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500 rabbis and Jewish leaders call for action against climate change

Wed, 2020-01-15 20:58

(JTA) — Five hundred rabbis and other Jewish leaders from around the world are calling for climate change action.

The letter released earlier this month was signed by rabbis and leaders spanning the denominational spectrum — from Orthodox to Reform and secular — and from countries including the United States, Canada, England, Israel and Brazil, according to a statement.

It was organized by activist and Jewish Renewal leader Rabbi Arthur Waskow. He is the founder and director of The Shalom Center, a Jewish group that seeks to “create a world of peace, justice, healing for the earth, and respect for the interconnectedness of all life.”

The letter calls for a number of actions, including participating in various efforts to help the environment and affect political change, as well as welcoming refugees affected by natural disasters.

“For the first time in the history of Humanity, we are actually moving toward the burning and devastation of the web of life on Earth by human action — the unremitting use of fossil fuels,” it reads. “Our children and grandchildren face deep misery and death unless we act.”

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Republican Party leader in Delaware ousted after blaming Jews for impeachment hearings

Wed, 2020-01-15 20:53

(JTA) — A Republican Party leader in Delaware was fired after Facebook posts that were criticized as anti-Semitic.

The Sussex County Republican Party voted on Monday to oust its vice chair, Nelly Jordan, the Dover Post reported. Her Facebook comments singling out Jews as responsible for the impeachment of President Donald Trump came to light on Dec. 31, according to Delaware State News.

“These jews (sic) have been enrolled to come and testify, to come and interrogate and to be involved in anything that the Democrats enlist them to do to try to look credible to the people of this country,” her post said, according to Delaware State News.

Jordan also wrote that Jews were going against the Lord’s will “as it was in the times of the Old Testament.”

Her comments drew criticism from party leaders. Though Jordan apologized for the comments earlier this month, on Monday she said she was “not anti-Semitic” and that her words had been “changed.”

Jordan was ousted by two votes and dozens of party members showed up at the Monday event to support her.

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Rockets fired at Israel from Gaza and Israel retaliates

Wed, 2020-01-15 20:50

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s military carried out airstrikes on terror group installations in Gaza on Wednesday after terrorists launched rocket attacks on southern Israel.

Four rockets launched in the afternoon sent Israelis in Gaza border communities running to bomb shelters. Two of the rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system, the Israel Defense Forces said.

No group has claimed responsibility for the rocket attack.

Also Wednesday, officials in Sderot said a bunch of balloons with a suspicious device believed to be a homemade bomb attached to it was discovered on one of the southern city’s streets. Police sappers were called to the scene, Ynet reported.

The last rocket fired from Gaza on Israel came last month, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had to be rushed off the stage at a campaign event in Ashkelon as Iron Dome intercepted the rocket nearby.

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This Jewish astronomer is the first woman to have an observatory named after her

Wed, 2020-01-15 20:44

This story originally appeared on Kveller.

When astronomer Vera Rubin first visited Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, a telescope facility, there was no restroom for her to use. See, in the mid-1960s, women weren’t even allowed inside the observatory, and thus the need for another bathroom was obsolete — that was, until the Jewish scientist became the first woman to observe at the facility. 

Rubin fashioned a skirt out of paper and stuck it on the door to the men’s bathroom.

“There you go, now you have a ladies’ room,” the mother of four said. 

Best known for discovering evidence of dark matter, this pioneering scientist died in 2016 at age 88. Yet she’s still breaking barriers, posthumously: The National Science Foundation announced this week that the first American national observatory to be named after a woman will honor the Jewish scientist.  

Beginning in 2022, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, formerly known as the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, will focus its efforts on studying the solar system, the Milky Way and Rubin’s legacy, dark matter. The facility is located in Chile.

Rubin was a trailblazer for female scientists, and her legacy continues to close the gender gap in the field of astronomy. At the current rate, it would take 131 years to close the gap, according to a 2018 study. Hopefully Rubin’s observatory paves the way for women to enter the field and continue in her footsteps.  

Mazel tov, Vera!

