Jewish News - December 14, 2020 1.12.21

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Southeastern Virginia | Vol. 59 No. 07 | 28 Kislev 5781 | December 14, 2020


Looking forward to 2021!

Melton classes begin Thursday, January 7

24 Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech Tuesday, January 12

25 —page 5

Dr. Michael Roizen Thursday, January 21

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Kol Yisroel aravim zeh b’zeh A

s we approach the end of 2020, I believe most of us can

Community Campaign. Never

agree that it has been tumultuous and that 2021 cannot

has it been more evident

come soon enough!

QR code generated on

Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus of the Tidewater Jewish Community 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Suite 200 Virginia Beach, Virginia 23462-4370 voice 757-965-6100 • fax 757-965-6102 email

why we have a Community

Still, in the face of unprecedented challenges, our Jewish community remains strong, engaged, and committed.

Campaign—to secure both

Jewish communal organiza-

so many ways—by organizations and individuals who care for

tions, activities, and way of

our most vulnerable, educate our children, and ensure Jewish

life that we value. . .locally and

identity, continuity, and spirituality.

globally. Through your com-

Thank you to every one of you who has played a role in these

Terri Denison, Editor Germaine Clair, Art Director Lisa Richmon, Staff Writer Sandy Goldberg, Account Executive Ronnie Jacobs Cohen, Account Executive Marilyn Cerase, Subscription Manager Reba Karp, Editor Emeritus

the present and future of

The strength of our community is demonstrated every day in

Betty Ann Levin

mitment, you are helping to

endeavors, who are committed to the Tidewater Jewish commu-

ensure our future as a Jewish people and as a strong and vibrant

nity and our future—today, tomorrow, and together.

Jewish community.

You have demonstrated those commitments this year through your investments in our community.

As 2020 draws to a close, I want to thank each of you as important members of this Jewish community for all you do to

Your contributions to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund,

help keep us strong and vibrant. Kol Yisroel aravim zeh b’zeh—we

established and administered by United Jewish Federation of

are all responsible for one another. And if 2020 has shown us

Tidewater, in collaboration with our partners at Tidewater Jewish

nothing else, it has shown us this.

Foundation, exemplify one such commitment. Together, we have been able to help address the urgent needs of our agencies,

From my family to yours, I wish each of you a safe, meaningful

Betty Ann Levin United Jewish Federation of Tidewater

Briefs. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4


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Friday, December 18/3 Tevet Light candles at 4:33 pm

Local volunteer feeds frontline healthcare workers. . . . . . . . . . 22

“Surprisingly, only 53%

Friday, December 25/10 Tevet Light candles at 4:37 pm

Looking forward to 2021. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Lee & Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24

of the general public knows

COVID-19: Jewish news. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Camp JCC registration is open. . . . . . . . . . 26

the word anti-Semitism

Friday, January 1/17 Tevet Light candles at 4:42 pm

Your Dollars at Work: ORT. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Calendar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

and what it means.”

Friday, January 8/24 Tevet Light candles at 4:48 pm

Elizabeth Taylor’s menorah for sale. . . . . . . . 9

Who Knew? Yiddish on Jeopardy!. . . . . . . . 27

JCRC: Anti-Semitism in America 2020. . . . 10

Obituaries. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28

Special Section: Education Matters . . . . . . 13

Reflections on a sojourn in Bulgaria. . . . . . 30

—page 10

Friday, January 15/2 Shevat Light candles at 4:55 pm Friday, January 22/9 Shevat Light candles at 5:02 pm | December 14, 2020 | JEWISH NEWS | 3

BRIEFS A NEW JEWISH STREAMING SERVICE, AIMS TO MAKE JEWS PROUD A Jewish group based in London has launched Europe’s first Jewish streaming service, with the goal of “connecting all sorts of Jews to their culture and history.”, which is currently available only in the United States—or to a computer connecting via a US-based server—on Friday, Dec. 4, announced its launch as “chicken soup for the eyes,” The Jewish Chronicle reported. The new service follows the launch of two other Jewish streaming services: ChaiFlicks and Izzy. Its editorial focus is on “hidden gems,” Jeremy Wootliff, Jewzy’s founder, told the Chronicle. “We go out and find the wonderful movies and TV programs that have been forgotten over time,” or may not have enjoyed the exposure they deserved when made, he said. An annual subscription costs $59.99 and offers 100 titles a month, including Dark Horse starring Mia Farrow; The Double with Jesse Eisenberg and Defiant Requiem, a feature documentary about the Theresienstadt concentration camps. Many of the titles are about Israel or made there. Jewzy’s agenda goes beyond providing entertainment to subscribers. Its goals also include promoting positive images of Jews and Israel and countering anti-Semitism and bigotry. But its lineup is nonpartisan, Wootliff told the Chronicle. “We want to bring Israel and the diaspora together and under one roof.” (JTA) 22% OF HATE CRIMES IN EUROPE IN 2019 WERE AGAINST JEWS Anti-Semitic incidents accounted for 22% of hate crimes recorded last year in the pan-European region, though Jews comprise less than 1% of the population there. The data on hate crimes comes from a report about 5,954 incidents recorded in Europe, Russia and Central Asia by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, or ODHIR, of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, ODHIR said in its annual report published last month. The report is based on data transmitted by governments and watchdog groups. Of the total incidents, 1,311 were anti-Semitic, according to the the report

titled 2019 Hate Crime Data. Anti-Semitism was the category with the second-largest number of incidents after the 2,371 incidents in the more general Racism and Xenophobia category. Those targeted for their gender or sexual orientation (1,277 cases) made up the third-highest group, followed by Christians (573) and Muslims (507). In one anti-Semitic incident recorded in the report, a woman had her hair and hat pulled violently from behind while speaking Hebrew on the bus in Berlin, Germany. In another, an Iraqi Muslim man wearing a kippah and carrying several concealed knives was intercepted by guards attempting to enter an Antwerp synagogue in June. The man had used anti-Semitic insults at Jews before the incident. The report said its figures are not definitive and may in fact be lower than the number of hate crimes committed or recorded in Europe. (JTA)

AIPAC DOES NOT OPPOSE F-35 SALES TO THE UAE The preeminent Israel lobby AIPAC does not oppose the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the United Arab Emirates—a sign that the Trump administration has sold the Israeli government and its U.S. supporters on a deal that not so long ago they vigorously opposed. “We do not oppose the proposed arms sale to the UAE, given the peace agreement reached between Israel and the UAE as well as the agreement reached between the U.S. and Israel to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge will not be adversely impacted by the sale,” Marshall Wittmann, spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, wrote in an email. Wittmann’s email arrived the same day that one of the most hawkish pro-Israel groups, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, endorsed the sale, and days after Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, appeared on MSNBC with his UAE counterpart and did the same. The Trump administration, and particularly President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and top adviser, Jared Kushner, have been pushing hard for the sale. President-elect Joe Biden has not said whether he would reverse the deal if it is not in place by Jan.

4 | JEWISH NEWS | December 14, 2020 |

20, when he assumes office, and congressional Democrats have initiated legislation to thwart the deal. News of the sale leaked following the August announcement of Israel and the Emirates normalizing ties, spurring Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express opposition. AIPAC backed at least one of the Democratic congressional bids that sought to limit the scope of arms sales to the UAE. Trump administration officials have sought to persuade Israel and other skeptics that the jets are needed to present a united front against Iran, and that Israel will be able to preserve its qualitative military edge in the region. Israel for decades has opposed advanced arms sales to even friendly Arab states because of the region’s instability and the fear that hostile actors could obtain control of the weapons. Democrats oppose the sale in part because of the UAE’s role in the civil war devastating Yemen. (JTA)

NEW IRANIAN LAW RAMPS UP URANIUM ENRICHMENT AND BANS INSPECTORS—IF BIDEN DOESN’T REENTER NUCLEAR DEAL Iran’s parliament passed a law earlier this month aimed at pressuring President-elect Joe Biden to reenter the Iran nuclear deal almost as soon as he assumes office. The bill gives the United States until early February to lift sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump after abandoning the 2015 agreement more than two years ago. Otherwise, Iran will ban entry to international nuclear inspectors and increase uranium enrichment to a level closer to weapons-ready. Biden has said he is ready to reenter the deal, and then negotiate improvements, but early February comes barely two weeks into his term. The law, passed by the majority hardliner parliament, was spurred in part by the assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist. Iran has blamed Israel for the killing. Israel has not commented. Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s president, opposed the law but to little avail, The New York Times reported. Rouhani, a relative moderate, is eager to have the U.S. return

to the deal brokered during the Obama administration, when Biden was vice president. (JTA)

JARED BERNSTEIN IS ‘VERKLEMPT’ TO JOIN BIDEN’S COUNCIL Economist Jared Bernstein found a Yiddish way to celebrate his appointment to President-elect Joe Biden’s council of economic advisers. “Thanks for all the support, econ twitter! I’m verklempt! As a CEA member, I’m soooo excited to get to work with my awesome new colleagues in fast pursuit of full employment and a recovery that reaches everyone,” he tweeted, using a Yiddish word that means overcome with joy and emotion. Bernstein, who is Jewish, was Biden’s chief economic adviser during the Obama administration. He joins a Biden economics team that is being noted for its diversity. Bernstein has been referred to as a “progressive” economist for his focus on income inequality and opposition to international free trade agreements. (JTA) ORTHODOX RAPPER NISSIM BLACK’S NEW SINGLE, THE HAVA SONG , REMAKES HAVA NAGILA The latest single by Nissim Black, a pathbreaking Orthodox hip-hop artist, reimagines what may be the most widely known Jewish song. The Hava Song, released on Black’s 34th birthday Wednesday, Dec. 9, is a modern and bass-forward reimagining of the traditional Hava Nagila. It features Black rapping about gratitude, his place in Jewish society and even allusions to the coming Messianic age. “Big house coming down / from the sky to the crowd / we’re gonna sing it out loud / Black, Jewish and proud,” he sings. Black’s previous releases, including the popular single Mothaland Bounce, have racked up tens of millions of views on Youtube and are popular with Orthodox audiences. Black has been producing music since his teens but has been exclusively creating Jewish music with religious themes since his conversion to Judaism in 2012. He moved to Israel in 2016, where he currently lives with his wife and six children. (JTA)


Looking forward to 2021!

Dear Readers,


just took a stroll down memory lane on Jewish News’ website. Although I only looked back one year, it was startling to note the difference between then and now. What a

difference 12 months can make.

they kept us entertained. At least for the first months of 2021, we’ll probably do more of the same—meeting over Zoom and Google. Still, we have plenty to be positive about and to look forward to

The cover for the Jewish News Dec. 23, 2019 edition featured images of happy faces

throughout Jewish Tidewater for the coming year, including great entertainment, engag-

at the countless events the community hosted that year, as well as of smiling area news-

ing speakers, and in-person activities, such as Camp JCC. Not to mention, of course, the

makers. We might have done something similar for this issue, except most photos would


be of Zoom screenshots.

And, so, as we say a hearty goodbye to 2020 (as my grandfather would’ve said,

In December 2019, we were looking forward to the Community’s 2020 Vision

‘Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry?!?’)—on behalf of all of us at Jewish News, I hope your

Campaign. Now, I’m rather confident that most of us are looking forward to 2020

Hanukkah continues to be happy and filled with plenty of light and that you have a very

Hindsight. This has been one of the most talked about and difficult years in most of our

safe, healthy, and happy New Year!

lifetimes. Still, there’s much to be grateful for that took place in 2020, including the tech people who developed the digital platforms and taught us how to use them so that we could be connected. Those connections kept us learning, meeting, praying, and visiting. And,

Terri Denison Editor

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COVID-19 Biden’s new COVID adviser co-owns a popular DC ‘Jew-ish’ deli and bagel shop Shira Hanau

(JTA)—Jeff Zients, a former Obama economic adviser and a leader of the Biden transition team, will lead the new administration’s COVID-19 response. Zients is well known for his work as director of the National Economic Council and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama years. Lesser known is his love of bagels and Jewish delis that led Zients to open a restaurant in Washington, D.C., in 2018 called Call Your Mother. The deli, which operates in four locations in the capital as well as a number of local farmer’s markets, specializes in wood-fired bagels and, according to the restaurant’s website, “‘Jew-ish‘ deli favorites.” The menu includes an assortment of bagels, smoked salmon, whitefish salad and black and white cookies. There’s even a sandwich named for Rabbi Shira Stutman of Sixth & I, a large D.C. synagogue, that includes hummus, pickled red onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and sumac radishes on a zaatar bagel.

Some of the recipe testing for the deli’s first location was done at Zients’ home, according to Washingtonian magazine. Zients was connected with Andrew Dana, the chef behind Call Your Mother and his business partner, through his father’s friend from summer camp. “Similar to me, he’s from this area and spent a lot of time in New York and has experienced a lot of the great deli culture in New York and wanted D.C. to be able to replicate that,” Dana told the monthly. According to the Washingtonian, Zients originally wanted to name the deli Apples and Honey. In his role with the Biden administration, Zients will coordinate the administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic alongside Vivek Murthy, who served as U.S. surgeon general for the Obama administration, and Marcella Nunez-Smith, currently a co-chair of Biden’s COVID-19 advisory board. During his years in the Obama administration, Zients helped to save the healthcare. gov website after a glitchy rollout in 2013.

