota Vikings kicks against the Pittsburgh Steelers during a game in Minneapolis, Dec. 9, 2021. (Cooper Neill/Getty Images)
The South African-born Jewish day school grad is in his second season as the Vikings’ starting kicker. Joseph has sought out Jewish communities in each city he’s called home throughout his career, and last season he enjoyed an 87% field goal percentage, punctuated by a game-winner against the Packers in November.
Josh Rosen, Cleveland Browns Quarterback
Free agents and one wild card
Two additional players — veteran Nate Ebner and Sam Sloman — are currently unsigned free agents. Ebner, a safety and special teams’ player, is a three-time Super Bowl champion who spent eight years with the New England Patriots before joining the New York Giants in 2020. He wrote an essay about his experience visiting Israel for the first time in 2019. Sloman, a placekicker who was drafted by the Rams in 2020 and has also played for the Titans, was
waived from the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad in May. While at Miami University in Ohio, Sloman’s teammates called him the “Kosher Cannon.” There’s also Julian Edelman, the retired Patriots star wide receiver who continues to drop hints about a possible comeback. The Super Bowl LIII MVP recently said he feels “extremely better than I did the last year-and-a-half of my career.” Finally, two Jewish Super Bowl champions fans will not see this season: Mitchell Schwartz and Ali Marpet, who both retired this offseason.
Josh Rosen of the Cleveland Browns throws a pass during the Cleveland Browns training camp in Berea, Ohio, July 30, 2022. (Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images)
The former UCLA star and 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft — the first great Jewish quarterback star hope in decades — has spent most of his young career behind highprofile QBs on the depth chart. This season, Rosen begins the season on the Browns practice squad, after failing to earn a roster spot during the preseason — despite an opening on the team after its starting quarterback Deshaun Watson was suspended for 11 games over sexual misconduct allegations. In 24 career games, the 25-year-old Rosen has not shined when given his chances: he has a measly 54% completion percentage and more interceptions (21) than touchdowns (12).
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A Timeline Of Jewish Basketball Star Sue Bird’s Legendary Career By Jacob Gurvis
Sue Bird drives to the basket against Team Japan in the final of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in Saitama, Japan, Aug. 8, 2021. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(JTA) — Sports fans are obsessed with legacy. The term GOAT — greatest of all time — is thrown around more than a baseball during little league practice. Whether it’s LeBron vs. Jordan or Serena vs. Court, the sports world is consumed by debates and superlatives. Sue Bird is a part of those conversations. The Jewish basketball star’s playing career has come to an end, as her Seattle Storm lost their playoff series to the Las Vegas Aces on Tuesday night. The 41-year-old announced in June that she would retire after the season. All told, Bird is a two-time
NCAA champion, a four-time WNBA champion, a five-time Olympic gold medalist and a fourtime FIBA World Champion. She is the all-time WNBA leader in assists, games played, minutes played, AllStar appearances, and seasons played. “I think 21-year-old me would be surprised I’m still going,” she told the Seattle Times last month. “Not because she didn’t think I had it in me. She wouldn’t have even thought those things. So, I think she’d be really proud.” Born in Syosset on New York’s Long Island, Bird’s paternal grandparents were Jewish immigrants from what is now Ukraine, changing their name from “Boorda” at Ellis Island. She grew up observing both Jewish and Christian holidays and did not have a bat mitzvah. But since she learned more about her Jewish heritage in the process of earning Israeli citizenship in 2006 — a move she called “basketball motivated,” so she could more easily compete on Russian teams dur-
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ing the WNBA offseason, since European squads only allow a small amount of American players on their rosters — she has felt more connected to her Jewish background, she told the Washington Jewish Museum. “With my father being Jewish and still having relatives in Israel, it was an easy connection,” Bird said. “It was cool, because what I found was in this effort to create an opportunity in my basketball career, I was able to learn a lot about a culture that I probably wouldn’t have tapped into otherwise.” Off the court, Bird has become an entrepreneur, an activist, basketball executive and analyst and soccer team owner. She’s achieved so much that the only way to really capture it is in a timeline. So we made one. 2000: After suffering an ACL injury during her freshman year at the University of Connecticut, Bird would begin an incredible threeyear run at UConn. During the 1999-2000 season, the team went 36-1 and won a national championship. Bird also won the inaugural Nancy Lieberman Award — named for WNBA Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, who is also Jewish — given to the best point guard in women’s Division I college basketball. 2001: UConn would eventually lose to Notre Dame in the national championship game this year, but in a previous meeting between the two teams, during the Big East tournament final, Bird hit a gamewinning shot so sweet that it inspired an entire book called “Bird at the Buzzer.” 2002: As UConn went undefeated (39-0) on their way to another national championship, Bird won player of the year honors across all of Division I, in addition to several other awards (including the Nancy Lieberman Award, for the third straight season). The Seattle Storm then selected Bird with the first overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, and in her rookie season, Bird was an All-Star, named to the AllWNBA First Team and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting. She wasted no time dipping into international competition as well, winning her first FIBA World
Championship with Team USA in China.
Bird fights for the ball during the NCAA championship game held at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas, March 31, 2002. (Max Becherer/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
2003: Bird was an All-Star and named to the All-WNBA First Team. 2004: Bird won her first Olympic gold medal in the Summer Olympics in Athens and led the Storm to the franchise’s first WNBA championship. She became one of 11 women to win a NCAA title, a WNBA championship and an Olympic gold medal. She was again named to the All-WNBA First Team. 2005: Bird was an All-Star and named to the All-WNBA First Team. She led the league in assists. 2006: Bird was an All-Star and named to the WNBA 10th Anniversary Team. She won bronze at the FIBA World Championship in Brazil. 2007: Bird was an All-Star and won her first EuroLeague championship and first Russian National League championship with the Sparta&K team, which is based in Vidnoye, Russia. 2008: Bird won her second Olympic gold medal in Beijing, her second EuroLeague championship and her second Russian National League championship. She was named to the All-WNBA Second Team. 2009: Bird was an All-Star and again led the WNBA in assists. She won a third consecutive EuroLeague championship and her first Europe SuperCup. 2010: Bird led the Storm to a second WNBA championship, won her second FIBA World Championship in the Czech Republic, her fourth consecutive EuroLeague championship and second straight Europe SuperCup. Bird was named to the All-WNBA Second Team. See SUE BIRD on Page THE
At ‘The Fabelmans’ Premiere, Steven Spielberg Discusses How His Jewish Identity Is Portrayed In The Autobiographical Film By Stephen Silver TORONTO (JTA) — It would be difficult to debate what Steven Spielberg’s “most Jewish” film has been, after a career with highlights such as “Schindler’s List” and “Munich.” But it’s now clear what the famed director’s most personal film is. On Saturday night, Spielberg introduced “The Fabelmans,” his upcoming semi-autobiographical movie about his Jewish upbringing and his formative early years as an aspiring filmmaker, at a postscreening Q&A at the Toronto International Film Festival, where its debut earned a two-minute standing ovation and subsequent Oscar buzz in early critic reviews. Spielberg made no attempt to disguise the fact that the story is based on his life.