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Don’t wait until we’re married to involve us in Jewish life

Wed, 2020-01-15 20:34

This story originally appeared on Alma.

It’s Shabbat morning. I wake up, wash up, get dressed and rush off to synagogue. During services I mentally brace myself for the inevitable schmoozing during kiddush. It’s the same conversation most Saturday mornings at my synagogue: the weather, “how is that wonderful Jewish boyfriend,” when are you two going to get married, oh yes how are you, but really when are you two getting married? I try to derail the conversation by bringing up that lovely Shabbat dinner I hosted the evening before, or something about what Jewish Family Services, of which I am a board member, is doing. This often results in a blank stare until I awkwardly dodge off to get another slice of challah.

My name is Beth, I’m 25 years old and I’m in no particular hurry to get under the chuppah. I’m also not alone. I could — but don’t tell the bubbes at my synagogue I spent two years in graduate school researching trends in American Jewish communities and that I have sufficient external data to label myself as “perfectly average.”

According to the 2013 Pew Research Centers Portrait of Jewish Americans — the largest survey of American Jewry conducted yet — American Jews are a fairly well educated community with an average of 58 percent reporting at least a bachelor’s degree. When lined up to the 2012 Knot Yet Study showing the demographic trends of marriage based on education, the numbers are clear. The average American, Jewish, university-educated 20-something is as likely as their non-Jewish peers to postpone marriage until at least their late 20s.

A friend once told me “you’re never really part of the community until you’re married.” As someone who often operates in more observant settings, I resonate with that feeling. Even when I’m in more “liberal” Jewish spaces, I so often find myself having to validate my own narrative as an unmarried active community member. The problem of feeling rushed to the chuppah may start with the community, but it can also be resolved by the community.

It’s time we start validating the unmarried demographic as serious, “full fledged” members of our communities and treating us as such. But that doesn’t just mean convincing the older members of our community to change their thinking. We also need to encourage young adults to host Shabbat meals, get involved on nonprofit boards, volunteer at Hebrew schools and partake in other roles that have historically been viewed as “things that married folks do.”

Instead of events for 20- and 30-somethings that have obvious objectives of arranging marriages, why don’t we start validating community engagement as valuable actions that singles can take? I’m talking hiking trips, cooking classes, Shabbat dinners and other cultural programs, none of which you have to be married to enjoy.

I volunteered to be on the board of directors for my local Jewish Family Services because a friend reached out and invited me. Within that space I feel fully integrated and embraced by the community. As an unmarried 20-something I feel seen as a helper, a supporter and a community member who is just as integrated as any other board member.

Hosting and attending Shabbat dinners has also become a core part of my Jewish cultural identity, especially as I’ve transitioned from being a student to being a young professional. As someone living very far away from home, Shabbat dinners make me feel grounded with a strong sense of extended family. The days of preparation before the dinner makes my quiet single bedroom apartment feel like a bustling family home.

When I invite my friends to Shabbat dinners at my house, we are able to hold a sacred space that is uniquely Jewish without the external pressures of cultural expectations demanding we meet certain milestones on a short timeline. It’s around the Shabbat dinner table that we are more than our jobs, our marital status, our income or our family background; it’s where we are able to just be ourselves.

Jewish life need not end at the last undergraduate Shabbat dinner and then restart when the happy couple asks a rabbi to officiate their wedding. As more American Jews choose to marry later and later, communities need to open their doors and say “come as you are” and not “come as you are so you get married and raise babies at this synagogue.” By inviting us into authentic, meaningful community — regardless of plans for marriage or lack thereof — we are creating stronger, more inclusive Jewish spaces.

On Saturday night, I come home from synagogue to a cozy apartment. The plates are piled high from last night’s dinner and the crockpot is still hot. I go onto Pinterest and look at my “I’ll get to it eventually” crafting boards. I don’t have a board pinned with “fantasy wedding” or “someday.” I’m 25, freely embracing Jewish life and in no hurry to get to the chuppah.