Montreal Jewish nursing home hit hard by COVID infections in 2nd wave David Lazarus


6 | JEWISH NEWS | December 14, 2020 |

MONTREAL (JTA)—A prominent Jewish nursing home in Montreal has seen dozens of residents and staffers infected by COVID19 amid the second wave of the pandemic to hit Quebec. The virus has struck 40 residents and 22 staff members at the 600-bed Maimonides Geriatric Centre—the second highest number of cases among nursing homes in Quebec, according to data provided by the province. The public facility, in the predominantly Jewish suburb of Cote St. Luc, is suffering from acute staff shortages, the English language daily The Gazette reported Tuesday, obliging family members and hired companions to pitch in. The situation, similar to what occurred during the original onslaught of COVID19 in the spring, might be spiraling out of

control, some family members fear, according to The Gazette. Residents’ families sent a letter with their concerns to Quebec Health Minister Christian Dube noting that the smaller staff is forced to move between “hot” and “cold” zones at Maimonides. Joyce Shanks, whose 81-year-old father lives there, said that “more than 10% of the population is infected already and we are just at the beginning of the second wave.” In a note sent last month to residents’ families, the facility confirmed that four residents have died and 50 have been infected since the second wave began, including seven that have since recovered. In the spring, Maimonides also had one of the highest levels of COVID infections among nursing homes in Quebec. The province’s regional Integrated Health and Social Services University Network oversees the facility.

COVID-19 In an echo of the spring, large crowds gather for Hasidic rabbi’s funeral in Brooklyn Shira Hanau

(JTA)—Large crowds gathered Monday, Dec. 7 for the funeral of a beloved Hasidic rabbi in Williamsburg, home to the Satmar Hasidic community in Brooklyn. Thousands gathered at the funeral, according to the New York Post, and most did not wear masks. The funeral took place at the same synagogue where a massive wedding expected to draw thousands was planned and then stopped by state authorities in October. Another massive Satmar wedding was held at a different location in Williamsburg the next month, though that event was kept secret until weeks afterwards when a Hasidic newspaper wrote about the planning that made it possible to pull off without detection. The man who died, Rabbi Yisroel Chaim Menashe Friedman, was a longtime judge of the Satmar rabbinic court and a respected authority on Jewish law. He was considered one of the most important figures in the Satmar faction

led by Rabbi Zalman Teitelbaum in Williamsburg. He was 94. The previous day, Teitelbaum spoke to a different gathering, a celebration of the 21st of Kislev, the day that Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, Zalman’s father, fled the Nazis on the Kasztner train in 1944. There, he told followers that they should not consider themselves Americans, according to the Jerusalem Post. Funerals for community leaders of that stature in Orthodox communities often draw thousands of mourners. Earlier in the pandemic, a large funeral for a Hasidic rabbi in Williamsburg drew thousands to the street, provoking a tweet from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio that called out “the Jewish community.” The tweet was widely criticized among New York Jews but not the Williamsburg community itself. Leaders of the two main synagogues in the Satmar community in Williamsburg wrote letters at the time defending the mayor from charges of anti-Semitism. One of those leaders, Mayer Rispler, himself died of the coronavirus in October.

Biden names Dr. Rochelle Walensky, a leader of Boston’s pandemic team, to head CDC Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA)—A Jewish doctor from Boston on the front line of that city’s coronavirus response is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice to helm the Centers for Disease Control. Rochelle Walensky, the chief of infectious diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School, was among the members of the new government health care team announced in a statement. The Biden transition team said Walensky is a “leading expert on virus testing, prevention, and treatment.” Walensky, a member of Temple Emanuel in Newton, told Boston’s Jewish Journal in April that she was seeking

solace in her Jewish community as she faced down the disease. “I said to them, the last time I spoke with them, ‘I’m thinking I need you more than you need me,’” Walensky said. “I have a sense it’s getting emotionally pretty hard. I certainly have everybody’s cell phone number … I may need to use it in the weeks ahead.” Biden’s rollout was notable for the number of positions he is tying to battle the COVID. Biden campaigned on incumbent President Donald Trump’s failure to stem the pandemic’s spread. Also named as coordinator of the COVID-19 Response and Counselor to the President is Jeff Zients, an economist who owns a chain of Jewish delis in Washington, D.C.

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Bob & Augusta Live Forever As philanthropists and volunteers, this Virginia Beach couple supported important causes in Hampton Roads. Although Bob Goodman passed away in 2006 and Augusta Goodman in 2017, they help others today because of the charitable bequest they entrusted to the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. Today, their four children carry on Bob and Augusta’s legacy through donor-advised funds that let them recommend grants to help nonprofits do their best work. Thanks to their generosity, Bob and Augusta will forever make life better in their home region. Learn how easy it is to leave your mark on the future by ordering a free bequest guide.


ORT student shows thanks by changing the world Lisa Richmon


omen’s American ORT, Organization for Rehabilitation and Training, has always been an educational and vocational game changer for students in the U.S. and around the world. Lifelong volunteer Sara Trub has been ORT-immersed for 48 years. An e-mail she received from a graduate of ORT Buenos Aires, demonstrates ORT’s future impact on the world. “What he’s done is amazing,” says Trub. “At 18 to be hired by the minister of finance, is absolutely incredible.” Dear Sara, I remember the day that my life changed. I thought I wanted to be an engineer and after a visit to ORT Argentina, I knew there was no way I could study anywhere else. ORT gave me confidence, skills and

Adding Charity to Your W or IRA ill

opportunities to take on new challenges. At 18, I was hired by the Minister of Science and Technology of Buenos Aires to be an advisor on public policies for technology. I also started my own company and developed Hablalo! (Speak Up!), a free app that helps people with communication disabilities. It turns text into voice, voice into text, and more. In three years, Hablalo! has grown to help more than 100,000 people in 53 countries! Now I’m 21 and the Head of Innovation for ORT Argentina as well as an ORT teacher. The social responsibility we were taught at ORT led me to use tech as a social equalizer. I give free computer courses in vulnerable areas to help people get well-paying jobs.

I’ve worked hard, but without ORT, where would I be? I hope that you will be inspired to continue to give students like me the best chance to build a future for themselves and others.” Thank you for giving to ORT. You are doing something wonderful. Sincerely, Mateo Salvatto This full-circle moment shows that the world benefits from ORT alum, who have the potential to contribute on a global level, as much as students rely on ORT’s unique provisions to find their purpose and make a difference. This is part of a series of articles spotlighting local and overseas partner agencies that are beneficiaries of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s annual Community Campaign. your dollars at work.


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Looking for a new menorah? Two of Elizabeth Taylor’s are up for sale. Philissa Cramer

(JTA)—If you want to illuminate a piece of Hollywood history next Hanukkah, here’s your chance: Two menorahs used by the movie star Elizabeth Taylor are up for auction next month. The menorahs—one valued around $8,000, the other between $15,000 and $18,000—are among nearly 200 items due to be auctioned off in January by J Greenstein and Co, a New York antiques dealer focused on Judaica. Taylor became one of Hollywood’s most prominent Jews after she converted in 1959 before marrying singer Eddie Fisher. While the marriage did not last (Fisher was Taylor’s fourth husband; she would famously marry another four times after him), her commitment to Judaism did. She also became an outspoken advocate for Israel; one of the menorahs for sale was a gift from the country from her head of security, according to J Greenstein’s website. The auction includes a wide range of Jewish ritual objects and memorabilia, including a 19th-century circumcision set from Italy (with an estimated sale price of over $25,000), a 1920 menorah made in Jerusalem that could reach nearly $50,000 and the original passport of early Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. The auction house is also selling off materials about Alfred Dreyfus and Theodore Herzl collected by attorney Alan Dershowitz.

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“Never Again!” At first, I didn’t think it would be too bad. . . When

the stay at home order began, I thought, “That’s not a big deal. I don’t go out too often anyhow.” I thought of it as a snow storm threat and loaded the cupboards with soup and pasta thinking it wouldn’t last more than a few weeks. But as the days and weeks dragged on, I watched the news and started getting scared. The housekeeper who I have come once a week canceled. My doctor said I shouldn’t go out because of my heart condition, and so the only person I saw each week was the grocery deliveryman, and that was only through the window. Every day was the same. I watched the news, read my book, and did crossword puzzles. I felt the worry and loneliness slip in like a cold draft. I could hear the masked worry in my daughter’s voice when she told me, “Everything will go back to normal soon.” I started losing track of the days and began questioning if I had taken my medication or eaten lunch. This really gave Groundhog Day a new and frightening meaning. • What if I did get sick? Would I be able to get help? • How long will this last?

• When will I be able to get out to see church family again? After 6 weeks, I’d had enough. I didn’t survive the fight in Korea and work 40 years to spend my retirement alone and scared. It was time to do something about it. I couldn’t be isolated any longer. When I called Commonwealth Senior Living, they asked why I decided to call today. I joked that between the loneliness and toilet paper shortage, I decided it was time to make a move. I moved in mid-May and have been patting myself on the back ever since. I no longer have to worry about anything! The food is great. The place is spotless, and the truth is they treat me like a king. They even put my picture up on the Wall of Valor with the rest of the retired military guys. It’s good to be part of a community again.

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The state of anti-Semitism in America 2020: An interview with American Jewish Committee Wendy Auerbach and Gail Flax


ne year ago, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) released a groundbreaking piece of research—the first-ever survey of American Jews on anti-Semitism in America. Released on the first anniversary of the deadly Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the worst anti-Semitic attack in American history, the findings revealed grave cause for concern about rising anti-Semitism and deep concern that it is getting worse. This year, AJC carried out two surveys in parallel: the first, conducted among American Jews, closely mirrored last year’s survey, and the second, conducted among the general public, asked some of the same questions asked of Jewish respondents while supplementing them with questions that seek to reveal how Americans perceive and experience anti-Semitism. The AJC State of Antisemitism in America Report is the first survey of its kind, exposing the very different ways American Jews and the general public, understand anti-Semitism. The AJC Report enables us to identify key challenges and more effectively target education and advocacy efforts as the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Combating Hate Task Force seeks to eradicate this most ancient form of hatred. Our goal with the JCRC Combating Hate Task Force is to educate about the history and danger of anti-Semitism and to mobilize the Jewish and broader community to combat anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry, and hate in all forms. We interviewed Alan Ronkin, AJC’s Washington D.C. director, to learn more. Wendy Auerbach and Gail Flax: What did we learn from the Report about American Jews’ concern about rising anti-Semitism in American? Alan Ronkin: American Jews continue to experience and be deeply concerned about rising anti-Semitism in our

country. 85% believe it’s a problem and 82% feel like it has risen in the last 5 years—43% saying that it has risen significantly. The concern is shared across all demographics regardless of age, political leanings, or religious affiliation. Notably younger respondents, ages 18-49 were more likely to have been targeted. 41% vs. 31% for those over 50.

53% of the general public knows the word anti-semitism

WA and GF: One of the areas of focus we would like the JCRC Combating Hate Task Force to concentrate on is the rise in anti-Semitism on social media platforms. What can you tell us about American Jews’ experience on social media? AR: About 22% of American Jews report being targeted with anti-Semitism on social media platforms. Our study surveyed people above 18 and a clear majority of those who reported harassment on social media experienced it on Facebook (62%), Twitter and Instagram were also significant (33% and 12%). However, among teens, Tik Tok has become extremely problematic, as well. Slightly more than half of respondents (53%) said the social media company took action in response to their complaint. 46% said that it did not. WA and GF: We understand there is widespread recognition among American Jews that hostility toward Israel and hatred of Jews are closely

JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL intertwined. Can you elaborate? AR: Anti-Zionism is often, but not always, rooted in anti-Semitism. Simply put, if someone believes that the Jews, unlike all other peoples of the world, do not deserve a state of their own in their ancient homeland, that is anti-Semitism. According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, a definition agreed to by over 30 countries, universities and the U.S. State Department, denying Jews the right to self-determination is a racist endeavor. Also holding “Jews” accountable for the actions of the State of Israel is also deemed to be anti-Semitic. WA and GF: How aware and concerned are Jewish Americans and the general public concerning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement against Israel?