“It’s not complicated,” he said. “This is something, obviously, that I’ve been thinking about for a long time.” The moderator of the Q&A, the festival’s CEO Cameron Bailey, noted that Spielberg grew up in a Jewish family “in mostly non-Jewish environments.” He asked the director about his “growing engagement with your Jewish identity” throughout his career, and what it was like to “weave that into the film.” Jewish audiences have been highly anticipating how the film would incorporate Spielberg’s Jewishness since the official announcement that production was underway last year. The three-time Oscar winner co-wrote the script with his frequent collaborator Tony Kushner, right after the duo finished
Arts & Culture
their work together on the recent nix, they are visited by Sammy’s old-world immigrant great uncle “West Side Story” remake. (Judd Hirsch) who tells tales of dealing with “Jew-haters” when he was in the circus, before darkly warning Sammy of how he may one day have to choose between his family and his art. These words are proven prophetic at a key moment From left to right: Paul Dano, Mateo later in the film. Zoryna Francis-Deford and Michelle Hirsch, who is Jewish, said in the Williams as fictionalized members of Q&A that when he asked Spielberg Steven Spielberg's family in his film "The Fabelmans."(2022 Universal Pictures about “the real guy” his character and Amblin Entertainment) was based on, the director respond“I like very much the sort of easy ed that he “never understood a way that Jewishness lives in this word he said.” The director added movie. It’s a very profound part of that this was due to the Eastern Steven’s identity, and of the Fable- European relative’s “thick accent.” mans’ identity,” Kushner said at the In the California part of the story, talk. “But it’s a movie that’s about when he’s a high school senior, Jewish people, rather than entirely Sammy is bullied by antisemitic or exclusively about Jewishness or jock classmates who call him antisemitism or something. So it’s “Bagelman.” Sammy later dates a not a problem, it’s who they are.” Christian girlfriend who tries to get The film, which follows protago- him into Jesus. nist Sammy Fabelman as he falls in Spielberg said that the antisemitlove with filmmaking from early ic bullying he faced was “only a childhood through high school, small aspect of my life… it isn’t quickly establishes the family’s any kind of governing force in my Jewishness. As the film begins, the life. But I was made very, very Fabelman family (whose surname aware of being an outsider, early sounds like Jewish wordplay on the on.” He added that it was only two idea of fables, or storytelling) is kids who did the bullying and that based in New Jersey, and Sammy he doesn’t blame the school for the notes that he knows which house is incidents. his by the absence of Christmas “I think in proportion of the film, lights. The family at one point sings it’s an aspect of his experience in Hanukkah blessings, and later that moment,” Kushner said of that there’s a Shabbat dinner with chal- scene. “It’s part of his arc, Sammy’s lah, kugel and brisket on the table. arc, towards reclaiming film and The family then relocates to Ari- figuring out things that film can do.” zona, and then Northern California, See \FABELMAN 34 where it’s made clear there are far on Page fewer other Jews around. In PhoeJEFFERSON PARISH DISTRICT ATTORNEY
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An Israeli Comic Book Hero Is Appearing In A Marvel Movie. Excitement — And Backlash — Have Come Quickly. By Jackie Hajdenberg
The Marvel character Sabra first appeared in a comic strip in 1980. (Wikimedia Commons/Design by Mollie Suss)
(JTA) — In a move that is already thrilling some Jewish audiences and stirring controversy among other international fans and activists, Marvel Studios announced that an Israeli comic book hero will appear in the next installment of its Captain America movie franchise. “Captain America: New World Order,” which is set for release in 2024, will feature Israeli actress Shira Haas as Sabra, a hero who debuted with a cameo in a 1980 “Incredible Hulk” comic and appeared as a full character the following year in a strip set in Israel titled “Incredible Hulk: Power in the Promised Land!” Since the details of Marvel projects are kept under tight wraps until their release, it is not known how prominent Haas’ character, the first Israeli to appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, will be in the film. Between 1980 and 2019, Sabra appeared in 50 issues, according to a Marvel fandom page.
Sabra (also the word for an Israeli prickly pear, which has a bristly outside and soft and sweet inside, and is used as a nickname for an Israeli person) is a Mossad agent and police officer with superhuman speed and strength. The 1981 comic that first prominently features her involves multiple quotes and plot points that would be seen as taboo in a contemporary Hollywood blockbuster. In the comic, the Incredible Hulk mistakenly ends up in Tel Aviv, where he befriends an Arab boy who gets killed in an attack by identifiably Arab terrorists. Sabra — real name Ruth Bat-Seraph — witnesses the attack and assumes Hulk is in cahoots with the terrorists. She attacks Hulk with “energy quills,” weakening him, but the Hulk explains that the boy was his friend — and references the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. “Boy died because boy’s people and yours want to own land!” the Hulk tells Sabra. “Boy died because you wouldn’t share. Boy died because of two old books that say his people and yours must fight and kill for land!” The introduction of the character first announced last week at the Disney D23 expo in Anaheim has already received backlash online. Some on social media have argued
that the character is an example of Israeli military propaganda or used it to criticize the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians. Several others have taken issue with the name of the character, which they argue is painful for Palestinians, who associate the word “sabra” with the former Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in west Beirut. During the 1982 Lebanese civil war, right-wing Lebanese forces murdered up to thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese Muslims in the camps, while Israeli military forces surrounded the areas; an Israeli inquiry found that Ariel Sharon, in his capacity as defense minister, bore “personal responsibility” for not taking action to prevent the massacre. Others are pushing back against the critique and arguing that the character debuted two years before the killings at Sabra and Shatila. An Israeli cartoonist who a few years before Marvel created a character called Sabraman, who like Sabra sports a blue and white Israeli-themed outfit, has accused the comic book giant of plagiarism. The cartoonist, Uri Fink, had words of warning for Haas in a recent interview with the Israeli site Ynet. “I don’t predict her portrayal in
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Marvel will be positive in woke days such as these,” he said, according to the Times of Israel. “Those who work at Marvel today are all sorts of progressives. I have nothing against them, but we won’t get the most accurate depiction of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” “I suggest that Shira carefully read [the script], so that the character won’t be portrayed in a way that is too problematic,” he added.