The post Don’t wait until we’re married to involve us in Jewish life appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

We should all be eating more blintzes this year

Wed, 2020-01-15 20:24

This recipe originally appeared on The Nosher.

My not-so-healthy Jewish food resolution for 2020 sounds simple: Eat more blintzes. But as with the best blintzes, it’s a little more complex than this simple statement. 

My grandmother, Mama Pearl, was 99 when she passed away in February. She was my baking buddy and Crisco guru. She taught me to make apple pie when I still had to stand on a stool to reach the counter, and I’m now the keeper of her index box full of sweet recipes for everything from Passover apple fritters to pecan chocolate pie. 

One thing I never learned to make, though: her blueberry blintzes. 

No restaurant, diner, Jewish food emporium or synagogue has ever served me a blintz that looked like Mama Pearl’s. The dough was so thin it was nearly transparent, and the whole blueberries in the filling — never jam — pushed up almost to the point of breaking through. Forget any tightly folded blankets of barely filled dough, these looked more like children’s sharp elbows poking up under the sheets.

How do I remember what they look like so clearly? I’ve got the last one in my freezer. She made it as part of a batch in the summer of 2018, and I held on to it thinking I’d wait until she made more. Now I’m too emotionally attached to either eat it or throw it away. The only thing I can think to do is to master her recipe and create more to keep the “one” company, so I don’t have to continuously check to make sure no one has eaten it or defrosted my freezer in the night.

But how to go about making a blintz that’s mostly a memory?

To the recipe box I go. Only there’s no recipe here, and I’m not really surprised. A blintz is the kind of instinctual comfort food women of her generation made simply by the memories in their hands.

So to the internet I head, but as with my restaurant quest, I can only find “fresh blueberries” that have been cooked down into jam. 

Then my mom saves the day with a recipe she wrote down by watching over my grandmother’s shoulder, and it’s exactly how I remember it.

I head back to my own kitchen and pull out my frozen keepsake, which I’ve been too emotional to do before now. The blueberries have shriveled from being in the deep freeze for two years, and there’s a layer of frost on one side that nearly brings me to tears. 

In fact, everything about my New Year’s blintz project makes me verklempt. I don’t want to be the only holder of the last blintz, what I truly desire is impossible: for my grandmother to make me a cup of coffee from her 50-year-old percolator and ask me to take out the garden furniture while she fries up her sweet summer specialty.

But a funny thing happens as I pour and swirl the batter in the frying pan: My own hand memories start to kick in. I can picture mama in the kitchen, and I know I’m going too slowly. The only way to get a thin, lacy blini is to make the pan hotter, pull it away from the heat quicker and swirl it more deftly, like she did. 

In the end, my pancakes are a bit thick, but my blueberries are lemony and delicious, bursting with flavor and still whole.

The first batch was good, but there’s room for improvement. And that, I think, is the best part of having a New Year’s resolution to eat more blintzes: I still have the whole year to get it right. 

For the blintzes:
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1 cup all-purpose flour
unsalted butter, for frying
sour cream, for serving

For the blueberry filling:
2 pints blueberries
½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
1-2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons lemon zest
lemon juice (about 1 teaspoon)

1. Blitz all the blintz ingredients in a blender (consistency of the batter should be smooth with no lumps).

2. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat until hot and lightly grease with butter.

3. Pour about 1/8 cup (or 2 tablespoons) batter into the pan and tilt the pan in a circular motion until the batter coats the entire bottom of the pan in a large, thin circular shape.

4. Cook for 60-75 seconds until the edges of the blintz brown and the bottom is lightly golden. (You can tell it’s ready by touching the center of the pancake’s surface — it should be dry and slightly tacky to the touch.) Do not flip the blintz to cook the other side.

5. Place the blintz on a plate lined with parchment or wax paper. Repeat process until all batter is cooked — this should yield around 18 blintzes. (Keep the blintzes separated by pieces of parchment paper, wax paper or paper towel. This will help keep them from sticking together.)