AR: American Jews are very concerned about BDS. 80% say that it is either anti-Semitic or has anti-Semitic supporters in its ranks. The general public is mostly not aware of the BDS movement. Only 5% are very familiar with the movement and of those, 68% agree with the Jewish community regarding its anti-Semitism. WA and GF: How familiar is the general public with the term “anti-Semitism?” And does the general public see anti-Semitism as a problem in America? AR: Surprisingly, only 53% of the general public knows the word anti-Semitism and what it means. However, when prompted, the concept of Jew hatred is not foreign. There is a strong link between level of education and knowledge of the term—79% of college graduates know it, compared to 27% of those who did not complete high school or only have a high

school diploma. There is no significant difference between Democrats and Republicans on this issue. 63% of the general public believes that anti-Semitism is a problem in the United States compared to 88% of Jews who believe that. Even more striking, whereas 82% of American Jews believe that anti-Semitism is rising, only 43% agree. 14% say that it

is decreasing. Education levels played a significant role in general perceptions of anti-Semitism: whereas 72% of college graduates said anti-Semitism is a problem in America and 51% said it has gotten worse over the past five years, those numbers plummeted to 53% and 36% among those with a high school education or less. continued on page 12

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There were differences, too, across party affiliations: 71% of Democrats believe anti-Semitism to be a problem in America, compared to 58% of independents and 57% of Republicans. 52% of Democrats say anti-Semitism has gotten worse over the past five years; 39% of independents and 34% of Republicans say so. The more Americans know about anti-Semitism, the more likely they are to believe it has increased in recent years, with a majority (52%) of those who reported the most familiarity with anti-Semitism saying it is on the rise, compared to only 31% of those who said they were less familiar with it. WA and GF: What is the general public view on anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism? AR: Like American Jews, the general public overwhelmingly views anti-Zionism as a form of anti-Semitism. 74% of Americans believe that the statement “Israel has no right to exist” is anti-Semitic, compared to 85% of Jews. This belief is shared across age, education, and political leaning. WA and GF: We both serve on the Holocaust Commission and believe the Holocaust should be taught in all schools. What are American Jews’ and the general public’s views on the necessity for teaching the history of the Holocaust and lessons learned in schools? AR: 99% of Jews believe that the history of the Holocaust and its lessons should be taught in middle and high schools. 90% of the general public agree. Notably, while 75% of Jews say they know a great deal about the Holocaust, only 37% of the general public says that. WA and GF: Based on what we know from the report findings, what can be done to combat anti-Semitism? AR: There are many things that one can do to combat anti-Semitism. Through education, activism, and advocacy we can make a difference. The data

Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem—it is a societal problem. Like racism, it is not the Jewish community’s responsibility alone to fight antiSemitism. Friends and allies must be willing to stand up, speak out and push anti-Semites to the fringes of our society.

bears out that the more knowledgeable the general public becomes about anti-Semitism, the more likely they are to view it as American Jews do. However, anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem—it is a societal problem. Like racism, it is not the Jewish community’s responsibility alone to fight anti-Semitism. Friends and allies must be willing to stand up, speak out and push anti-Semites to the fringes of our society. Free speech is a cornerstone of American democracy. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t consequences to promoting anti-Semitism or any form of racism. We must delegitimize those who express those views and address their bigotry head on. This is not a time to put our heads down and “wish anti-Semitism away.” It is a time for Jews and our allies to stand up and make our voices heard proudly. Find the complete State of Antisemitism in America Report at AntisemitismReport2020. To learn more about AJC, go to AJC. org and to learn more about the JCRC’s Combating Hate Task Force, contact Batya Glazer, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater’s Jewish Community Relations Council director, at

n o i t a c u d E s r e t t a M

Supplement to Jewish News December 14, 2020 | December 14, 2020 | Education | JEWISH NEWS | 13

Stein Family College Scholarship Apply until March 1, 2021

The Stein Family College Scholarship is dedicated in loving memory of Arlene Shea Stein who was unable to finish college due to financial hardship.

This annual college scholarship of up to $10,000 per year is awarded to area Jewish students entering college. Applicants are evaluated on financial need, Jewish/community engagement, and academic potential. Scholarship applicants must: • Identify as Jewish • Maintain residency in the Tidewater region • Demonstrate academic ability • Demonstrate a history of service and engagement in their academic, Jewish, and broader communities through extracurricular and volunteer activities

To apply or for more information, visit

14 | JEWISH NEWS | Education | December 14, 2020 |

Education Matters

Florence Melton stepped up as a footwear inventor and innovator who created a community for Jewish lifelong learners Classes begin Thursday, January 7 Lisa Richmon


fter a seven-year recess, the Florence Melton School of Adult Learning is back in session. The name Melton is associated with innovation, activism, and invention. Florence Melton disrupted the footwear industry when she founded the R.G. Barry Corporation with her late husband and adopted the first use of foam in footwear. Though her brilliant mind changed an entire industry, her primary passion was Jewish education. Melton served on committees and commissions in her local community, nationally, and internationally. Two of many prestigious awards she received were an Honorary Doctor in Philosophy from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and an Honorary Doctor in Humane Letters from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Melton remains a worldwide movement of committed learners empowered to enrich Jewish life. The school engages learners in the life-enhancing study of Jewish texts and ideas. Its accessible approach promotes open dialogue and nurtures a deepening of Jewish community. Core courses have stayed true to the Melton method, but have been revised or rewritten and are intended to offer a sense of community and new ways to look at evergreen subjects. Some Melton 2021 courses are shorter, online, and customized to meet learner’s personal preferences. The Konikoff Center for Learning actively pursued a 2021 Melton Tidewater comeback. With instructors in place, area classes begin on Thursday, January 7. For dates, times, fees, and more information, go to https:// Social Justice: The Heart of Judaism in Theory and Practice Taught by Rabbi Michael Panitz Thursdays, Jan. 7–March 11 Trained at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he was ordained as a rabbi in 1982 and where he received a Ph.D. in Jewish history in 1989, Michael Panitz combines both specialties in his professional career. He has served as rabbi of Temple Israel in Norfolk since Rabbi Michael Panitz.

1992. Active in the field of adult Jewish education, he has taught for the Florence Melton Adult Mini School since it first opened in Tidewater. He also teaches religious studies, history, and Hebrew language at local colleges, Old Dominion University and Virginia Wesleyan University. Prior to arriving in Norfolk, Rabbi Panitz was a faculty member at the Jewish Theological Seminary and served a congregation in New Jersey. Rabbi Panitz contributes articles to scholarly journals on Jewish subjects. Married to Shelia Panitz since 1978, their larger family includes their three children, spouses, and four grandchildren, ranging in age from 15 to 1½. “The materials brought together in our Melton Course, ‘Social Justice.... The Heart of Judaism,’ go straight to our most authoritative traditions, both ancient and recent. Looking afresh at these classics and modern classics, we see that the mandate to bring society more in line with God’s commandments that we respect and love one another is not some passing fad or fashion. It is authentic Judaism.” From Sinai to Seinfeld: Jews and Their Jokes Taught by Dr. Amy K. Milligan Thursdays, Jan 7–March 18 Dr. Amy K. Milligan is the Batten Endowed Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies and the director of the Institute for Jewish Studies and Amy K. Milligan. Interfaith Understanding at Old Dominion University. She is an ethnographer and folklorist whose award-winning research focuses on Jewish bodies, Jewish folklore, and small or marginalized Jewish communities. Jews like to laugh. We laugh at awkward situations, we laugh at coincidences, and more often than not…we laugh at ourselves. Our matriarch, Sarah, got berated a bit for her laughter–honestly though, who could blame her for bursting into laughter at the suggestion that she was to yet give birth to a child at the age of 90! Face it, it’s a funny thought! This course explores the world of Jewish humor. It has been organized chronologically, and suggests a developmental narrative of Jewish life that lies just below the surface of the jokes Jews tell, the jokes that

make us laugh. Some historical humor may strike us as quite inappropriate. And yet, like Sarah, we cannot help but laugh! Students of this course will be given the opportunity to laugh and to learn, to become connoisseurs of Jewish humor. Dr. Amy K. Milligan is the Batten Endowed Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Women’s Studies and the director of the Institute for Jewish Studies and Interfaith Understanding at Old Dominion University. She is an ethnographer and folklorist whose award winning research focuses on Jewish bodies, Jewish folklore, and small or marginalized Jewish communities. OMG, Can You Believe? Taught by Rabbi Marc Kraus Thursdays, April 22–May 27 Rabbi Marc Kraus is passionate about creating safe spaces for open, pluralistic Jewish exploration and is fascinated by those Jewish voices most often ignored. He has studied in environments as diverse as Orthodox yeshivot and co-ed pluralistic seminaries and received his undergrad in Hebrew Literature from Oxford University. He was Rabbi Marc Kraus ordained by the Ziegler School in Los Angeles and is in his eighth year serving as rabbi of Temple Emanuel at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. “I think most of us walk away from Hebrew School with this image of ‘God’ as Santa Claus in the sky,” says Rabbi Kraus. “For my part, I tend to think of Jewishness as a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ journey, especially because our tradition offers so many ways to struggle with ideas of the Divine and spirituality. That’s why I’ll be teaching ‘OMG: Can You Believe!?’ in the late Spring.” Rabbi Kraus says that he’ll be drawing on his own struggles to teach the class: “Struggle and uncertainty continue to be part of my Jewish journey. Every time I think I might be comfortable, a new door opens and I grow some more. I’m especially passionate about this Melton course because I’ve studied in pluralistic contexts across the Jewish spectrum, and I know I want to learn from and with people who think differently from me.” continued on page 16 | December 14, 2020 | Education | JEWISH NEWS | 15

Education Matters continued from page 15

Soul Cycles: A Ride Through the Chapters of Life Taught by Miriam Brunn Ruberg Thursdays, April 22–May 27 Miriam Brunn Ruberg grew up in Buffalo, N.Y. the oldest daughter of parents who both survived the Holocaust. She earned her Bachelor Miriam Brunn Ruberg. of Arts degree from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, which included a year of study in Israel. Brunn Ruberg then earned a Master’s degree from Brandeis University in Jewish Communal Service with a concentration in Jewish Education. She worked at the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater in Jewish Education and Israel Youth Programming

for nine years. She then worked as a Jewish educator for the Simon Family JCC for 15 years, retiring in June 2015. During her tenure at the JCC, Brunn Ruberg brought the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School to the Tidewater community around the year 2000. She then directed and taught in the program. Brunn Ruberg will teach a course for six weeks in the spring called ‘Soul’s Cycles: A Ride Through the Chapters of Life.’ This course will navigate the winding roads of childhood and adult rituals and how we understand them as Jews today. “I am very much looking forward to teaching this new Melton curriculum as Life Cycle is one of my favorite aspects of Jewish life to teach and to learn,” says Brunn Ruberg. “I feel this way because Life Cycle events touch the lives of everyone who is a part of the Jewish community.”

For more information on classes or to register, go to For additional information on The Florence Melton School of Jewish Learning, contact Sierra Lautman, director of Jewish Innovation, at 757-965-6107 or

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16 | JEWISH NEWS | Education | December 14, 2020 |

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Education Matters

Norfolk Academy Upper School students gain boost in the college application process Mike Connors


orfolk Academy students annually gain admission into a wide variety of outstanding colleges and universities across the country, including Ivy League and military service institutions and Virginia’s public flagships. Two members of the Class of 2020 earned UVA’s premier Jefferson Scholarship, while another earned UNC-Chapel Hill’s prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship. Other members landed at Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and the United States Military Academy, just to name a few. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, required College Counseling to adjust its traditional approach to the fall college visit experience. What emerged was a series of virtual gatherings that gave students the same access to colleges and college admission officers that alumni enjoyed. During a typical fall, more than 100 colleges and universities send representatives to the Academy campus. Gathering either one-on-one or in small groups, the visits allow students to network, ask questions, and learn about institutions they might want to attend. Amid the pandemic, though, many colleges have cut their travel. And to prioritize the safety of its entire community, Academy decided not to allow visitors to campus on school days. Still, College Counseling wanted to keep the visits coming. For juniors they are an invaluable way to explore college options. For seniors they are a great chance to re-connect with the schools on

their list, while also making an impression on some of the people who will review applications. Virtual visits allowed college small group sessions via Zoom. The sessions included presentations from the representatives and questions from students. The virtual visits began in early September. Participants included UVA, Virginia Tech, William and Mary, James Madison University, the United States Naval Academy, Dartmouth College, and several dozen other stellar public and private schools. Student engagement was strong. Throughout the fall, Academy offered athletics and fine arts activities, in which hundreds of students participated. And during a ceremony in mid-November, 11 student-athletes signed their commitments to play college athletics. Since the visits were on Zoom, even students choosing Norfolk Academy’s Distance Learning model, an enhanced program the school is offering amid the pandemic, were able to attend. Shortly after the virtual visits wound down, College Counseling led a twoday virtual College Admission Workshop for the Class of 2022. College admission partners from William and Mary, Georgetown, the College of Wooster, Davidson College, and the University of Colorado at Boulder were among those who took part. Sessions included discussions with the guest faculty, introductions to a variety of admissions tools, and assignments that will help students prepare for their next steps in the college

admission journey. College Counseling will hold additional family meetings with juniors and their parents over the next few months. That’s on top of the one-on-one meetings that counselors have already been having, when they get to know students and help them determine their options for higher education. During the pandemic, the college application process will continue to be atypical. Colleges are making changes that will impact college-going students for years to come. Jennifer Scott, director of College Counseling, advised students to keep an open mind as they go through the process and to remember that students, parents, teachers, and counselors are all in this together. An evolving college admission

process is not new, and while the current landscape requires creativity, flexibility, and patience, Academy is finding new ways to help students achieve success. Students should be active participants in their own process, attending virtual admission programs for any school they might want to explore. They should also communicate openly, asking lots of questions. “We were thrilled with the success of this year’s virtual visit program,” Scott says. “It was a wonderful way for our students to connect with colleges at a time when in-person visits are difficult. They were also a great way for our admission partners to learn about all that is going on at Academy during this, the Year of Courage.”