Shira Haas will play Sabra. (Getty Images via Noam Galai)
Israeli producer Avi Arad, the cofounder and former head of Marvel Studios, the filmmaking branch of the comic book company that has grossed over $25 billion dollars in box office revenue, said in 2012 that he did not expect to see Sabra on the big screen anytime soon. “We are now in a time when the name ‘Sabra’… it is not so good for selling a film in international markets,” he told the Times of Israel. Haas was the first Israeli to be nominated for an Emmy, for her role in “Unorthodox,” the Netflix miniseries based on Deborah Feldman’s autobiography about leaving the Satmar haredi Orthodox community in Brooklyn. The diminutive Haas — who stands about 5-foot-2, after surviving an early bout of cancer that stunted her growth — also appeared in the series “Shtisel” and was recently tapped to play a detective in a new Netflix murder mystery series. This will not mark the first time a Jewish character has appeared in a Marvel onscreen product. “Moon Knight,” the Disney+ miniseries that premiered in March, stars Oscar Isaac as the protagonist, who is Jewish. But several fans are also expressing surprise and excitement about the choice to resurrect a clearly Israeli hero for a mainstream film. THE
Jerry Seinfeld Swaps Puffy Shirts For High-End Streetwear In Viral Fashion Shoot By Julia Gergely
Jerry Seinfeld for the Kith Fall 2022 Campaign. (Mark Seliger for Kith/ Screenshot from Instagram)
(New York Jewish Week) – At 68 years old, Jerry Seinfeld has become the newest face of the streetwear brand Kith. The comedian and New Yorker, whose last fashion statement may well have been the “puffy shirt” he wore on a 1993 episode of “Seinfeld,” appears in glamour shots taken by photographer Mark Seliger. In the images released Tuesday, he leans against bookshelves and stares forlornly out the window modeling brightly patterned jackets, the pricey sneakers that put
Kith on the map, a New Era Mets hat and a gray Queens College sweatsuit. Seinfeld, who graduated from Queens College in 1976, models the CUNY Collection — a capsule collection made in collaboration with Russell Athletics that incorporates clothing inspired by Queens College and Brooklyn College gear. “Our goal for this partnership was to build school pride for students and alumni, while supporting the colleges’ aims to foster future students’ growth,” Kith’s website states. The Kinnect Foundation, Kith’s non-profit arm, is making $25,000 grants that will go towards Queens and Brooklyn college to “further their education initiatives.” This isn’t the first time Kith has featured a Jewish comedian in their campaigns. Last fall’s “Curb
Your Enthusiasm” line featured sweatshirts printed with images of Larry David — Seinfeld’s frequent collaborator. JB Smoove, who plays Leon opposite David’s character in the HBO series, modeled the “Curb” line. of JTA.org “Life changing moment for myself and the brand tomorrow. Fall 22 campaign coming,” tweeted Kith founder and designer Ronnie Fieg, who is Israeli-American and grew up in Jamaica, Queens, the day before the Seinfeld photos were released. Fieg’s passion for footwear began while he worked at the New York footwear chain David Z, owned by his cousin David Zaken. According to the New York Times, Fieg asked for a job at the store in lieu of a bar mitzvah present from Zaken. In 2021, Fieg and Kith designed
a limited edition Hanukkah line that featured sweatshirts, t-shirts, wrapping paper and even a dreidel. “There are a handful of people that I’ve dreamed of working with from a young age. On the very top of that list was Jerry,” Fieg wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday. “There are very few individuals that have had the kind of impact Jerry had on me.” “Having candid conversations on set with one of my heroes made me realize how incredible work can be when you infuse your biggest inspirations in what you do.” Seinfeld has had fun at the expense of the fashion industry in the past. “I hate clothes, okay?” his character says in a 1991 “Seinfeld” episode. “I hate buying them. I hate picking them out of my closet. I can’t stand every day trying to come up with little outfits for myself.”
Anne Hathaway, Jeremy Strong And Anthony Hopkins Form A Jewish Family In ‘Armageddon Time,’ Upcoming Film Garnering Oscar Buzz By Caleb Guedes-Reed
Jeremy Strong plays a Jewish father in "Armageddon Time." (Screenshot from YouTube)
`(JTA) — How often do viewers get to see Anthony Hopkins use the word “mensch”? The two-time Oscar winner (who is not Jewish) plays a Jewish immigrant who escaped the Holocaust in acclaimed director James Gray’s autobiographical upcoming film “Armageddon Time.” A trailer was released on Tuesday. Others included in Hopkins’ onscreen family: fellow Oscar-winner and superstar Anne Hathaway, and Emmy-winner Jeremy Strong, known for his seething lead performance on HBO’s “Succession.” The pair play Irving and Esther THE
Graff, a Jewish couple raising two sons in Queens in the 1980s, at the beginning of the Reagan era. Politics and race are central themes, and the Graffs’ son Paul, played by Banks Repeta, is shown in the trailer being forbidden by his mother from seeing his friend Johnny, played by Jaylin Webb, who is Black. Another scene shows Paul confiding in his grandfather (Hopkins) about the way he feels when kids at his new school say “bad words against the Black kids.” Hopkins’ character encourages Paul to stand up for his friend. “You’re gonna be a mensch, okay?” he says. Strong’s character uses another choice (see: profane) Yiddish word in one scene, to describe Reagan, who is shown winning the 1980 presidential election. Gray — whose well-known films include “We Own the Night,” “The Immigrant” and “Ad Astra” —
grew up in Flushing, Queens, to Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant parents. His first feature “Little Odessa” is set in Brighton Beach, a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large population of Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The film, which hits theaters Nov. 11, has earned rave reviews at
international festivals, including Cannes in May. Some see it as an early Oscar favorite. Strong’s father is Jewish and Hathaway is married to a Jewish husband, but none of the stars identify as Jewish. The castings come at a time when many are questioning whether non-Jews should play Jewish characters on-screen.