6. Combine all ingredients for the blueberry filling.

7. To wrap blintzes, place 1 tablespoon blueberry filling just off center. Fold the top down and the sides up over the filling, then roll down to the bottom (because the blueberries are lumpy, go slow and try and to stretch the dough over them without tearing it).

8. You can either serve the blintzes at this point or freeze them for later use. When you’re ready to eat them, fry them on all sides in butter in a nonstick pan until golden. Serve with sour cream. Serves 8.

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Marc Maron hints at tragic Jewish family history in ‘Finding Your Roots’ preview clip

Wed, 2020-01-15 19:50

(JTA) — The next episode of the PBS show “Finding Your Roots” delves into the family histories of three prominent Jews: actor Jeff Goldblum, NPR host Terry Gross and comedian Marc Maron.

In this clip from the episode debuting on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Maron reacts to learning about the hardships that his Jewish ancestors faced before World War II.

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“The idea was, did anyone in our family die in the camps or did they have to flee, and the answer was always no. But they had to decades before,” Maron says, hinting at a tragic story to be revealed in the full episode.

“It expands your sense of yourself, but also it expands the weight of what I come from,” he adds.

Maron, 56, is a stand-up comedian who has appeared in shows such as Netflix’s “Glow.” He’s also known for his popular “WTF” podcast in which he interviews celebrities.

The full episode airs on PBS at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21.

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Maine posthumously pardons a Jewish attorney for Native Americans who was framed by state’s law enforcement

Wed, 2020-01-15 19:46

(JTA) — Maine’s governor posthumously pardoned Donald Gellers, an attorney whose legal victories exposed the state’s abuses of the Passamaquoddy tribe and who state authorities framed as part of a conspiracy.

“For his tireless efforts to help others the whole of his life — both for his eight years in Maine and the 35 years since his conviction — I pardon Mr. Gellers,” Gov. Janet Mills, a Democrat, said at an emotional ceremony Jan. 7 at the Maine statehouse in Augusta, where she was surrounded by members of the tribe. “While this pardon cannot undo the many adverse consequences that this conviction had upon Mr. Gellers’ life, it can bestow formal forgiveness for his violation of law and remove the stigma of that conviction.”

The Portland Press Herald in 2014 exposed the conspiracy that targeted Gellers, who was Jewish, just before he died of cancer. Gellers, from New York, had moved to Maine and became the Passamaquoddy’s lawyer, exposing police abuses and massive looting of an 18th-century trust fund for the tribe. His efforts eventually led to land claim settlements in 1980.

Those were spearheaded, however, by a former intern — Gellers had left the state in 1971 after three years of fighting a marijuana possession charge that state authorities had trumped up because of his advocacy for the Passamaquoddy. Gellers moved to Israel, where he changed his name to Tuvia Ben-Shmuel-Yosef and was wounded while fighting in the 1973 Yom Kippur war. He was admitted to the Israeli bar, which he was upfront with about his Maine conviction. The Israeli bar described the conviction against him as a “catalog of horrors.”

Gellers returned to New York in 1980 and became a rabbi. After his death, his surviving family fought for his pardon.

“Up until his death in 2014, Mr. Gellers used his faith to continue to help people: people without means, people without ready access to help, people seeking the solace of faith from the burdens of their lives,” Mills said.

In October, at a hearing, Madonna Soctomah, a former tribal representative to the state legislature, spoke on Gellers’ behalf at a pardon hearing.

“A non-native man had it in his heart to help Native Americans, my people … people nobody would help,” the Press Herald quoted her as saying then, alternating between English and Passamaquoddy. “If it wasn’t for Gellers and his tenacity and knowledge and his faith in us, the [1980 land claims] settlement probably wouldn’t have ever happened.”

A few months before his death, the Press Herald asked Gellers if he would want a pardon, although he had never pursued one.

“Well, yes,” he said. “Yes, that would be nice.”

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Trailblazing book by Jewish author Ezra Jack Keats is most checked-out book ever at New York Public Library

Wed, 2020-01-15 19:38

(JTA) — A trailblazing children’s book by a Jewish author is the most checked-out book of all time at the New York Public Library.