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Education Matters

Student artwork from Elie Weisel Visual Arts Competition continues to inspire


ach year the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater sponsors the Elie Wiesel Visual Arts Competition. Hundreds of student artists from Tidewater, as well as nationally, create works of art that respond to various topics and guidelines which generally include the Holocaust, social issues, moral courage, and heroes who inspire them to do what is just and fair. To see more art, go to https://holocaustcommission. j e w i shva . o r g / h o m e- p a ge / elie-wiesel/2020 -ellie-wiesel-competition-visual-arts-virtual-show.


Yezi Liu, Cape Henry Collegiate School.

Jenna Stone, Cape Henry Collegiate School.

Yuhan Jiang, Cape Henry Collegiate School.

Overeducation among academic degree holders in Israel

ducation levels have increased in Israel and around the world in recent decades. There is a common perception that this increase leads to “overeducation,” a situation in which the education level of an individual exceeds the skill-level required for the job in which the individual is employed. A new Taub Center study examines overeducation in Israel and finds that, in recent years, about 17.5% of those with academic degrees are estimated to be overeducated. The phenomenon is most notable among young immigrants with poor Hebrew-language skills, who were educated abroad and have many years of work ahead of them, and among workers who changed their place of work after age 45. A correlation was also found between overeducation and commuting patterns: the extent of the overeducation phenomenon decreases as commuting time increases, and is significantly lower among private car owners. Given the elevated enrollment rates in higher education since the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, it is possible that this phenomenon will expand further in the

coming years. The new Taub Center study looks at academic degree holders employed in occupations that do not require a degree. Such overeducation is more prevalent among people who studied humanities and the social sciences, while those who studied law, medicine, math, statistics, and computer science have a very low propensity to be classified as overeducated. The study also found that in recent years about 17.5% of workers in Israel with an academic degree are classified as overeducated. Immigrants, language, and age The Taub Center study reveals several factors that strongly affect the scope of overeducation—language, seniority in the workplace, and commuting. Language skills are a key component of human capital and a critical factor for successful integration into civilian life and the labor market, and a lack of proficiency in Hebrew can be an obstacle in career development and can impair earning potential. Knowing the language is important for acquiring higher education

18 | JEWISH NEWS | Education | December 14, 2020 |

and opportunities in the labor market and, at the same time, participating in academic studies strengthens language skills. Thus, people with Hebrew-language proficiency have a greater chance of finding a rewarding job that matches their skill set while, on the other hand, those who suffer from a language barrier may end up working in a profession that does not require an academic degree and be classified as overeducated. Age of immigration and exposure to Hebrew language greatly affect the level of proficiency. The level of language proficiency for those who immigrated before adolescence and received most of their education in Israel is almost the same as for Jews born in Israel, while for older immigrants who received most of their education in their country of origin, language acquisition is more complex and depends on personal skills, the investment of time, and effort. As for the Arab Israeli population, nearly one-fifth of degree holders in this population studied outside of Israel, and the share of those proficient in Hebrew among them is lower than among

Several factors that strongly affect the scope of overeducation— language, seniority in the workplace, and commuting. those Arabs who studied in Israel (93% versus 74% in 2017-2019). In general, Hebrew proficiency is correlated with lower levels of overeducation in all population groups. Young workers (25–44) with a strong command of the Hebrew language were found to have lower rates of overeducation, with negligible differences between immigrants and native Israelis (Jews and Arabs). On the other hand, high rates of overeducation were found among immigrants who acquired their education abroad—both young and old—who immigrated after 1996. Overeducation is more common among

Education Matters young people at the beginning of their careers who do not yet have appropriate professional experience and, in order to avoid unemployment and its consequences, turn to occupations that do not match their education level. Overeducation could also be related to labor market conditions and the personal circumstances of the individual. Geographical restrictions (such as a place of residence far from employment centers and a lack of mobility) and marital status may also push educated workers to work in professions that do not require an academic degree. The data show that the rate of overeducation is higher among graduates of higher education at the beginning of their careers, but that at more advanced career stages, the match between education and profession increases with the years. In contrast, workers who change jobs after the age of 45 are

more likely to be classified as overeducated as the years go by. It is very possible that the intense pace of technological change, as well as a lack of new skills and ongoing training, may cause some people to accept employment in jobs that do not match their level of education. Another factor that contributes to the phenomenon may be ageism (employment discrimination on the basis of age). . Travel time to work The length of time required to commute to work may explain the phenomenon of overeducation, because job seekers’ behavior is greatly affected by their spatial flexibility. A worker who is willing to relocate or who has a high tolerance level for commuting is less likely to be overeducated. The Taub Center study finds that overeducation rates decline as commuting times increase. The relationship between commuting

and overeducation is also related to worker satisfaction with commuting time, income, and place of employment. Those who are overeducated are less satisfied with their place of employment as well as their income relative to workers with education levels commensurate with their employment, but are more satisfied with commute-time. This shows that some workers choose to compromise on their place of work in exchange for shorter commute times and lower commuting costs. Gender In an examination by gender, overeducation is found to be more prevalent among women, by a gap of about 3 percentage points. This may be due to women’s tendency to attribute more weight to occupational characteristics that make it possible to balance work and family. For example, 61% of married women with an

academic degree work within a half-hour drive of their place of residence, compared to 49% of men. Avi Weiss, Taub Center president, says, “Higher education is important for integration into the labor market, but it is also important to adjust education levels to fit employment characteristics and the needs of the market in order to get the most out of workers and increase labor productivity. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis and the closing of the skies to air travel, many young Israelis have been enrolling in higher education. This may increase productivity and improve the occupational situation of many young Israelis, but it may also expand the phenomenon of overeducation in the coming years.” The Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel is an independent, non-partisan socioeconomic research institute.

CONNECT WITH US! Many things seem uncertain. Your child’s education should not. Connect with us and learn how Norfolk Collegiate provides your child a great pre-K3 through Grade 12 education and an even better experience in a safe environment. Join us at our convenient virtual and in-person (with COVID-19 protocols) events, like our upcoming virtual open house, and see how your child will flourish as an Oak.

VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE TUESDAY, JAN. 12, AT 10 A.M. Limited seats remain for the 2021-22 school year. Get started by calling 757.480.1495, emailing or scanning Accredited by Virginia Association of Independent Schools. | December 14, 2020 | Education | JEWISH NEWS | 19

Education Matters Call us to schedule your virtual tour!


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arah Gordon ’22, a junior at Norfolk Collegiate, understood why her school was closed each year in observance of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, but not all of her classmates did. The pre-K through Grade 12 independent school in Norfolk creates doers, thinkers, and explorers in a warm and inclusive community. So, when Marah asked to PHOTO COURTESY OF NORFOLK COLLEGIATE speak to her classmates Students Sarah ‘23 and Marah Gordon ‘22 host a Robotics table at the school’s annual club fair. Marah was instrumental in establishing the about Yom Kippur and school’s FTC Robotics club. what it means to her, the school was elated to have her share with education, having attended Hebrew the students. Academy of Tidewater (now Strelitz “They were generally excited about it,” International Academy) before coming to she recalls about speaking to her peers Collegiate in middle school, and her comabout the holiday. fort with being her true self in front of her That spurred Marah to continue to peers at Collegiate. share her religion and its observances “I’m very proud of her. She feels comwith her classmates during assemblies. fortable enough in who she is that she She even made hamantaschen for Purim wants to share it with the Collegiate and shared them with the upper school. community. She feels so at home within “It took hours to make all those hamanCollegiate where she’s been nurtured and taschens, and it was pretty painstaking, comforted,” says Gordon. but it was worth it,” Marah says. “People “I love Collegiate. There’s nowhere else really, really liked them. I had tons of I’d rather be,” Marah says. “It has such fun sharing Purim with my community, a kind and caring community. It fosters and I think the joy and lightheartedness an institutional culture of respect and I spread really embodied the spirit of concern for others. I’ve really thrived as Purim.” a part of it.” She also attributes Collegiate for being Outside of the classroom, Marah is a inclusive of her need for flexibility during member of the National Honor Society certain times of the year. and was instrumental in expanding the “Teachers are always really underrobotics activities at Collegiate as a foundstanding and flexible with work and ing member of the FTC Robotics club, the holidays, but I think my peers and which builds and brings robots to life instructors deserve to know why we aren’t using metal parts and coding. going to school, or why I need to move “I want the challenge that robotics things around.” brings, and I value the companionship Marah’s mother, Randi Gordon, says, that comes with a team,” she says. “She did this on her own. She really wants When not in school, Marah particithe community to understand, and she pates in Midrashah at Congregation Beth really wants to be inclusive and share her El. “This year, we’re undertaking a projreligion.” ect to make a documentary about local Gordon attributes it to Marah’s Jewish history,” she says.

Local and Experienced…a winning combination!


Homeland creators are adapting Nathan Englander’s Dinner at the Center of the Earth into a TV series Curt Schleier

(JTA) — Showtime hopes it has found its next Homeland in the form of a Nathan Englander adaptation. The network has Homeland co-creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa producing Englander’s 2017 novel Dinner at the Center of the Earth into a series, Deadline reports. The book centers on a Prisoner Z who is being held at a secret prison site in Israel’s Negev Desert. He’s an Israeli spy who betrayed his native country to atone for actions that led to the death of innocent individuals—and perhaps break the cycle of violence in the region.

Gordon and Gansa have worked together on numerous shows, including 24, and converted the hit Israeli series Prisoners of War into Homeland for American audiences. That show earned the pair two Emmys, including for best drama series. Englander, who grew up Orthodox and usually writes on Jewish themes (he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year that everything down to “the weather” in his books is Jewish), has published five acclaimed books. His latest,, involves a haredi Orthodox man who leaves his religious community and then returns to it.

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Employment Opportunity Director of Camp and Teen Engagement Under the direction of the Director of Jewish Innovation, this position is responsible for the management of youth and teen engagement provided by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC including, but not limited to, summer day camp, family celebrations, and teen engagement. Responsibilities include supervising camp leadership team; assisting with recruiting, hiring and training camp staff; providing leadership in developing and maintaining parent relationships and communications; collaborating with other UJFT/JCC departments to schedule and coordinate applicable joint programming. and more.


Qualifications BA/BS degree from an accredited college or university; three years of management/supervisory experience in working with children, teens or directing a summer camp preferred; one year proven experience in developing Jewish content, social programming for middle school, high school and college age youth; strong knowledge of Israel, Jewish culture, heritage and traditions; proven leadership & supervisory skills with the ability to train staff; and more. Complete job descriptions at Submit cover letter, resume and salary requirements to: Submit by mail to: United Jewish Federation of Tidewater Attention: Taftaleen T. Hunter, Director of Human Resources – Confidential 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Virginia Beach, 23462




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Chrys Lyon




2021 Simon Family JCC Day Camp Employment HEAD OF CAMP GADOL The Head of Camp Gadol is responsible for the management, programming and oversight of rising 1st - 6th graders (aka, Upper Camp) engaged in the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater and Simon Family JCC Summer Day Camp program. In addition to helping formulate and implement policy, the Head of Camp Gadol will be responsible for planning, preparation, and implementation of all programs and activities for Camp Gadol; serve as the creative force for Camp Gadol programs; lead counselors in planning and implementing activities, and work closely with specialists; act as role model for staff; be a ‘counselor’s counselor;’ and more.

Qualifications Strong background and experience in camp and/or related fields; Must have leadership skills, ability to motivate, manage, and counsel; Ability and willingness to teach and live by Jewish concepts and values in camp community; Ability to maximize the skills and talents of staff members at camp; Ability to communicate with, relate to, and serve as an example to all campers and staff; and more. A college degree is preferred. Complete job descriptions at Submit cover letter, resume and salary requirements to: Submit by mail to: United Jewish Federation of Tidewater Attention: Taftaleen T. Hunter, Director of Human Resources – Confidential 5000 Corporate Woods Drive, Virginia Beach, 23462 EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER 22 | JEWISH NEWS | December 14, 2020 |


Community project feeds frontline healthcare workers— one meal at a time might get it.” After hearing those calls, Blais decided hen the COVID-19 pandemic to respond. She recalled her own expestarted breaking out across the rience of working in the emergency United States, Pam Blais began receivdepartment and how tough it was for ing a slew of phone calls. A former nurses and staff to squeeze in a meal. 18-year-emergency department registered “In my 18 years in the emergency nurse, Blais had countless friends and department, I probably had less than 10 co-workers that were suddenly thrust to times where I had a break, sat down at a the frontlines during the biggest global table, and ate a meal,” says Blais. “And if pandemic in more than 100 years. you do have the time, you feel guilty for “People were just calling to vent about doing it because you know that it’s going what was happening,” says Blais. “Some crazy out there.” of the strongest nurses I know, leaders Realizing there would be gaps of meal in the emergency department and ICU deliveries and that food support would world, were crying and calling extremely be critical for frontline workers, Blais and scared—worried they were going to take her daughter Gilly, started the Pantry BOX this virus home or that they themselves Project. “The Pantry BOX Project’s mission is to support the frontline staff who are directly involved with the COVID population— the emergency departments, intensive care units, and designated COVID units that exist at every hospital,” says Blais. “We give them trail mix, granola bars, fruit, things like that as a pick-me-up. Just as a ‘I care, I see you, I understand.’” The Pantry BOX Project has grown in size and demand and has attracted the attention of volunteers such as Cathy C. Fox. “When I saw what Pam, her daughter, and friends were doing, I knew I wanted Pam Blais receives WTKR’s People Taking Action to be involved,” says Fox, RN, CEN, Award from reporter Beverly Kidd. CPEN, TCRN, FAEN, and Quality and Safety Nurse for EMD, Lab, and Cardiovascular Service Line at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth. “We often work eight-, 10-, and 12-hour shifts, often without a break to go to the bathroom or even eat a quick bite. Providing a nutritious snack and seeing their faces light up when we deliver a Pantry BOX Project is like Pam Blais, second from left, with her family after receiving Christmas or Hanukkah Thomas Mills


WTKR’s People Taking Action Award.