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The Particular Jewish Meaning Of My Hamsa Collection By Andrew Silow-Carroll
The hamsa is a blank canvas on which artists can project their own meanings, and the wearer their own statements. (New York Jewish Week)
(JTA) — I tend to get to Israel every two or three years, and every time I come home with a hamsa. The latest, which I picked up in May (along with a case of COVID — another story) is a lovely teal ceramic design from a workshop in the Golan Heights. We have a wall of these hand-shaped amulets in our house — less for good luck or spiritual karma than to advertise our connection to Israel. But to advertise what, exactly? The hamsa’s Jewish roots are slightly tenuous, or at least secondhand. The “hand of Fatima” is a Muslim symbol, perhaps pagan before that, and possibly Christian. According to one interpretation, the five fingers are meant to represent the five
24 Rosh Hashanah 2022
pillars of Islam (faith, fasting, pilgrimage, prayer and tithing). Like a number of folk customs, it was absorbed into Sephardic Jewish culture in the lands where Jews and Muslims lived and worked side by side, and where it came to suggest the hand of God, or a talisman used to ward off the Evil Eye. I have hamsas with an eye motif worked into the palm of the hand, others with fish designs — Jewish symbols of both fertility and luck. What they don’t have are overtly “Jewish” symbols: I avoid the ones with stars of David or menorah decorations. To some degree that’s my rebellion against Jewish kitsch — the gaudy, insistent aesthetic I associate with old-fashioned synagogue Judaica shops and wellmeaning bar and bat mitzvah presents. I think it is also virtue-signaling on my part: The hamsa says I support the multicultural Israel that includes Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazim and Sephardim. “Cool” Jews like me don’t display exclusionary tchotchkes studded with Jewish stars or hang paintings of bearded dancing Hasids. (I mean, I have lots
of Judaica with both — we just don’t put them on the top shelf.) It’s the same sort of insidery, toocool-for-shul aesthetic that I have long associated with the Wissotzky Magic Tea Chest. I am guessing you have seen this or even have one: It’s a wooden box filled with tea sachets from Wissotzky, the Tel Aviv-based company that has roots in tsarist Russia. Before it was widely available on Amazon, the tea box was a popular souvenir for repeat travelers to Israel. At one point I started calling it the “first post-modern Israeli souvenir”: Instead of celebrating Zionism or Judaism, the box’s decorations feature imagery from the Indian subcontinent. The writing is Hebrew but the message is international. Maybe first-timers bring home olive-wood camels and gaudy mezuzahs shaped like the Jerusalem skyline. Old hands like me know that a box of supermarket tea, like that delicately filigreed hamsa, says the “real Israel.” I know that’s putting a lot on a souvenir, and sometimes a hamsa is just a hamsa. But there is a whole field of scholarship that examines the deep meanings of everyday objects. Jenna Weissman Joselit, the doyenne of Jewish material culture, writes about how even Mordecai Kaplan, the influential 20thcentury rabbi “not generally known for his interest in the material side of Jewish life,” counseled Jews to fill their homes with Jewish signifiers. “Jewish appointments were intended to convey a moral statement that went far beyond the physical: Manifestations of group identity, they served as constant reminders of ideals and practices,” Joselit writes in her study of Jewish consumerism, “The Wonders of America.” Besides, others are going to attach moral statements to your bric-abrac that you may not even have intended. Search “hamsa” and one of the first things Google delivers is the question, “Is it disrespectful to wear a hamsa?” The answer comes from a jewelry seller, who advises, “it can be culturally insensitive to wear it without
knowing what the symbol means.” Insensitive to whom is not clear, although presumably there are Jews and Muslims who object to seeing the symbol dangling from the wrists or necks of celebrities who are neither. At the very least, as one Mizrahi Jew has written, Ashkenazi Jews who embrace the hamsa as a symbol of Jewish or Zionist pride should be aware of and acknowledge its distinct meaning for Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. I don’t think there was anything culturally insensitive about the artists who recently carved an elaborate hamsa into the sands at California’s Newport Beach. Or the Jewish environmental activist who places a clay hamsa along the shore of San Francisco Bay as an “offering to the water.” I prefer to think of the hamsa as a wonderfully ecumenical symbol. The hand is a blank canvas on which artists can project their own meanings, and the wearer their own statements. My statement is a little smug (“You won’t catch me with a dancing rabbi on the wall”) but also extremely hopeful: The open hand celebrates Israel’s unlikely blend of cultures and faiths, even as it wards off those who refuse to accommodate coexistence. What’s your most meaningful or interesting Jewish object? What does it say about your “ideals and practices”? Send pics and your thoughts to me at asc@jewishweek. org and I’ll try to feature them in a future column.
ANDREW SILOW-CARROLL is editor in chief of the New York Jewish Week and senior editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He previously served as JTA’s editor in chief and as editor in chief and CEO of the New Jersey Jewish News. @SilowCarroll The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.
5 Rosh Hashanah Desserts You Need By Shannon Sarna The star of the Rosh Hashanah meal is usually the main dish: an impressive roast, perhaps a beautiful chicken dish, a whole head of cauliflower or a slow simmered brisket. Honey cake is not exactly known for its sexy curb appeal, nor is apple cake, but they are comforting classics that often grace American-Jewish tables for Rosh Hashanah. Here are 5 more recipes to check out and consider adding to your Rosh Hashanah spread this year:
Apple and Honey Pie Pops These cute little apple hand pies are a cinch to make and can be a fun activity to do together with whichever cute kids you might have hanged around your house. They can be assembled (and frozen) in advance, and are especially nice to serve for a crowd — no cutting or forks needed! Sticky Toffee Pudding My British colleague Rachel Myerson says that traditional sticky toffee pudding is actually the perfect dessert for Rosh Hashanah, for several reasons. Dates are often the star ingredient of sticky toffee pudding recipes — dates are also a symbolic food eaten at Rosh Hashanah, particularly among Sephardic communities. Just make sure to buy the best quality dates you can find such as medjool dates (you can find these at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or online).
you are done baking.
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Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting I absolutely love this simple applesauce cake with cream cheese frosting, from cookbook author Julia Turshen — I’ve made it several years in a row. It’s both traditional and a little unexpected, with that tangy cream cheese frosting on top. Turshen shares that you can also stir in a large handful or two of raisins and/or nuts just before you scrape the batter into the cake pan.
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Apple Tahini Crumble My new favorite apple dessert is a simple apple crisp with an easy, slightly nutty tahini topping from my new cookbook! What I love about this dessert is that it’s easy to throw together, can be made with apples (or really any kind of fruit you have on hand) and can be made either with butter or vegan butter. 70 Faces Media
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One-Bowl Apple Sharlotka Cake Apple Sharlotka is a popular Russian and Polish apple cake that is easy to prepare and requires only a handful of ingredients. This dessert is dense with apples, but the cake surrounding the fruit is light and airy. The best part of this dessert: you only need one bowl to make it, so your kitchen won’t look like a hurricane blew through after THE
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Soy And Ginger Braised Brisket Recipe This modern brisket recipe offers a delightful twist on the Jewish classic. By Eitan Bernath
• 1 cup soy sauce • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions, whites and greens divided (about 1 bunch) • ½ cup rice wine vinegar • 5 garlic cloves, minced (about 3 Tbsp) • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger (about a 2-inch piece) • 1-quart unsalted beef stock (may need an additional quart, depending on size of brisket) • 1 (3-5 pound) brisket • ¼ cup fresh lime juice (about the juice of 1 large lime) • Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish Brisket is a classic cut of beef in Jewish homes, and so it was a staple in my home growing up. My mom always made it on Fridays for us to enjoy over the weekend. A whole brisket is a hearty hunk of meat! Of course, a traditional braise, with stock, garlic, and tomatoes is absolutely delicious, but I love to update mine with some of my favorite ingredients from my local Asian supermarket: high quality soy sauce and fresh ginger! If you’ve never had soy sauce outside of the brands you find in large super markets, do yourself a favor and try a more authentic one. The difference in flavor is astounding! I add lots of garlic too, along with rice wine vinegar and fresh lime juice for sweetness and acidity. The result is a super flavorful, ridiculously easy brisket, perfect on sandwiches, with noodles or my personal favorite: rice bowls with bok choy!