“The Snowy Day” by writer and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats has been checked out of the library 485,583 times, according to a list of the 10 most checked-out books released by the library on Monday in honor of its 125th anniversary.

Published in 1962, “The Snowy Day” tells the story of a young boy named Peter who experiences the magic of freshly fallen snow in the streets of his urban neighborhood. It was among the first mainstream illustrated children’s books to feature an African-American child and is credited with breaking the diversity barrier in children’s publishing.

The book won the 1963 Randolph Caldecott Medal, an annual prize recognizing the year’s best illustrated book for children.

Its success is due in part to its universal appeal, according to Andrew Medlar, a member of the library team that compiled the list.

“At the end of the day, though, it’s all about the story and it is absolutely brilliantly told,” Medlar said in a news release.

Born Ezra Jack Katz in Brooklyn to Polish Jewish immigrants, Keats was a largely self-taught artist. His work was featured in a 2011 exhibition at the Jewish Museum in New York. In 2017, some of the iconic illustrations from “The Snowy Day” were featured on stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service.

The other Jewish author on the list is Maurice Sendak, whose “Where the Wild Things Are” was No. 4. The others in the top 5 are “The Cat in the Hat,” by Dr. Seuss; “1984,” by George Orwell; and “To Kill a Mockingbird,” by Harper Lee.

The library is offering a special limited-edition “The Snowy Day” library card and the New York City transit system is also issuing a special edition of its Metro card.

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Virginia man charged in targeting of Jews and African-Americans with fake bomb threats

Wed, 2020-01-15 19:33

(JTA) — A 19-year-old Virginia man has been charged with calling in false bomb threats and active shootings as part of a network of white supremacists.

John William Kirby Kelley of Vienna was charged Friday by the U.S. Department of Justice with conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, specifically interstate threats to injure.

Kelley is accused of being part of a network that “shared racist views” and had a “particular disdain for African Americans and Jewish people,” and targeted them in the swatting attacks, a practice in which fake emergencies are called in to authorities to draw a large law enforcement response, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed Friday, The Associated Press reported..

Among the targets were a historic black church in Alexandria, Virginia; campus buildings at Old Dominion University, where Kelley was registered; and an address for a person under Secret Service protection, an FBI agent said in the affidavit filed in federal court in Virginia, The New York Times reported.

Investigators traced hundreds of calls to Kelley beginning in November 2018.

The FBI characterized the members of the swatting ring as neo-Nazi sympathizers and said they used racial slurs and anti-Semitic language in their discussions about potential targets, according to the newspaper.

Much of the communication took place on the dark web, specifically the Deadnet Internet Relay Chat channel, also known as #Graveyard, which is similar to an online chat room, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Some involved in these communications, including Kelley, were sympathetic to neo-Nazi ideology and loosely associated with the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division.

Anti-Semitism and racism feature prominently in social media accounts that appear to be linked to Kelley, according to the ADL.

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Israel strikes Syrian airbase controlled by Iran, killing 3, London human rights group reports

Wed, 2020-01-15 19:24

JERUSALEM (JTA) — At least three Iranian fighters were reported killed in airstrikes on a Syrian airbase in an attack blamed on Israel.

The Tuesday night attack targeted the the T4 airbase near Homs, in northern Syria, which is believed to be controlled by Iran. The bombing destroyed an ammunition depot for Iranian militias and a building under construction, in addition to destroying two military vehicles, according to the report, according to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights report.

The report said that along with the Iranian fighters killed, others were wounded, with some in critical condition.

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, reported that “ Israeli warplanes perpetrated a new aggression on T4 airport” and Syrian army air defenses immediately intercepted the hostile missiles and shot down a number of them. It added that four missiles reached the airbase, but that the damages were “limited to materials,” citing an unnamed military source.

The Israeli military has not commented on the report.

Israel in recent months has struck Iranian targets in Syria, including intelligence centers, weapons depots, storage facilities, observation posts and logistics centers, as well as the T4 base.

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Israel gets its first Formula One race car driver

Wed, 2020-01-15 19:17

JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli race car driver has become the first national to break into Formula One racing.