A Perfect Holiday Gift Idea!

Members of the Sentara Norfolk General Hospital Nightingale Regional Air Ambulance after receiving a delivery.

morning.” With local hospitals gearing up for both flu season and rising COVID-19 cases, and to be certain that those on the frontlines received actual meals, Blais contacted Tidewater Jewish Foundation to partner on raising the funds to purchase meals for these workers. “While snacks are enjoyed by our recipients on the frontline, nothing replaces a real meal,” says Blais. “With the restaurant community suffering, we want to make this a win-win for our community. We’ve chosen five, local, non-franchise restaurants that we’re going to exclusively purchase meals from.” With a fundraising goal of $10,000, the new TJF fund, Front Line Meals of the Pantry Box Project, will be used to purchase meals. Blais says that a $100 donation will provide 20 meals. Over the past nine months, Blais’s hard work has been recognized in local media. Just last month, she received the People Taking Action Award from WTKR Channel 3, which, according to WTKR, “award[s] citizens who are doing great things in their community.” “Pam and Gilly’s experience working together, compassionately caring for those taking care of others is a multigenerational philanthropic endeavor,” says Naomi Limor Sedek, TJF president and

CEO. “We are proud to play a part in supporting multi-gen philanthropy, as well as our frontline health care workers battling this pandemic.” Gilly Blais is also incredibly proud of everything she and her mother have accomplished. “It’s been amazing to see how the community has gotten involved and how they’ve embraced us, embraced this project, and have become as passionate about it as we have,” she says. “It’s especially been nice to partner with Tidewater Jewish Foundation because they understand our mission and share our values. Tikkun olam, repairing the world, giving back to your community—is all very important to us as a family, but also as Jewish people.” “If you have your health, a roof over your head, food on your table, and you’re not exposed to the virus, think about how you can give back,” says Blais. “I would encourage people to donate. It doesn’t have to be a big amount, whatever amount is going to speak to you, let people see your heart.” To make a donation to the Front Line Meals of the Pantry Box Project, visit or TJF Donor Advised Fund holders may make a distribution via TJF’s donor portal at

Receive a BONUS $50 gift card for every $500 spent. Call 757-491-1111 or visit Ask about our Holiday Party options for Private Dining or Dining Room. La Promenade Shopping Center 1860 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach | December 14, 2020 | JEWISH NEWS | 23

United Jewish Federation of Tidewater & the Simon Family JCC’s Lee and Bernard Jaffe Family Jewish Book Festival 2020–2021*

*events shown only through December 16

All events are open to the community with RSVP or tickets required and will take place virtually until further notice. For more information about the Festival, to register, sponsor, or volunteer, contact Patty Shelanski at 757-452-3184 or or

To register for events, go to LATKEPALOOZA! The Ninth Night of Hanukkah with author Erica Perl

JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL Saving Free Speech...From Itself with author Thane Rosenbaum

Tuesday, December 15, 6 pm, free

Wednesday, December 16, 12 pm, free

JEWISH COMMUNITY RELATIONS COUNCIL’S COMBATING HATE TASK FORCE AND HOLOCAUST COMMISSION Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech For All with author Suzanne Nossel Tuesday, January 12, 12 pm, free


rica Perl will share her new book, The Ninth Night of Hanukkah, and lead everyone in song and movement activities that will get the entire family up and moving. Perl writes picture books, novels, chapter books, plays, and articles. Her books have received accolades and awards, including the National Jewish Book Award, and the Sydney Taylor Honor. They’ve also landed on State Book Award lists, “Best Books” lists, and library lists. Her author visits—in person and virtual—are energetic, educational, and engaging. This may be because she has a theater background, a law degree, and an ice cream truck driver’s license. In The Ninth Night of Hanukkah, it’s Hanukkah, and Max and Rachel are excited to light the menorah in their family’s new apartment. But, unfortunately, their Hanukkah box is missing. So now they have no menorah, candles, dreidels, or, well, anything. Luckily, their neighbors help, offering thoughtful and often humorous stand-in items each night. And then, just as Hanukkah is about to end, Max and Rachel, inspired by the shamash (“helper”) candle, have a brilliant idea: they’re going to celebrate the Ninth Night of Hanukkah as a way to say thanks to everyone who’s helped them! The story is heartwarming and fun, as well as an invitation to join in a beautiful new Hanukkah tradition.

24 | JEWISH NEWS | December 14, 2020 |


n an era of political correctness, race-baiting, terrorist incitement, the ‘Danish’ cartoons, the shouting down of speakers, and, of course, ‘fake news,’ liberals and conservatives are up in arms both about speech and its excesses, and what the First Amendment means. Speech has been weaponized. Everyone knows it, but no one seems to know how to make sense of the current confusion, and what to do about it. Thane Rosenbaum’s provocative and compelling book helps make clear this important issue at the heart of society and politics. Rosenbaum is an essayist, law professor, and author. His articles, reviews, and essays appear frequently in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Haaretz, Huffington Post , and Daily Beast , among other national publications. He serves as the Legal Analyst for CBS News Radio and as a Columnist for the Jewish News Syndicate— JNS.


nline trolls and fascist chat groups. Controversies over campus lectures. Cancel culture versus censorship. The daily hazards and debates surrounding free speech dominate headlines and fuel social media storms. In an era where one tweet can launch—or end—a career, and where free speech is often invoked as a principle but rarely understood, learning to maneuver the fastchanging, treacherous landscape of public discourse has never been more urgent. In Dare To Speak , Suzanne Nossel, a leading voice in support of free expression, delivers a vital, necessary guide to maintaining democratic debate that is open, and freewheeling, but at the same time respectful of the rich diversity of backgrounds and opinions in a changing country. Nossel currently serves as the chief executive officer of PEN America, the leading human rights and free expression organization. Nossel is a featured columnist for Foreign Policy Magazine and has been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Foreign Affairs, Dissent, Democracy, and other journals.


JEWISH BOOK FESTIVAL In Case You Get Hit By A Bus How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later with authors Abby Schneiderman, Adam Seifer, and Gene Newman Wednesday, January 13, 7:30 pm, free

patent” now owned by LinkedIn. Gene Newman, the editorial director of Everplans and one of its earliest employees, has spent the past 20 years serving as editor-in-chief/editorial director of, Hachette Filipacchi Digital, and other media and lifestyle properties.

What To Eat When Cookbook: 135+ Deliciously Timed Recipes with author Dr. Michael Roizen Thursday, January 21, 12 pm, free


ewish traditions for the end of life involve a wealth of practices, both ritual and practical. Join us for a practical “how-to” with Abby Schneiderman, Adam Seifer, and Gene Newman, authors of In Case You Get Hit By A Bus How to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later When Abby Schneiderman’s brother was killed in a headon collision by an impaired driver, her family was thrust into a position many families experience: they were shocked, heartbroken, and unsure what to do next. While her brother had made some financial arrangements, her family had no idea what he would have wanted and had to make all sorts of stressful (and expensive) decisions in an incredibly short amount of time. In Case You Get Hit By A Bus is a clearly designed and easyto-follow program to help even the most disorganized take control of modern life’s burgeoning mess of on- and off-line details. Breaking the job down into three levels, from the most urgent (granting access to passwords, outlining a financial blueprint) to the technical (creating a manual for the systems in your home, understanding legal documents) to the nostalgic (assembling a living memory complete with photos, recipes, and significant stories), this plan takes the anxiety and stress out of putting your life in order and covers just about any contingency, helping you leave the best parting gift you could ever imagine. Abby Schneiderman is the co-founder and co-CEO of Everplans. Previously, she was principal at Tipping Point Partners, an NYC start-up incubator and was a co-founder of one of the first music social networks. Adam Seifer, co-founder and co-CEO of Everplans, is a co-founder of other social media companies and an inventor on US Patent 6175831—”the social networking

ou loved him last year, so he’s returning to Tidewater! Michael Roizen, M.D. is the #1 New York Times bestselling author and co-founder and originator of the popular website. He is the Chief Wellness Officer and founding chair of the Wellness Institute of the Cleveland Clinic, as well as Chief Medical Consultant to The Dr. Oz Show. Roizen returns to Tidewater to share his sequel to What to Eat When, an inspiring cookbook/strategic eating plan that offers 125 delectable recipes geared to longevity, weight loss, and success. Each dish is paired with practical information about the nutrients and benefits of the ingredients, plus expert cooking tips, what portion size to eat when, and helpful substitutions.

KONIKOFF CENTER FOR LEARNING Getting Good at Getting Older with author Rabbi Laura Geller Monday, January 25, 12 pm Learn@Lunch


he baby boomer generation transformed society in the ‘60s and ‘70s and changed the way the world saw young people. While this generation is no longer young, it is still revolutionary and is now confronting and challenging assumptions about aging by living longer, by being more active than their parents and grandparents, and by simply doing things differently as they age. In the process, boomers are changing the way the world sees older people. Getting Good at Getting Older is a tour for all those of “a certain age” through the resources and skills needed to navigate the years between maturity (building careers/raising families) and frail old age. It brings humor, warmth, and more than 4,000 years of Jewish experience to the question of how to shape this new stage of life. Rabbi Laura Geller, Rabbi Emerita of Temple Emanuel of Beverly Hills, twice named one of Newsweek ’s 50 Most Influential Rabbis in America, was named by PBS Next Avenue as one of the 50 2017 Influencers in Aging. Prior to becoming one of the first women selected to lead a major metropolitan synagogue, Rabbi Geller served as the director of Hillel of University of Southern California for 14 years and as the Pacific Southwest Region’s executive director of the American Jewish Congress for four years. | December 14, 2020 | JEWISH NEWS | 25


CAMP JCC Camp JCC 2.0: Chicken soup for the Jewish camper’s soul Begins June 2021 Lisa Richmon


ummer camp at the JCC has always been more than a break from school routines and homework. This year, however, playing outdoors, finding a best friend, singing songs together, and tackling new challenges at Camp JCC will be a reprieve from virtually everything and everything virtual. As parents too, JCC leadership is aware that children have never needed summer to be ‘summer’ quite like they do today. And, Camp JCC has never had more to offer in the way of safe socialization and boundless summer adventures. Eight ‘Adventure’ sessions begin June 15 and end August 14. Each five-day week adventure is dedicated to a theme such as Adventures in Art; Adventures in Science, Adventures in Kindness and Animal Adventures. Adults have fond memories of camp from their childhood and shouldn’t be surprised to feel a tinge of envy mixed with anticipation and excitement for their kids. “The return of Camp JCC in 2021 is going to be amazing! Under Sierra Lautman’s leadership as director of Jewish Innovation for the UJFT and Simon Family JCC, we are adding to our camp leadership and the team is hard at work on new ideas and activities,” says Betty Ann Levin, United Jewish Federation of Tidewater executive vice president/CEO. This year has taught leaders what it means to create a fun camp experience. Kids have also learned so much. Camp JCC counselors are creative by nature and

THROUGH FEBRUARY 24, 2021 SWORDFISH WINTER SWIM TEAM, Ages 5–18 Mondays–Wednesdays, 6–7:30 pm, JCC Indoor Pool. Open to all boys and girls ages 5–18 years, recreational competitive swim team offers certified, experienced coaching to swimmers that wish to improve technique, get fit, and make friends. This is NOT swim lessons, however having competitive experience is not required. Cost is $255 for JCC members and $310 for non-members. Each swimmer receives a custom team canvas sport bag, t-shirt, and swim cap. A sibling discount of $25 is available at registration. For more information or to register, visit the JCC in person or call 757-321-2308. DECEMBER 15, TUESDAY LATKEPALOOZA! with Erica Perl, author of The Ninth Night of Hanukkah. In partnership with Strelitz International Academy. Presented by Konikoff Center for Learning and PJ Library. 6 pm. Free. For more information or to register, go to or contact Patty Shelanski at 757-452-3184 or See page 24.

if anyone can make handwashing fun or social distance immersive, they can. Being outside—in nature—is not only the most fun, it’s the safest place to be. By providing shade tents, water stations, and more water activities, the Simon Family JCC has done the work to make play fun again. As a social engagement tool, Zoom gets the job done, but it pales to the sense of togetherness campers enjoy singing camp songs and feeling part of something bigger. When a camper ends their summer after mastering a new stroke in the pool or catching a fish after weeks of trial and error, it’s not like a tree that falls in the forest. Everyone sees it, hears it, and cheers for them together. “Camp JCC was a staple of both my childhood and my children’s,” says Levin. “I hope that our community embraces the opportunity for kids and teens to spend the summer on our Campus, with our amazing aquatics centers and new adventures and take advantage of all Camp JCC will have to offer!”