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. 2. In a large baking dish or roasting pan (pan should be large enough for brisket to lie flat with very little extra room around the edges), whisk together soy sauce, scallion whites, rice wine vinegar, garlic, and ginger. Place brisket fat side down into the mixture, turning OCT 2012and place fat side up in dish. Add enough beef stock once to coat, so that it comes halfway up the sides of the brisket. 3. Cover dish tightly with a lid or foil, and braise until fork tender, 2 ½ to 5 hours depending on brisket size, about 45 minutes per pound. If brisket is not fork tender after first check, re-cover and place back in oven for 1 hour and check again. Continue this process until brisSG/JDF/1/6V ket is fork tender and remove from oven. 4. PLEASE Using tongs a large spatula, remove brisket from dish and place CHECKand YOUR on a cutting board. AD CAREFULLY FOR Cut against the grain into ¼ inch thick slices and set aside. SPELLING & GRAMMAR, AS 5. Carefully pour OF braising WELL AS ACCURACY AD- liquid into a large pot and bring to a boil over PHONE high heat. Boil &for 6 to 8 minutes, until liquid is reduced by DRESSES, NUMBERS about Remove from heat and add lime juice. Taste and adjust OTHER VITAL⅓.INFORMATION. seasoning to preference. Your ad will run 6. Place brisket back in liquid to retain moisture and flavor, and serve AS-IS unless changes as desired, such as in sandwiches, or over rice or mashed potatoes. are made and greens and toasted sesame seeds over top for garSprinkle scallion nish. approved with your by to room temperature, covered, and refriger7.Account BrisketExecutive can be cooled ated for up to 3 days. When removed from the refrigerator, beef fat will have solidified on the surface. Fat can be chipped off and discarded before reheating if desired. NOON 8. To reheat, place pot over medium low heat until liquid is barely simmering9/7 and beef is hot, 15 to 20 minutes.
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To Save Jews And Keep The Nazis Away, These Doctors Invented A Fake Infectious Disease By Stephen Silver
A photo is taken of the outside of Fatebenefratelli Hospital in Rome, where doctors shielded Jews by making up a fake disease during World War II, 1944. ("Syndrome K"/Freestyle Digital Media)
(JTA) — How the subject of his new documentary, “Syndrome K,” has largely escaped public attention is a mystery to filmmaker Stephen Edwards. “It’s the greatest elevator pitch in Hollywood,” he said. “The story of three doctors, one of them Jewish, practicing with a fake identity, that fool the SS with a fake disease that saved Jews from certain deportation.” “Syndrome K,” which hits digital and VOD platforms on Tuesday after some Jewish film festival showings, tells that little-known, surefire story: How three doctors at a hospital in Rome shielded a group of Jews from the Nazis in 1943 and 1944 by inventing a fake infectious disease called Syndrome K. The prospect of catching the disease kept the Nazis, who were occupying Rome following the fall of Mussolini, away from the hospital. The Jews there hung on until the Allies liberated the city in June of 1944. Edwards, who has spent most of his career as a composer, is not Jewish — he was raised Catholic — but grew up among the large Jewish community in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he got the idea for the film when he saw a meme about the “Syndrome K” story on Facebook, and was shocked to dis-
Adriano Ossicini, one of the doctors behind the Syndrome K ruse, with “Syndrome K” director Stephen Edwards in 2018. (“Syndrome K”/Freestyle Digital Media)
cover that no one had ever made a documentary about it before. Fatebenefratelli Hospital was located very close to the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. The three doctors were Vittorio Sacerdoti, Giovani Borromeo and Adriano Ossicini. Sacerdoti was Jewish, while the other two were Catholic. Borremeo, who among other things protected the family of one of his Jewish mentors, is recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial authority. Jews were kept in hospital rooms designated as dangerously infectious. “The Nazis thought it was cancer or tuberculosis, and they fled like rabbits,” Sacerdoti told the BBC in 2004. The exact number of Jews saved, according to the film, is unknown, although various historical accounts have placed the number in the dozens. “That’s why I think it’s such a secret story — the doctors didn’t crow about what they did, or talk about it a lot,” Edwards said. He added that the Syndrome K story is so obscure that the late historian Robert Katz’s “The Battle for Rome: The Germans, the Allies, the Partisans, and the Pope, September 1943–June 1944,” which is considered a definitive book about the Nazi occupation of the city, does not mention it.
When Edwards first began working on the film in 2018, he learned that Ossicini was still alive at age 98. Reaching out through an Italian-Jewish journalist named Ariela Piattelli, Edwards and his producer went to Rome and interviewed the doctor. On that trip, he also talked to a pair of brothers who survived the hospital as children, and Pietro Borromeo, the son of Giovani Borromeo. Both Ossicini and the younger Borromeo passed away within a year of their interviews. For interviews with the others featured in the film, Edwards utilized the USC Shoah Foundation, which has collected and archived interviews with more than 55,000 testimonies now arrived at the University of Southern California. That archive included an interview with the Jewish doctor Sacerdoti from around the year 2000, made shortly before his death and believed to be the only one he ever gave. The physician never married or had children, and there’s no record of where he is buried. Edwards was full of praise for the Shoah Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg, for including a system of tagging in their archive that allowed them to find interviews with survivors of the hospital of whom the filmmakers were previously unaware.
“We have no film without Sacerdoti,” Edwards said. “If I meet Spielberg at some point I’m going to thank him.” Ossicini and Pietro Borromeo aren’t the only voices featured in “Syndrome K” who have since passed away. Ray Liotta, the famed actor, provided the voiceover narration for the film. He died on May 26, at age 67, while shooting a film in the Dominican Republic. Edwards said that he had gotten to know Liotta a bit when their daughters went to school together throughout their childhoods. He had reached out to the actor to gauge his interest in narrating the film, and “two weeks later, he’s in my studio.” Liotta recorded the entire narration in three hours, on a single day in late 2019.
Patients lay in beds in the “Syndrome K” unit at Fatebenefratelli Hospital. (“Syndrome K”/Freestyle Digital Media)
(Edwards added that on the day of Liotta’s arrival he joined his editor and writer to watch the first 30 See FAKE DISEASE on Page
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FAKE DISEASE Continued from Page 27 minutes of “Goodfellas,” Liotta’s best-known role, in which the actor performs a voiceover narration that the director calls “top five alltime.”) Edwards, who holds Italian citizenship through his late mother, especially appreciated Liotta’s ease with the story’s many difficult Italian names and places. “He walked in, and it’s not an easy gig: It’s Fatebenefratelli Hospital,’ Adriano Ossicini, Giovani Borromeo, Vittorio Sacerdoti, all the Roman names, plus all the German names, all this vocabulary,” Edwards said. “And he was such a fun guy to work with, super-funny, top-level pro, profane, lots of F-bombs, we were just laughing, we were having a ball… we were just so sorry to lose the guy.” The director had always been a World War II buff, and two of his uncles fought in the war. But he remembers very well first learning about the Holocaust. “When I was probably 12 or 13 years old, I was watching TV on a Saturday morning… when I saw
one of these documentaries about the Holocaust, where it showed all the atrocities and horrors. And I was just horrified — I had no idea; I hadn’t gotten to that history lesson in school yet.” He asked his father, who explained it to him. The Holocaust, of course, can be a weighty and depressing subject, especially when one is immersed in it for a lengthy period of time. How did Edwards handle the burden? “The story itself was more about the threat of atrocities,” he said, noting that 80% of Italian Jews survived the Holocaust, a very different percentage than in most of Europe. “This is a story about people being their very, very best, in the face of people being their very, very worst, and that’s what really attracted me to it.” In addition to the documentary, Edwards said that he has brought a team together to try to make a feature film version of the Syndrome K story. In the meantime, he appreciates the irony of the timing of the documentary’s arrival. “You can’t make that stuff up,” he said. “Making a movie about a fake disease in the middle of a pandemic is just so ironic.”