Roy Nissany, 25, was named the official test driver for the UK-based Williams Group, a top Formula One team. The announcement was made Wednesday at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation by the group’s president, Claire Williams, and Canadian businessman Sylvan Adams, who has supported Nissany’s development in motor racing.

Nissany, who has been in motor racing since the age of 14, will test cars ahead of Grand Prix events and is on standby to drive in races.

He comes to Formula One following two successful seasons in Formula V8 3.5, where he won 13 podium finishes and reached the pole position seven times.

“Today I achieved the goal which I set for myself many years ago, to become a Formula One driver.” Nissany said. “This is a very exciting moment, not only for me, but also for everyone who has been with me along the way over the years. Formula One reaches a huge audience of fans and I am so pleased that they will now get to know Israel through the motor racing track.”

For several years, Adams has been working to showcase Israel through international sporting and cultural events. He was responsible for bringing the Giro d’Italia bike race to Israel, Madonna’s appearance at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest and the international soccer match in Tel Aviv between Argentina and Uruguay. He also contributed $5 million to help land the first Beresheet spacecraft on the moon.

“Hundreds of millions of motor racing enthusiasts across the world will get to see a different side of our country, what I call ‘normal’ Israel,” Adams said. “I cannot wait for the moment when we see the blue and white flag on a Formula One car.”

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NJ Senate avoids vote on bill to remove religious exemption from immunizations

Wed, 2020-01-15 17:36

(JTA) — A bill that would have ended a policy that allows New Jersey parents not to immunize their children because of religious beliefs and still enroll them in school stalled in the state Senate.

The Senate did not have enough votes to advance the measure to the General Assembly and the governor, so there was no vote on Monday — the last chance to pass bills before the end of the two-year legislative session.

The bill included an exemption for private schools, which could decide for themselves whether or not to accept unvaccinated students. The exemption was approved as an amendment on Thursday.

State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, a Democrat and a sponsor of the legislation, said the Senate would reintroduce a new version in the 2020-21 session.

Some 2.3 percent of kindergartners and 1.7 percent of sixth-graders in New Jersey used the religious exemption in the 2018-19 school year, according to the New Jersey Department of Health.

Agudath Israel of America was among the organizations that lobbied against the legislation.

A massive measles outbreak spread though New York City from October 2018 and ended in September 2019. New York is among four states that have limited or revoked religion-based vaccination exemptions, according to The New York Times.

“As immunization rates drop and outbreaks of preventable disease rise, I’m disappointed we were not able to vote on this vital legislation,” Weinberg said in a statement.

She added: “Though I understand the passion of those opposed, fundamentally, this is not a personal choice and in society it is the duty of healthy members to work together to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”

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Wearing your natural curls is an act of Jewish resistance

Wed, 2020-01-15 17:33

NEW YORK (JTA) — For centuries, anti-Semites have fetishized Jewish appearance. Using tedious racist tropes — be it smell, hooked noses, curly hair or traditional garb — anti-Semites label Jews as grotesque and have constructed a particular Jewish appearance in an attempt to otherize and oppress Jews.

An all-too-personal reminder of this demonization occurred this summer when we received notification that Maital was among a slew of Jewish professionals, mostly women, pictured on a white nationalist, anti-Semitic website mocking how Jews look and calling them ugly. 

The website featured many Jewish professionals who do not wear Jewishly identifiable garb but had ethnic features that have been coded as “Jewish.” One trait that many of the women had in common — Maital included — was their dark, curly hair.

The prominent historian Yosef Hayyim Yerushalmi traces the history of anti-Semitism linked to the perceived physical appearance of Jews in “Assimilation and Racial Anti-Semitism: The Iberian and the German Models.”

“The more vulgar forms of medieval anti-Semitism did express themselves more than occasionally in sheer physical terms – the notion of a distinct Jewish odor … [or that] Jewish descendants of each of the tribes of ancient Israel are born with physical defects,” he wrote. 