Register at

Visit us on the web Follow us on Facebook JewishNewsVA 26 | JEWISH NEWS | December 14, 2020 |

DECEMBER 16, WEDNESDAY Thane Rosenbaum, author, essayist, and law professor discusses his book Saving Free Speech… From Itself. In partnership with the UJFT’S Jewish Community Relations Council and it’s Combating Hate Task Force along with the Holocaust Commission. Pre-registration required. 12 pm. Free. For more information and to register, go to or contact Rabbi Batya Glazer, Director, Jewish Community Relations Council at See page 24. JANUARY 7, THURSDAY The Florence Melton School of Adult Learning is back in session. Presented by the Konikoff Center for Learning. For dates, times, and more information, go to See page 16. JANUARY 12, TUESDAY Suzanne Nossel, author of Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech For All. 12 pm. Free. For more information or to register, contact Patty Shelanski at 757-452-3184 or See page 24. JANUARY 13, WEDNESDAY Abby Schneiderman, Adam Seifer, and Gene Newman, authors of In Case You Get Hit By A Bus: A Plan to Organize Your Life Now for When You’re Not Around Later. 7:30 pm. Free. For more information or to register, contact Patty Shelanski at 757-452-3184 or pshelanski@ujft. org. See page 25. JANUARY 21, THURSDAY Dr. Michael Roizen, BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND, author of What to Eat When Cookbook: 135+ Deliciously Timed Recipes. In partnership with Simon Family JCC’s JFit, Hadassah Norfolk/ Virginia Beach. 12 pm. Free. For more information or to register, contact Patty Shelanski at 757‑452-3184 or See page 25. JANUARY 25, MONDAY Rabbi Laura Geller, author of Getting Good at Getting Older. Presented by Konikoff Center for Learning. 12 pm. Free. For more information or to register, contact Patty Shelanski at 757‑452‑3184 or See page 25. JANUARY 27, WEDNESDAY Israel Today presents: Israel Story in Conversation with Professor Shlomo Maital, Technion & MIT Professor. The Jewish Community Relations Council of the UJFT, Simon Family JCC, and Community Partners’ 10th Annual Israel Today Series present an Intergenerational Conversation with Israel Story co-founders Mishy Harmon, Yochai Maital, and Yochai’s Father, Professor Maital. 12:00 pm. Free. For more information and to register, go to IsraelToday or contact Leigh Cason at lcasson or 757-321-2304. Send submissions for calendar to Be sure to note “calendar” in the subject. Include date, event name, sponsor, address, time, cost and phone.


Jeopardy! just had a Yiddish category with words like ‘schlep’ and ‘nosh’ Lior Zaltzman


eopardy! fans have been hard hit by the loss of Alex Trebek, who died of cancer on Nov. 8 at age 80. But because the show films in advance—and Trebek kept filming until a week before his passing—the beloved longtime host is still with us until Jan. 4 with new episodes airing on weeknights. Just why are we writing about this iconic game show? Well, Jewish questions and guests are not exactly rare on Jeopardy!. But on Monday, Nov. 30, the show had an entire category dedicated to Yiddish. The clueless contestants were clearly schvitzing—that’s “sweating” in Yiddish—and mostly stumped. Of the five Yiddish questions, only two of the three contestants got two right. Let’s

review them—read on and see how you would do! Yiddish for $1,000: The word for cheap & shoddily made goods now usually refers to cheap and shoddily made entertainment. (The answer is: What is schlock?) Yiddish for $800: The opening to Laverne & Shirley used these 2 Yiddish words, one meaning an oaf, the other, an unlucky person. (The answer is: What are schlemiel and schlemazel?) Yiddish for $600: This verb means to haul or to move with effort. (The answer is: What is schlep?) This one was correctly answered by contestant Ben Ring, an accountant originally from

Allentown, Pennsylvania. Mazel tov, Ben!

during Hanukkah!

Yiddish for $400: Sometimes in the middle of the night I’ll head to the kitchen and do some of this from the Yiddish for “snacking.” (The answer is: What is nosh/noshing?) And, in case you didn’t know, The Nosher is the name of our partner site that’s dedicated to Jewish food.

Overall, while we found these questions absolutely delightful, longtime Jeopardy! fans voiced their frustration at the contestants’ lack of Yiddish skills on Twitter. Of course, others schepped naches over how they ran the category from the comfort of their own sofas. How would you have done? Personally, I found the questions all extremely easy, but, you know, I work for a Jewish publication. Nonetheless, we did get verklempt watching Trebek impart his viewers with some Yiddish knowledge, knowing that in just over a month we’ll have to say goodbye to him on TV. May his memory be for a blessing.

Yiddish for $200: There’s no guilt in knowing that “gelt” is this; you’ll receive some with a correct response. (The answer is: What is gelt?) Contestant and college administrator Tracy Arwari of Newport, West Virginia, got some gelt for this one. And, FYI, gelt is simply Yiddish for “money,” though of course we also love to eat chocolate gelt

This article originally appeared in Kveller.

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With elegant living and eating spaces, round-the-clock licensed nursing care and a full range of therapeutic programs, residents at The Terrace thrive in our safe and supportive environment. And as the pandemic continues, we are doing the necessary work of ensuring our facility continues to be a safe haven from COVID-19 for those who live and work here. Our protocols include detailed cleaning, staff testing and following the CDC and VDH guidelines. Right now we’re offering virtual and in-person tours (safely), so come take a look, and get $500 off your first two month’s rent!

Know someone looking for a senior community? Refer them to The Terrace. If they become a resident, you’ll receive a $1,000 VISA gift card!

Call Allison Whiteman, Administrator at 282-2384 or visit | December 14, 2020 | JEWISH NEWS | 27

OBITUARIES GERALD PRIBUTSKY VIRGINIA BEACH—Gerald Pributsky, 94, of Virginia Beach, passed away peacefully on November 25, 2020, at his home after a long illness. Born May 9, 1926 in Fall River, Massachusetts, he was the only son in a family with three sisters. He is predeceased by his parents Jesse and Charles Pributsky and sister Minnie Cohen (all of blessed memory). He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and later achieved the rank of Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves. He completed a Master’s in Science from the University of Massachusetts and obtained two undergraduate degrees, a Bachelor of Science from the University of Massachusetts and a degree in Industrial Engineering from Western New England College. He worked as an engineer in various locations along the East Coast for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers and completed the final leg of his professional career at the Norfolk headquarters. He volunteered with Jewish Family Service of Tidewater in the Personal Affairs Management program and served as a translator of Yiddish for new Russian immigrants. He was a member of Ohef Sholom Temple and active in several local synagogues, where he participated in minyan and services. Gerald was a voracious reader and loved to study Judaism and Yiddish. Gerald logged countless miles running, swimming, and walking throughout the Tidewater area. Additionally, he was an avid outdoorsman and enjoyed hiking, camping, and gardening. Gerald was

married to his wife Barbara for 64 years and they enjoyed his retirement years traveling to National Parks throughout all 50 states. His most cherished moments were celebrating life cycle events with his beloved family. He was a wonderful “Papa Gerry” to his grandchildren and great grandchildren, always full of stories and laughter. Gerald is survived by his wife, Barbara; his five children: Beth (Richard) Diamonstein, Caren (Steve) Leon, Debby (Fred) Fink, Lisa (Neal) Schulwolf, and David (Samara) Pributsky; 10 grandchildren: Josh (Cara) Diamonstein, Eric (Callie) Diamonstein, Mason and Matthew Leon, Kevin and Kathryn Fink, Hallie, Brett and Helene Schulwolf and Ava Pributsky; two great grandchildren: Georgia Diamonstein and Riley Diamonstein. He is also survived by his sisters: Phyllis White and Gladys Koss, along with many nieces and nephews. The family would like to especially thank Freda H. Gordon Hospice and all of Gerald’s loving caregivers for their care and devotion during his illness. Due to COVID-19, the funeral was private, officiated by Rabbi Rosalin Mandleberg, and held at Forest Lawn Cemetery. Online condolences may be shared with the family at The family requests donations to Ohef Sholom Temple, Jewish Family Service, and the National Park Foundation.

SHEILA ELKINS SILVERSTEIN EMANUEL NORFOLK—Sheila Elkins Silverstein Emanuel passed away on November 23,

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2020, at the age of 81. She was the daughter of Robert and Iris Elkins. Sheila was born and raised in New York and relocated to Richmond in 1969 where she lived until she moved to Norfolk 30 years ago. Sheila is the adored mother and grandmother of Michael (Suzi) Silverstein, Sheryl (Harry) Traub and Evan (Bobbi) Silverstein and her beloved grandchildren Brittany and Stephanie Wengel, Morgan and Brooke Silverstein and Aaron and Elana Silverstein. She is also survived by her sister Eileen (Stan) Torow. Her beloved husband Dick Emanuel predeceased her in December 2019. Sheila’s exuberant personality enabled her to make a difference in Employee Assistance for many years in Richmond supporting hospitals and banks and also worked at Grace House. Sheila was a shining light in the lives of her family and friends. Her vibrant personality and zest for life were matched by her warm, embracing heart. She enjoyed socializing with friends and martini’s dry and shaken and mostly, the time spent and daily/weekly calls with her children and grandchildren. Donations can be made in Sheila’s memory to Beth Sholom Home of Eastern VA, 6401 Auburn Va Beach 23464 or JFS 5000 Corporate Woods Dr #400, Va Beach, VA 23462

CYNTHIA MAE STROM VIRGINIA BEACH—Cynthia Mae Strom passed away on November 23, 2020 after testing positive for COVID-19 on November 14, 2020. She was rushed to Virginia Beach General ER on Friday, November 20 and battled throughout the weekend. Cindy loved her family, she loved taking care of and decorating her beautiful home. If she could, she would’ve spent every day at the beach in the sun. She loved to bike but became obsessed with yoga and meditation as she and her loving husband Louis Strom lived in Nicaragua soon after he retired. Her life revolved around her family. She is survived by her loving husband of 40 years, Louis Strom. Her children, Joy Thompson, Samantha Strom, Denielle

Batts, and Louie Strom, Jr. She had seven grandsons, Cody, Gunner, Nash, Grayson, Weston, Jordan, Wyatt, and one Granddaughter, Kennedy. A memorial service was conducted at H. D. Oliver Funeral Apts. Laskin Road Chapel by Rabbi Israel Zoberman. Online condolence may be made to


( JTA)—Prince Charles of the United Kingdom called former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks a “light unto this nation” at a tribute marking the end of Judaism’s 30 days of mourning since Sacks’ death. Prince Charles, whose title is the Prince of Wales, eulogized Sacks, who died at 72 on Nov. 7, on a prerecorded video broadcast Sunday, Dec. 6 that was viewed by thousands of spectators from around the world. The ceremony also featured speeches by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Lord Jacob Rothschild. “Through his writings, sermons and broadcasts, Rabbi Sacks touched the lives of countless people with his unfailing wisdom, with his profound sanity and with a moral conviction which, in a confused and confusing world, was all too rare,” Prince Charles said. Rivlin noted Sacks’ advocacy for liberal democracy as the “best way of keeping the values of monotheism” because “liberal democracy makes space for differences.” Sacks was a frequent contributor to British media and highly regarded across the English-speaking world and beyond. In the Jewish world, he was celebrated both for his rabbinical writings and interpretations and for his ability to teach non-Jewish audiences both the past and present of Judaism and Israel in relatable terms. Sacks’ widow, Elaine, said that over the past 30 days—a mourning period known as sheloshim—she had found herself wanting to share the outpouring of

OBITUARIES love and sorrow that she has received with her husband. “I want to walk up the stairs to his study and see him sitting there writing away,” she said. “‘Listen,’ I will say. ‘Look what is happening. Look how many people have learned from you, revere you, love you. They are writing such moving things about you. Look what you have achieved.’ He will look up at me deeply and nod and say, ‘There is still so much to do, and he will get straight back to work.’”