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SUE BIRD Continued from Page 20
Bird reacts after receiving retirement gifts prior to the start of a game between the Seattle Storm and the Atlanta Dream in College Park, Ga., July 3, 2022. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
2011: Bird was an All-Star and named to the WNBA 15th Anniversary Team and the All-WNBA Second Team. 2012: Bird won her third Olympic gold medal in London and her third Russian National League championship. 2013: Bird won her fourth Russian National League Championship and her fifth EuroLeague championship with a new club, UMMC Ekaterinburg. She missed the WNBA season after undergoing knee surgery. 2014: Bird was an All-Star and won her third FIBA World Championship in Turkey and her fifth Russian National League Championship. 2015: Bird was an All-Star. 2016: Bird enjoyed a career year after re-signing with the Storm. She was named to her fifth All-WNBA First Team, led the league in assists for a third time, and was named to the WNBA
20th Anniversary Team. Bird also won her fourth Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. 2017: Bird was named to her tenth All-Star Game and became the all-time WNBA assists leader. 2018: Bird led the Storm to a third WNBA championship and won her fourth FIBA World Championship in Spain. She was an All-Star, setting the WNBA record with her 11th selection. Bird also set the all-time record for WNBA games played.
Diana Taurasi, left, and Bird, right, show off their fifth Olympic Medals after beating Japan during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Aug. 8, 2021. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
2020: Bird led the Storm to a fourth WNBA championship inside the league’s COVID bubble and became the only WNBA player to win championships in three different decades. 2021: Bird was an All-Star and named to the WNBA 25th Anniversary Team. She was also named the USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year. Bird won her fifth Olympic gold medal in the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo games, during which she served as a flag bearer for Team USA. 2022: Bird was an All-Star for the 13th time in her final WNBA season.
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A New Study Explains Why Starbucks Can’t Spell Your Jewish Name By Andrew Silow-Carroll
A new study from the Jewish Language Project at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion charts how Jewish names have evolved over history and what they say about American Jewish identity. (JTA Illustration by Grace Yagel)
(JTA) — My parents, children of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, were named Irving and Naomi. They named their three sons Stephen, Jeffrey and Andrew. My kids’ names are Noah, Elie and Kayla. Our first names capture the sweep of the American Jewish experience, from the early 20th century to the early 21st. At each stop on the journey, kids were given names — sometimes “Jewish,”
sometimes not — that tell you something about how they fit both into Jewish tradition and the American mosaic. A new study from the Jewish Language Project at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion charts how Jewish names have evolved over that history and what they say about American Jewish identity. For “American Jewish Personal Names,” Sarah Bunin Benor and Alicia B. Chandler surveyed over 11,000 people, mostly Jews, asking about the names they were given and the names they were giving their children. (They also consulted several databases, including the indispensable Jewish Baby Names finder from my colleagues at Kveller.) The results suggest my family’s first names were typical: In the century since my grandparents (Albert, Sarah, Sam and Bessie) arrived at Ellis Island, and after an era of Susans and Scotts, American Jews
became more and more likely to give their children Biblical, Hebrew, Israeli and even ambiguous names that have come to sound “Jewish.” “The top 10 names for Jewish girls and boys in each decade reflect these changes,” the authors write, “such as Ellen and Robert in the 1950s, Rebecca and Joshua in the 1970s, and Noa and Ari in the 2010s.” It’s a story about acculturation, say the authors, but also about distinctiveness: Once they felt fully at home, Jews asserted themselves by picking names that proudly asserted their Jewishness. On Thursday, I spoke with Benor, vice provost at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, professor of contemporary Jewish studies and linguistics and director of the Jewish Language Project. Our conversation touched on, among other things, today’s most popular Jewish names, the Jewish names people give to their pets and the aliases many
people give to Starbucks baristas. Mostly we spoke about the ways Jewish tradition and American innovation are expressed in our first names. This interview was condensed and edited for clarity Jewish Telegraphic Agency: I want to start with the big takeaway from your study: “Younger Jews are significantly more likely than older Jews to have Distinctively Jewish names.” Does that sound right? Sarah Bunin Benor: Definitely. The thing that I think people are going to be most excited about is the chart showing the most popular names by decade. If you look at the 1950s, you have girls’ names like Barbara, Linda and Robin. These are not distinctively Jewish and not biblical. And then by the 1980s, it’s very biblical: Sarah, Rachel, RebecSee STARBUCKS on Page
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opInIon STARBUCKS Continued from Page 29 ca. By the 2000s the top three names are Hannah, Maya and Miriam. And by the 2010s you get these names that are either biblical or modern Hebrew or coded Hebrew: Noa, Eliana, Naomi.
Top 10 girls’ names among Jewish respondents to the “Survey of American Jewish Personal Names,” by decades of birth. (An * indicates that the name is also in the overall U.S. Top 10 for that decade.) (www.jewishlanguages.org)
You note that today most of the top 20 Jewish girls’ and boys’ names are English versions of Biblical names. But that doesn’t account for all the “Jewish” names in the study, which range from “Hebrew Post-Biblical,” like Akiva, Bruria and Meir, to the “ambiguously Jewish,” like Lila and Mindy. How did you decide which names are distinctively Jewish? We based our judgment on our
respondents’ judgments. We had them rate their own names, and ask, If you met someone with your name, how likely would you assume that they were Jewish on a scale of zero to 10? And we had them do the same for a sample of, I think it was 13 male names and 13 female names. By which you discovered that there are currently “names of no Jewish origin” that have come to be seen as Jewish. Definitely. And the ones that I find most interesting in that category are the coded Jewish names like Maya and Lila and Eliana, and other names that are popular in America, like Emmett. They have these coded Jewish meanings. [“Maya” is thought to relate to mayim, the Hebrew word for water; in Hebrew, “lilah” means “night” and “emet” means “truth.”] And Evan [“rock” in Hebrew and “John” in Welch] is another example where we American Jews interpret these American names as Jewish names because they have homologous interpretations in Hebrew. Eliana, for example, is not of Jewish origin, but it sounds exactly like “Eli ana,” my God answered. And so it’s a beautiful name. And it’s become pretty popular among
Jews. I think about my father’s generation — the generation of Irvings and Stanleys and Sylvias. And they became distinctively Jewish names without being Jewish names, right? Was that about people wanting to assimilate, but also not wanting to disappear into the mainstream? When immigrant parents gave their children names like Irving and Stanley, it was an attempt to Americanize, but also they chose names that their neighbors or friends were giving their babies, and so it ended up that some names turned out to be seen as Jewish names. I’m just trying to think what was inside my grandmother’s head when she named my father Irving — perhaps she wanted the child to sound like an American but not necessarily like a gentile. She might not have thought of it as sounding like a gentile name. She might have thought of it as sounding like an American Jewish name. You compared the names of your respondents and the names of their children. What does this tell us about naming trends? Across generations, groups increased in their Jewish distinc-