JAMES WOLFENSOHN, FORMER WORLD BANK PRESIDENT AND JEWISH PHILANTHROPIST James Wolfensohn, the World Bank president and philanthropist who helped shepherd Israel’s exit from the Gaza Strip, has died at 86. Wolfensohn died last month at his Manhattan home of pneumonia. His wife of 59 years, Elaine, died in August. Wolfensohn, who was born and raised in Australia, was an investment banker whose philanthropic endeavors had included turning around the fortunes of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center when in the 1990s he began lobbying to be president of the World Bank. President Bill Clinton named him to the post in 1995—the U.S. president has naming prerogatives—and his 10-year term was marked by his focus on partnership, rather than patronage, with the developing world. Instead of a disciplinarian, he made the institution a counselor and aide to developing economies. He ended the bank’s practice of tolerating corruption. Always on the lookout to do good, his next venture was not as successful. President George W. Bush named Wolfensohn as the envoy to the Gaza Strip of the Quartet, the grouping of the United States, Russia, the United Nations, and the European Union guiding the Middle East peace process. Wolfensohn shepherded Israel’s exit from Gaza in 2005, a process rife with miscalculations that led to the victory of Hamas in 2007 elections and permanent tensions on the border. Symbolic of the enterprise’s failure was the fate of greenhouses tended by Israeli

settlers. When Wolfensohn learned the settlers planned to smash the greenhouses on their way out, he raised $14 million, including $500,000 of his own money, to salvage them for use by Palestinians. Much to the consternation of Palestinian leaders, whose police were understaffed, underpaid and underequipped, local Palestinians looted the greenhouses. What truly doomed the enterprise, however, according to Wolfensohn, were Israeli restrictions on the export of produce from Gaza. Wolfensohn was his entire life also devoted to Jewish giving. The family foundation he set up, administered by his children, gave to a broad array of Jewish causes across denominations. His activism stemmed from his youth; his parents helped bring to Australia Jewish refugees from Europe. He was radicalized, he said, by the poverty he encountered in Africa and Asia as an air conditioning salesman. He eventually joined investment

banks in London and then in New York. “The inequity was so striking that I could hardly absorb what was in front of me,” The Washington Post quoted him as saying in his 2010 autobiography, A Global Life. Wolfensohn, notably self-deprecating, described himself as driven more than naturally intelligent. He said he learned from his mistakes. He made the Australian Olympics fencing team in time

for the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne. He had won two matches and was on his way to winning a third, when his opponent, during a break, distracted him with an offer: He would set up Wolfensohn with an Israeli swimmer. “Fencing is a little like chess,” Wolfensohn wrote in his autobiography. “You must project a few moves ahead and out think your opponent.” (JTA)

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Reflections on a sojourn in Bulgaria Prue Salasky


s the bus barreled across the Thracian plain towards Sofia, capital of Bulgaria, it followed a five-hour straight course west from my temporary home of Burgas, an ancient port on the shores of the Black Sea. Along this route, 9,000 years of civilization have etched their narratives. The armies of Alexander the Great (and his father, Philip, before him) marched this way, as did occupying Slavs and Turks, Germans and Russians, all passing the same Neolithic mounds and once treasure-filled Thracian tombs as the modern traveler. The plain and its richly layered history never failed to spark my imaginings. That day, I was further entranced by my first glimpse of storks, their spectral white figures harbingers of new life since ancient times. I had no inkling that this would likely be my last time traversing the distinctive landscape, its spring-touched fertile land rimmed by the Balkan Mountains on the horizon. After six months of a 10-month teaching assignment through the U.S. Fulbright program, I was taking a week’s personal leave, flying from Sofia to attend my daughter’s wedding in Baltimore. I was filled with anticipation at reuniting with my family to celebrate such an auspicious occasion, but also excited to continue my Balkan adventure. I had plans to visit Istanbul, Kiev, Odessa, and Israel, and every weekend promised visits from family and friends. Then, fate intervened: After my arrival in Baltimore and just one day before the March 14 wedding, Fulbright cancelled all its programs worldwide due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and sent everyone home—effective immediately. My foray into Eastern Europe was abruptly over, with no time to return for goodbyes or even to collect my belongings. Two days later, I returned home to Norfolk and started the readjustment to U.S. life in the COVID-19 era. Meanwhile, I mourned the loss of an additional four months to dig into the fascinating culture, language, and history of Bulgaria.

History and geography As a nation, Bulgaria dates to 681 CE, making it the oldest continuous civilization in Europe, but its land was inhabited centuries earlier by groups from the pre-literate, metalworking Thracians to Romans, Greeks, and Romaniote Jewish communities. There is layer upon layer of history to uncover in this intriguing and beautiful land, which also has the greatest biodiversity in Europe thanks to its location regarding glacial retreat. Imagine a place the size of Virginia bounded by half a dozen neighbors, but instead of Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina, the shared borders include shifting lines with Greece, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey. In its most recent glory days, starting in 1878 when with Russian help it reclaimed independence after 500 years of Ottoman rule (aka “the Turkish yoke”) and ending with World War I, Bulgaria stretched almost the width of the Balkan peninsula, touching the Aegean Sea in the south and the Black Sea to the east. In its heyday in the 10th century, it stretched still farther to the Ionian Sea. Today, the Balkan nation remains sandwiched between larger powers, bounded by the River Danube to the north with the Black Sea its only remaining coastline. It has a still-declining population of 7 million, almost a third of whom live in and around Sofia, down from a peak of 9 million under the Soviets in the 1980s. Initially neutral, then allied with Germany in WWII, Bulgaria and neighboring Romania changed sides in the waning years of the war, and both fell into the Soviet sphere between 1945 and 1989. Now a member of both NATO and the EU, Bulgaria is on course to adopt the Euro in 2023. Purportedly, as many as two million young Bulgarians currently live and work overseas in search of economic opportunity. Buffeted by so many influences, Bulgaria has a proud, but understated culture, one in which people reveal themselves and their connections slowly. For me, the country had multiple lures: It offered an intriguing location,

30 | JEWISH NEWS | December 14, 2020 |

poised at the juncture of Europe and Asia; from high school Russian studies I was familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet, in actuality invented by Bulgarian clerics, which I naively thought would make language acquisition a breeze; as a student of history it offered an unparalleled opportunity to see up-close a post-Soviet society struggling to establish and maintain the institutions and mindset necessary to democracy; and professionally I had the chance to practice my language-teaching skills gained through a recent Master’s degree in Applied Linguistics. And, not least, it halved the distance between me and my family in London. It didn’t disappoint on any of those counts, but it also had an unanticipated impact: for the first time I didn’t just know about the complete and utter devastation wrought by the Holocaust across Europe, but I felt it in lives and communities lost. The ghosts were everywhere visible.

Massive brass chandelier in synagogue in Sofia

would likely have swastikas carved into them. All true, and hard to reconcile with the strikingly gentle, modest, inclusive, and caring people I met. At a U.S. Embassy presentation, I sought out the resident physician, a New Yorker married to a secular Israeli, and queried him about Jewish life in the community. He said he attended holiday services solo at Sofia’s magnificently restored 1909 synagogue, the largest in the Balkans and third largest in Europe, and that he and his wife kept a kosher home. When pressed about anti-Semitism, he also mentioned, but dismissed the Lukov March held in Sofia each February. Though no longer sanctioned by the government, the march continues to attract thousands of neo-Nazis to honor the memory of the Nazi-sympathizing Bulgarian general. “You will find that Bulgarians take

Learning the basics Our program started with a 10-day dawnto-dusk orientation in Sofia on everything from teaching and language to customs, food, and holidays. During this, I and my 30 U.S. colleagues (average age 22.5 years) learned that 85 percent of the population identify as Orthodox Christian, 10 percent as Muslim, and 5 percent as “other.” The country’s estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Jews (most sources cite the lower figure) don’t number sufficiently to even rate a mention. For me, in all our tours, talks, and outings, the very absence of any mention was striking. By contrast, there were frequent references to the Roma, a vilified and growing minority often referred to as “gypsies,” possibly 10 percent or more of the population, who were also subjected to Nazi atrocities. We were constantly warned about a lack of tolerance for diversity, to expect racism and the free use of the ‘n’ word, and that many school desks Square of Tolerance.

TRAVEL their religion lightly,” the doctor said in explanation of this apparent conflict between tolerance and open prejudice. Over the ensuing months his words rang true. Certainly, Orthodox Christianity is culturally embedded: there are churches and monasteries galore, innumerable saints’ days offer reasons to celebrate, and age-old customs, such as the Nestinari icon-bearing firewalkers, continue. Despite a constitution that endorses separation of church and state, Orthodox priests often have a role in official state and city celebrations. However, church attendance hasn’t recovered from 45 years of communist rule and is largely confined to major holidays. Likewise, there’s no recognition of any day as a Sabbath, with school functions and training happening at all hours on weekends. As to the Muslim 10 percent, there are active mosques in only the major cities, and in six months I never observed anyone in traditional dress. The most passion I encountered on the subject of beliefs came from students expressing fiercely held atheistic views. It was in keeping then, on our finalday walking tour of Sofia, when the guide stopped in the Square of Tolerance, so called for the side-by-side Synagogue, Catholic, and Orthodox churches and Mosque (the only Mosque remaining from 400 extant under the Ottomans), and explained that the muezzin foregoes two of the five daily calls to worship in order to comply with the city’s noise ordinance. He then introduced the story of how Bulgaria saved its 50,000-strong Jewish population in World War II, including shout-outs to the then-head of the Orthodox Church for being prepared to give up his own life; to ruler Tsar Boris III for his procrastination or intentional obstruction (no one’s sure which) to Nazi deportation demands; and to the people of Bulgaria for protecting their Jewish neighbors. Bulgarian Jews in WWII The history of the Jews in Bulgaria goes back 2,000 years to Romaniote groups, later followed by small Ashkenazi settlements in cities along its northern border. By WW II, however, the vast majority

of the 50,000 Jewish citizens were Sephardic with roots in the 1492 expulsion from Spain, L a d i n o speakers who uniquely wrote the language in Bulgarian Cyrillic script. Bulgaria carries the distinction of being one of only two Eastern European countries during World War II to protect their Jewish populations, the other being Muslim-majority Albania, which took in and sheltered Jewish refugees. In recent years, Jewish organizations have donated prominent “thank you” sculptures to several towns to honor the Bulgarian people for their protection, the message mixing gratitude with a caution against a repeat of the horrors of the Holocaust. The plaques stand in stark contrast to both the somber, heart-wrenching Holocaust Memorial built in Bucharest in 2009 to commemorate the deaths of 280,000 Romanian Jews (and thousands of Roma) in which the blame is laid squarely with the Romanians themselves, and the “Red Cross” Concentration Camp Museum in Nis, Serbia, so close to the city center as to make it crystal clear that residents must have been aware of the atrocities perpetrated there. However, Bulgaria’s story is not straightforward. In 1940, before any formal alliance with Germany, Bulgaria enacted discriminatory laws regarding Jewish identification, along with housing restrictions and curfews, and in March 1943 it allowed the deportation to Nazi camps of more than 11,300 Jews from territories it controlled outside its borders. Sofia resident Leah Davcheva (mother of a friend of one of my daughters) recalled how her father was in a forced labor camp in the southwest part of the country at that time. From there, he witnessed trains carrying Jews from Greece and northern Macedonia to Treblinka and he warned Leah to never forget that

they were Bulgarian trains protected by Bulgarian soldiers. Nearly all those transported died in the camps, a sobering contrast to the last-minute rescue of Jews within Bulgaria’s own borders. I asked Sofia native, Prof. Joseph Benatov, director of Modern Hebrew Studies at U of P, about this discrepancy in treatment. He explained that in March 1943 the Bulgarian administration had secretly agreed to German demands for the deportation of 20,000 Jews, to include those within Bulgaria as well as the 11,000-plus beyond its borders as a quid pro quo for Bulgaria’s desired territorial expansion. However, when the extra-territorial deportations in Greece and Macedonia began, the information leaked, and Dimitar Peshev, an influential politician from Kyustendil, set the internal rescue in Bulgaria in motion. Peshev, who was deputy speaker of the Bulgarian parliament and a member of the majority ruling party, was looking after his constituents, his friends and neighbors. With support from Orthodox Church leaders and multiple others who had already publicly opposed the discriminatory 1940 laws, Peshev won a last-minute reprieve and a delay. Two months later, in May 1943, presented with two courses of action, Tsar Boris III chose the life-saving option of dispersal rather than deportation. Still, after the war, when the Sovietbacked communist regime took over, 48,000 Jews left Bulgaria voluntarily

Holocaust Memorial in Bucharest.

for the new state of Israel, more than three-quarters between October 1948 and the following May, according to To read more about Jewish life in Sofia and beyond in Bulgaria, go to or read it in the next issue of Jewish News. | December 14, 2020 | JEWISH NEWS | 31


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Mankiewicz The real story behind Mank, the new movie about the Jewish screenwriter who brought us Citizen Kane Gabe Friedman

( JTA)—Acclaimed director David Fincher’s highly anticipated film Mank, on the Jewish screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz and the story behind his writing of the classic film Citizen Kane, is now on Netflix following a short theater-only run. It’s already being considered a front-runner for several Oscar nominations. Beyond Citizen Kane, Mankiewicz worked behind the scenes on dozens of famous films from the silent era into the 1950s—among them The Wizard of Oz and the comedy Dinner at Eight—without often receiving credits. He was known in Hollywood’s inner circles for his sharp wit, as well as his alcoholism, and numerous critics have described Mankiewicz as one of the most influential screenwriters of all time. But Mankiewicz has never gained the fame of Citizen Kane, nor its director and star, Orson Welles. And it’s likely that only the most zealous of film buffs are aware of the Jewish sides to Mankiewicz’s story. Here’s some of that history. Meet the Mankiewiczes Mankiewicz was the son of GermanJewish parents who immigrated to the United States in the late 19th century and spent most of his early years in New York City. He has been far from the only noted member of his Jewish family. His prominent relatives include: His late brother, Joseph, won multiple Oscars as a director, screenwriter and producer. His son Frank was a political aide to Sen. Robert Kennedy and eventually a president of NPR. His late son Don was an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and author. His late nephew Tom was a screenwriter and director who worked on multiple James Bond films and other blockbusters. His grandson Ben is a host on the

Turner Classic Movies channel and a co-founder of The Young Turks, a popular progressive online politics show. A fledgling Jewish journalist Before becoming a screenwriter, Mankiewicz served in the Army and Marines, then worked as a journalist, first as a reporter in Berlin for American newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune, and then as a theater and book critic for The New York Times and The New Yorker. But before all of that, he first worked after college as an editor for the American Jewish Chronicle, one of the earliest English-language Jewish publications, then distributed nationally once a week. Not big with the Nazis In 1935, the man nicknamed “Mank” was writing for MGM when Nazi propaganda mastermind Joseph Goebbels sent the studio a letter saying that none of the films Mankiewicz was involved in would be shown in Germany—unless his name was removed from the credits. According to a New York Times obituary, Mankiewicz didn’t do his status in Nazi Germany any favors by working on a project called The Mad Dog of Europe, which satirized Hitler but in the end was abandoned “on advice of influential American Jews, who feared it might militate against their co-religionists in Germany.” The Anti-Defamation League also “feared it would provoke accusations of Jewish warmongering, and they worried that if it failed commercially, it would demonstrate American apathy to Hitler or even pave the way for pro-Nazi films,” explains an article in Commentary on the film that was never made. An unadvertised identity Mankiewicz was just one of the many influential Jews in the early days of Hollywood working in all facets of the industry. But even as the Nazis were aware of them, most did not telegraph their Jewish identities, especially as the Hollywood blacklist—spurred on by the

anti-communist sentiment of people like Sen. Joe McCarthy and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover—grew in influence in the 1940s and ’50s. As his grandson Ben told the Forward in May, “Most of them had to, if not hide it, hide that it mattered, that part of their identity. They felt very strongly, ‘we can’t let our Judaism influence the tone and texture of the art, of the films,’ because they knew they were succeeding in a world rich with anti-Semitism.” (Ben also said in the interview that his father, Frank, Herman’s son, grew up in an “observant Jewish household.” So, Herman clearly passed on some religiosity.) The important Jewish character in “Citizen Kane” Mankiewicz and Welles had a famously contentious relationship that boiled over during and after the making of Citizen Kane, as they publicly tussled over who deserved the limelight in the wake of the film’s success. Welles is often seen as the only star of the project, which he was onscreen as the lead actor—but a 1971 New Yorker article by the renowned (and Jewish) film critic Pauline Kael muddied that narrative and gave Mankiewicz not only joint but sole credit for the movie’s lauded script. Regardless, Welles was interestingly “very fascinated and crazy about all things Jewish,” the director Peter Bogdanovich told Tablet in 2011, and “a big fan of the Yiddish art theater.” That sentiment likely formed out of Welles’ friendly relationship with a doctor named Maurice Bernstein who was close with his family, Bogdanovich theorized. In Citizen Kane, which is roughly based on the rise of the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, there is a character named Bernstein who sticks by the protagonist Charles Foster Kane’s side through thick and thin, and is usually referred to as the film’s most sympathetic persona. “[Dr.] Bernstein, who was [Orson’s] legal guardian after his father died, was a

very, very important figure in his life. He named Bernstein in the movie as a gesture toward his guardian,” Bogdanovich said in the Tablet interview. In a twist, Mankiewicz was the one wary of including the clearly Jewish character, especially after the actor Everett Sloane was cast to play the role. Everett Sloane is an unsympathetic looking man, and anyways you shouldn’t have two Jews in one scene,” Mankiewicz said about one moment in the film, according to a memo unearthed by Bogdanovich. Sloane, who was Jewish, had a nose that he thought was too large and despaired over it in striving to become a leading man. Welles would later say that Sloane “must have had 20 operations” on his nose before taking his own life at age 55. One of the film’s many innovative montages includes one of the earliest examples of a character standing up against anti-Semitism onscreen, as Kane rebukes his first wife Emily’s repulsion to Bernstein during a series of breakfast scenes. While Mankiewicz and Welles collaborated on much of the script, Tablet’s Harold Heft wrote that Welles penned the breakfast montage on his own. “The anti-Semitism that existed then was largely from the Jews themselves,” Bogdanovich said. | December 14, 2020 | JEWISH NEWS | 33

Bulgaria Jewish life In Sofia Seventy years later, the remnants of Bulgarian Jewish life are largely confined to Sofia, where there’s a community center helped by American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee funds and the Ronald S. Lauder Jewish School, which opened in 2019. Together, they complement the Sofia Central Synagogue, a glorious Moorish Revival style building designed by Austrian Friedrich Grunanger to accommodate 1,300 worshipers, and whose 1909 dedication was attended by Tsar Ferdinand 1 and his wife. However, despite the community’s post-Soviet revival—at its rededication in 1996, the mayor of Sofia and other dignitaries attended—and the attendance of hundreds for Hanukkah celebrations, according to volunteer guide Leon Benatov (Joseph’s father), the Orthodox shul cannot always raise a minyan for Friday night services. When cousins Marilyn and Ken Siegel from Virginia Beach met me in Sofia in mid-February, we called the synagogue in advance to identify ourselves. On arrival, we were admitted and entered a small side chapel; there, Marilyn and I were ushered to the back to follow the Kabbalat Shabbat service from behind view-blocking lace curtains. Meanwhile, Ken sat with a handful of men of varying ages as we all listened anxiously for the arrival of enough men to form a minyan; it was close to 30 minutes after the designated time for services until a sufficient number of men had gathered. The Israeli rabbi, on staff since 2016, proceeded to race through the prayers at breakneck speed using a siddur with Hebrew on one side of the page with Bulgarian facing. We returned on Sunday morning for a tour of the main sanctuary, a truly spectacular and elaborate interior from the turn of the 20th century when many of the extant synagogues in the Balkans were built, a testament to the general prosperity of Bulgaria’s most recent ‘golden age’ and the comfortable place held by Jews in that society. The guide, Leon Benatov, pointed out a corner of the sanctuary’s floor damaged by an aerial Allied bomb. He was one of those saved during WW II, when in June 1943 his family, like all

25,000 Jewish residents of Sofia, were dispersed to 20 towns in the countryside for their protection. His family stayed in one room in another Jewish family’s home in Provadia, a small town near Varna, the country’s largest port on the Black Sea. Then five years old, Leon recalled the hunger and difficulties of the family’s 15-month exile, but also noted that he, his parents and sister stayed together (his father being over 45 was exempt from the labor camps), and it providentially saved them from the Allied bombing of Sofia. They were also fortunate to return to their home—and eventually were even able to reclaim most of their belongings. After the war, he remembers receiving packages of clothes and food from the JDC. Now 82, Leon, many of whose family were among those making Aliyah after the war, is working to preserve the history and legacy of Jews in Bulgaria. He recently translated a history by Avram Takhzher from Ladino to Bulgarian, a book I purchased (at some expense!), but which was a casualty of my unexpected departure from the country. He has almost completed a book of 3,200 Jewish proverbs in Ladino with a Bulgarian translation; and he’s preparing a reprint of a four-volume Israeli series featuring the biographies of 137 prominent Jews in Bulgaria. Leah Davcheva, in her mid-60s, is also involved in preserving the heritage of the country’s Ladino speakers. She has interviewed more than a dozen in Sofia (some of whom have passed since she began the project) in Bulgarian for an ethnographic study slated for publication in December 2020. She grew up nonobservant in a Jewish community of about 200 in Ruse (Roo-say) on the Danube with parents who were both Communist Party members. They were Ladino speakers, but Leah never learned the language. She and her husband settled in Sofia in the ‘70s, but she still considers herself an outsider in its religious community. Synagogues but no services Beyond Sofia, there’s a telling absence of active synagogues or any semblance of Jewish life in communities that once hummed with activity. Yet, emblematic of the lack of violence accompanying their

34 | JEWISH NEWS | December 14, 2020 |

abandonment, many of the buildings are well preserved. Before school started, I had a few unencumbered days to explore Burgas, the Black Sea resort city of my teaching assignment and the country’s fourth largest behind Sofia, Plovdiv and Varna. With 2-hour direct flights to Tel Aviv, its beaches and casinos make it a popular summer tourist destination for Israelis even after a 2012 terrorist bus bombing that killed six. I quickly found a former synagogue, the same early 20th century vintage as Sofia’s, but designed by Toscani, an Italian architect; in the heart of downtown, the city has repurposed it as an art gallery like those in nearby Yambol and Haskovo. On its second story, stars of David are just visible on the painted arches forming an unlikely juxtaposition with the exhibition of Christian iconography. Its courtyard has the obligatory thank-you to the people of the town, a freedom statue, and an adjacent building that’s a community center—though seemingly closed—for the “approximately 100” Jewish residents of the city. A couple of weeks later, I planned to attend High Holiday services in the larger, more prosperous resort/port city of Varna, 2 1/2 hours north by bus. However, the renovated synagogue in a residential neighborhood, home to Chabad since 2010, was deserted on Friday evening. With only a 30-minute break from mandatory training on Saturday morning, I took myself instead to the Archeological Museum, past the prominently situated shofar statue of gratitude to the Bulgarian people, and whisked around a gallery that has the oldest known gold jewelry in the world—crafted by Thracians in 4,600 B.C.E. and discovered this century in a local burial site. Spectacular! The next day, not far from some Roman ruins, I stumbled across the Naval Museum, where I learned that as early as 1934 Bulgaria became a transit point for Jews fleeing persecution in Europe. They made for the Black Sea coast via the River Danube or by train via Ruse, and thousands boarded retrofitted ships in Varna. The displays record the dangers that faced the refugees in their sea passage to Palestine, including the sinkings of

the Salvador, in a storm in 1940, and the Struma, which departed Romania with a Bulgarian crew in Feb. 1942, victim of a Soviet torpedo. Together, the two ships accounted for the loss of more than 1,000 lives. Many more, however, were saved with one steamship alone carrying 1,500 safely to shore in four voyages. In October, when my husband, Mike, made the 5,100 mile trek from Norfolk, we opted to explore Plovdiv, arguably Europe’s oldest continuously occupied city, the 2019 European Capital of Culture; once Philip 11 of Macedon’s capital city, Philippopolis; home to a wonderful hillside Roman amphitheater, an ancient synagogue ruin and, we were told, the country’s second active synagogue. The latter was under renovation and not available to tour so we took photos of its weed-strewn exterior, found a nearby apartment block with a Star of David design in its metal grille, the de rigeur gratitude statue—and what appeared to be an anti-Semitic football sticker pasted on the street sign. There was no question about the intent of the sticker at the bus stop which depicted a cartoon-style Nazi soldier cutting a Jew’s beard, or the half page of anti-Semitic jokes beneath a caricature of a Jew in the Standart, a weekly newspaper (the following week the jokes were at the expense of “artists”). With national mayoral elections pending, the ugly side of the political scene emerged with some political parties—there are a multitude—openly avowing hate speech against different groups, including the Roma and the LGBTQ community. A young Jewish Fulbright colleague, a Georgetown grad, conducted a mock election in his class and had one ‘candidate’ run on a platform of killing Jews and Roma, which received resounding support from his classmates. These jarring incidents also coincided with the racist chants and Nazi salutes of Bulgarian soccer fans at a Euro-qualifying game against England that led to a fine for the Bulgarian team and a game played in an empty stadium -- a great punishment pre-Covid! Among my fellow educators, there was a “collective shrug” in response, a general acceptance of prejudice as part of life,

not to mention that many openly shared anti-Roma sentiments. I still struggle to reconcile the political hate speech and targeting of groups with the truly remarkable kindness, notable gentleness and individual caring that I observed all around me. The Bulgarians are a patient people. “Five hundred years,” they’ll say, referencing Ottoman rule. “We can wait.” Meanwhile the building continues to deteriorate and it doesn’t seem that there’s sufficient will or population to prop up any Jewish community beyond Sofia. In the capital, there’s a spark for the future with its new Jewish school established in 2019, a glimmer of renewal, even as the old guard vanishes and takes the Cyrillicwritten Ladino language with it. Though 50,000 Bulgarian Jews survived WWII relatively unscathed, their “voluntary” departure, and with it the near-obliteration of centuries of Jewish life in Bulgaria, is yet another inescapable tragedy of the Holocaust. Their lives echo in the silence. Prue Salasky was a 2019/2020 Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Burgas, Bulgaria. She and her husband, Michael, live in Norfolk, Va., and are longtime members of Ohef Sholom Temple. Read her blog at www. | December 14, 2020 | JEWISH NEWS | 35

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