tiveness over time. Take, for example, names we categorize as “of no Jewish origin,” like Richard and Jennifer. There is a significant drop between the older generation and the younger generation when it comes to such names. Meaning the Richards and Jennifers are not naming their kids Ellen and Steven but Maya and Ezra. Yes. Although there are still many Jews who do use names of no Jewish origin, it’s much less than it was before. We have data on name changing, and I was surprised at how few people reported changing their name to one that sounds less Jewish. The name changes that we heard were more about changes in gender presentation and changes for various other reasons but not to sound less Jewish. You talked about 1970 as a sort of pivot point, in which a decline in Jews changing their last names is replaced by an increase in baby names considered more Jewish. Remind us of that history. There’s a great book about this, “A Rosenberg by Any Other Name,” See STARBUCKS on Page
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turation and distinctiveness, and in some cases, it was much more on the acculturation side. In some by Kirsten Fermaglich. She found cases, it was much more on the disthat Jews in the middle of the 20th tinctive side. century were changing their names — because of antisemitism, because they weren’t able to get into universities or stay at hotels or get certain jobs because of their names. It was a way of integrating into American society, not necessarily as a way of assimilating. Just because they Top 10 boys’ names among Jewish changed their names didn’t mean respondents to the “Survey of American that they were now not identified Jewish Personal Names,” by decades of birth. (An * indicates that the name is also with Jewish communities. They in the overall U.S. Top 10 for that decade.) tended to still be engaged. (www.jewishlanguages.org) And then in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it became more acceptable to have a You describe how the distinctivedistinctive ethnic identity. Antisem- ness of Jewish baby names rises itism diminished significantly, but with the parents’ engagement in it was also part of a broader Ameri- Jewish life, including visits to Isracan trend to highlight your ethnic el, synagogue attendance, denomidistinctiveness. Jews participated in nation. You also note that “rabbis that in numerous ways, including a and cantors have the highest rates tendency to give their babies dis- of children with Distinctively Jewtinctive names. ish names, followed by Jewish eduThat theme runs through your cators and Jewish studies scholdiscussion: the back and forth ars,” and that Orthodox Jews are between acculturation and distinc- more likely than non-Orthodox tiveness. Jews to pick names high on the That has been the case through- scale of Jewishness. Let’s talk about out Jewish history. Wherever Jews how these trends increase across have lived, they have had to come levels of engagement. up with a balance between acculAnother really striking image to
STARBUCKS Continued from Page 30
me is the time spent in Israel. Having a distinctively Jewish name and especially having a modern Hebrew name increase with how much time the parents have spent in Israel. And you get similar spreads for other things like denominations. Something like 69% of haredi or “black-hat” Jews give their children distinctively Jewish names, compared to 35% of Modern Orthodox. So there is a huge split even among the Orthodox. And then you know, for other denominations, it is even lower than that. I was surprised how many people still have Jewish ritual names in addition to their given “English” names — in my case, I am Avrum on my wedding contract and when called up for synagogue honors. Wasn’t it over 90%? Yes, 95% of the respondents say they have a ritual name, but a lot of those are the same name as their non-ritual name, like “Sarah.” That does reflect our sample being more engaged in Jewish life than the average random sample of Jews. What’s interesting here is the Orthodox versus non-Orthodox children, where 64% of Orthodox children have exactly the same ritual name as their given first name, which means that they’re giving their chil-
dren distinctively Jewish names, and non-Orthodox children only 30%. The ritual names convention, which for a long time was reserved for boys, opens up a whole discussion of gender — including the fact that there are just so many more male biblical names than female names. If you look at the names that are most popular among Jewish respondents by decade of birth, you see that the girls’ names include some modern Hebrew names and some biblical names that Israelis reclaimed, like Talia and Noa. You also talk about Sephardi/ Mizrahi and Ashkenazi naming conventions, which I think most people associate with the idea that Ashkenazim don’t name a child after a living relative. Your survey confirms that that tradition is holding pretty strong. To some extent, although I was kind of surprised how many Sephardi respondents exclusively named children in honor of deceased relatives — like 40% or more of those who identify as only Sephardi or Mizrahi. They have the highest See STARBUCKS on Page
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STARBUCKS Continued from Page 31 rate of naming after living honorees, but they also have the highest rate of naming after no honorees. Granted, our sample of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews is pretty small, despite our efforts to get respondents who aren’t Ashkenazi. The study discusses “Starbucks names.” Is that a term of art in the social sciences? It refers to the idea of a name that you use for some service encoun-
ters [such as buying coffee] that’s different from your own, because your own name is hard to spell or you don’t want to hear your name called in a public place. I found that Jews with distinctively Jewish names were much more likely to use a Starbucks name sometimes than those who don’t have distinctively Jewish names. But I was also surprised that some people who don’t have distinctively Jewish names also use a Starbucks alternative that’s more Jewish because they want to identify in public as
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Jewish. And then there is the Aroma name, named after the Israeli coffee chain. That’s where Americans give a Hebrew spin to their English name that they know the Israeli barista is going to mispronounce. Yeah, exactly. That was fun. I hadn’t heard that term, but some of the respondents use it. A Kelly said she uses “Kelilah” in Israel. Does Starbucks naming actually extend to code-switching elsewhere? I’m thinking of the generation that included people like, say, Rabbi Irving Greenberg, who goes by “Yitz,” short for Yitzhak. I think that generation — Rabbi Greenberg is 89 — did code switch to some degree. That’s right. Or Bernard Dov Spolsky [a professor emeritus in linguistics at Bar-Ilan University], who passed away two weeks ago. He was from New Zealand and his English name was Bernard and he published under Bernard Spolsky, but he went by Dov in Jewish circles. What’s the importance of studying names? What do they reveal about the community? Names are such an important part of how we present ourselves to the world. People spend months before they give birth or adopt their child coming up with a list of names and how they want to represent themselves and often how Jewishly they want to represent themselves. And people also often think about their names later in life. Do they want to go by the name they were given or go by a nickname? Or do they want to completely change their name? When you
look at this data set, what does it tell you about American Jewry at this moment? There are two ways to answer that. One is through the acculturation and distinctiveness lens. I think the data show that Jews have become more distinct over time in the last 60 or 70 years or so. You can also look through the lens of tradition and innovation. Are American Jews using naming practices that have been parts of Jewish communities for centuries, or are they coming up with new traditions? Most of the naming practices reflect traditions that have been part of Jewish communities for centuries, with some modern spins. Even the Starbucks name: When Hadassah goes by Esther in the Purim story, you can think of that as a historical Starbucks name. And pet names: You found that 32%, a sizable minority, of Jewish pet owners give their pets names they consider Jewish, like Latke or Feivel or Ketsele. I don’t know if Jews historically used Jewish names for their pets. I don’t know of any study of that. But the fact that that is such a common thing among contemporary American Jews may reflect the importance of pets in our culture, but also the desire of Jews to highlight their Jewishness, even if their children don’t have distinctively Jewish names. That’s another way that they can present themselves to the world as Jewish.
ANDREW SILOW-CARROLL is editor in chief of the New York Jewish Week and senior editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He previously served as JTA’s editor in chief and as editor in chief and CEO of the New Jersey Jewish News. @SilowCarroll The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.
For The Sin We Have Sinned By Making People Feel Unwelcome At Synagogues By Jeff Rubin
(JTA illustration by Grace Yagel)
(JTA) — I have been shocked lately by the number of my friends who have left synagogues because of a pattern of unkind remarks from rabbinic and volunteer leaders. A Jew-by-choice belittled. A twentysomething shamed. A professional demeaned. Jewish Twitter is full of accounts by Jews by choice or Jews of color who have been challenged, patronized or “othered” when they show up in Jewish spaces. Essayists lament that too many synagogues don’t seem welcoming or sensitive to single parents, or don’t accommodate people with disabilities. Saying and doing hurtful things is not just ethically wrong, it’s destructive to organizations, and has no place in the sacred communities that congregations strive to be. As any marketer will tell you, it is far cheaper to keep a customer than to acquire a new one — and synagogues can’t afford to alienate a single congregant. With the ranks of the unaffiliated growing, according to Pew’s 2020 study, synagogue leaders need to watch what they say to keep, welcome and attract members. The Pew study revealed that 7% of American Jews do not attend synagogue regularly because they “don’t feel welcome” while another 4% say “people treat me like I don’t really belong.” During my dozen years as a Hillel professional we invested heavily in training staff to create environments that welcomed and engaged Jewish students of all backgrounds, regardless of how they looked, loved or worshiped. My own first encounter with Hillel when I was just a high school senior ended poorly: Visiting Boston University’s Hillel, I was so put off by a comment that I didn’t apply to the school. Of course this is a problem as old as Judaism itself. On the first day of Rosh Hashanah we read the story of Hannah, THE
the distraught woman who came to the Tabernacle at Shiloh to pray for a cure for infertility. Eli the Priest, seeing her pray silently — heretofore an unknown practice — accused her of being drunk. The priest said to her, “How long will you make a drunken spectacle of yourself? Sober up!” Hannah replied, “Oh no, my lord! I am a very unhappy woman. I have drunk no wine or other strong drink… I have only been speaking all this time out of my great anguish and distress.” “Then go in peace,” said Eli, “and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him.” What if Hannah couldn’t muster the strength to defend herself and simply walked out of the Tabernacle — and out of Judaism? What if Eli did not have the compassion to correct himself? Would Hannah’s son, Samuel, have been raised to become a Jewish leader recognized by the three Biblical faiths as a prophet? How would Eli’s thoughtless remark have changed history? The rabbis recognized the toxicity of insults and cited such remarks as a transgression in one of the oldest elements of the Yom Kippur service, the confessional, or Vidui. During the Vidui, worshippers strike their breasts and acknowledge that they have “smeared” others, “dibarnu dofi.” Medieval commentator Rashi says the word “dofi” means “slander” and that it derives from “casting off” — as if by definition defamation leads to alienation. One prayerbook perceptively renders the phrase as, “We have destroyed” — a reputation, a relationship, a communal bond. Jewish literature is full of guides to proper communication and avoiding evil speech, or “lashon hara” — from the Psalmist’s admonition, “Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully,” to the Talmudic “Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own,” to Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan’s masterwork, the “Sefer Chofetz Chaim,” to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin’s excellent book, “Words that Hurt, Words that Heal.” But how do congregations turn wise words into action? Linda Rich, a New York-based leadership coach who counsels synagogues and nonprofits, regards
respectful communication as a core behavior for a successful congregation, and a congregation that lives the Jewish values it espouses. Discussion and disagreement are the signs of a healthy group, but in the Jewish context they should be civil and “l’shem shamayin,” for the advancement of sacred work, not for other motives. She recommends that volunteers and staff study the principles that are fundamental to Jewish life, and sign a covenant to uphold them. When individuals fail to do so they should be reminded politely, clearly and directly that they are a valued member of the congregation, but this behavior is unacceptable. Try to be positive: Point out that they can be even more effective leaders if they watch what they say and adjust their approach. The congregation should sponsor periodic surveys or other forms of evaluation to determine how well the group is fulfilling its duties and covenants. On Yom Kippur we reflect on our personal shortcomings but we atone
as a group. We do not seek forgiveness “for the sin that I have committed through my words,” but “for the sin that we have committed through our words.” Our individual words have collective impact. The High Holy Days provide a golden opportunity to rethink how those words affect others and to take steps to change as individuals and congregations.
JEFF RUBIN is a writer in the Baltimore-Washington area. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JTA or its parent company, 70 Faces Media.
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ArtS & cUltUre
FABELMAN Continued from Page 21 The broader storylines of the film, which hits U.S. theaters in November, are also true to the details of Spielberg’s own life story. He was born shortly after World War II in Cincinnati, to a father who was a pioneering computing engineer and a mother who played the piano. Arnold Spielberg came
from a family of Orthodox Jews; Steven attended Hebrew school as a child and had a bar mitzvah in Arizona. The family really did move from New Jersey to Arizona to California, he really had three younger sisters, and his parents really did split in the mid-1960s. As Spielberg grew into his filmmaking, divorce, absentee fatherhood and strained parent-child relations
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From left: Steven Spielberg, Mateo Zoryna Francis-Deford, Paul Dano, Michelle Williams and Judd Hirsch at “The Fabelmans” premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Sept. 10. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
project about it for years — as early as 2005, when they were working on “Munich,” Kushner said. (Spielberg claimed in the Q&A that they began speaking about it while working on “Lincoln” in 2012.) “Tony kind of performed the function of a therapist,” Spielberg said about their writing process. “I was his patient, and we’d talk, and I talked for a long time, and Tony fed me and helped me through this. But when COVID hit… we all had a lot of time, and we all had a lot of fear. And I don’t think anybody quite knew in March or April of 2020 what was going to be the state of the art, and the state of life, even a year from then. And I think in that sense I felt… if I was going to leave anything behind, what is the thing that I really need to resolve and unpack? My mom, my dad, and my sisters… it wasn’t now or never, but it almost felt that way.” But don’t take this film as a sign that the 75-year-old Spielberg is slowing down, he said. “It is not because I have decided to retire and this is my swan song,” Spielberg said.
emerged as key themes in many of his movies. Spielberg also did make amateur 8 mm films throughout his childhood before heading to Hollywood in the late 1960s and beginning his career as one of the most successful directors in history. The film stars Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, neither of whom are Jewish, as Sammy’s parents. Seth Rogen — who as a character in his 2007 movie “Knocked Up” famously praised Spielberg’s “Munich” as a movie about “Jews kicking ass” — plays the father’s best friend who looms large in the family’s marital struggles. Spielberg and Kushner had disLTBA22 Jewish Light.qxp_Layout 9/6/22 cussed the director’s early1 life and1:13 a PM
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