In “The Jew’s Body,” the authoritative book on the subject, the American cultural historian Sander Gilman quotes Moses Hess from the late 19th century, “Jewish noses cannot be reformed, nor black, Jewish, curly hair be turned through baptism or combing into smooth hair.” For anti-Semites, hooked noses or curly hair become metonymy for a repellent Jewish demonic character.

These anti-Semitic tropes continue animating contemporary racial anti-Semitism. This year, for example, a historic Belgian carnival featured a float representing two Orthodox Jews with payot, hooked noses and surrounded by rats and bags of money (the carnival just lost its status on the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list as a result.)

These negative stereotypes have impacted our Jewish psyche and spawned a self-consciousness and communal shame about “Jewish looks.” If our intention is to be Jewish and visibly proud of it, we must on the one hand celebrate the many varied Jewish ways of presenting and on the other contest the essentialist notion of Jewish ethnic looks. 

It seems outrageous that in this day and age the idea of “Jewish looks” continues to exist — despite overwhelming Jewish diversity — and be demonized. Jews can look as different from each other as any two humans. Curly hair, like many characteristics, is not a universal Jewish trait, nor particular to Jews, nor inherently unattractive. Sadly, our own community has subconsciously internalized some of these harmful tropes. This has resulted in self-criticism and shame, as well as a narrow and exclusionary understanding of what Jews look like.

All Jews should revel in their culture and appearance. As Jewish Ashkenazi women who proudly wear our thick dark curls in their natural glory, we have come to recognize that this choice generates anxiety in Jewish spaces. We both regularly receive unsolicited advice from peers: “Why don’t you straighten your hair? You would look so different!” (aka better).

In these comments, we hear a desire for Jewish women to adhere to the white standard of beauty privileged in our society, which mandates sleek straight hair.

When a Jewish women’s organization recently announced its top 12 leaders of the year, we were not surprised to scroll down a page of images of women with straight hair. This is the preferred “professional look.”

This is common in Jewish spaces, and it’s not just about aesthetics.

“I have to tell my curly-haired friends that this is a safe place to work,” one colleague observed after attending a staff event at Hartman filled with women who had not flat ironed their hair into submission.

We appreciated the recent article in Tablet describing the trend in Israel of embracing “natural hair positivity,” i.e., curls. It is a good start for hairstylists to learn how to cut and manage curly hair. 

But we need to go further. We must embrace individuals sporting naturally curly hair or kippot or payot as acceptably groomed and professional — and the full range of Jewish ethnic, racial and denominational diversity as just that, Jewish. 

We know it’s a privilege that curly-haired women can straighten their hair to fit in or “pass,” while others cannot change their physical features. Straightening, coloring and updos can also be fun, and women should delight in the many options that we have. But let’s make sure we are doing it because we want to, not because we are subconsciously internalizing derisive tropes about Jews. 

Jewish looks have been demonized to justify bullying, shaming, marginalizing or even harming Jews. Within our own communities, these stereotypes have resulted in a self-mocking shame of looking “too Jewish” — and simultaneously, the exclusion of Jews who don’t “look Jewish” enough. We can combat these tropes by resisting our own impulse to correct, erase or otherwise hide the actual or perceived markers of our identity, embracing the full diversity of the Jewish community, and celebrating the unique and diverse beauty of a people long derided.

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Pelosi names Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler as impeachment managers in Senate trial

Wed, 2020-01-15 17:05

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Reps. Adam Schiff and Jerry Nadler, two top Democratic lawmakers who are Jewish, were named Wednesday to a panel of seven managers of President Donald Trump’s impeachment.

Schiff, of California, and Nadler, of New York, stood on either side of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., when she announced her choices, all Democrats. They were the first managers she introduced, reflecting their importance in the proceedings.

Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee and led the impeachment inquiry, was named lead manager. Nadler chairs the Judiciary Committee and the hearings prior to the impeachment vote.

The impeachment managers will administer the prosecution in the Senate trial. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said that Trump is guaranteed acquittal.

Nadler called on senators to be impartial and to call additional witnesses.

“The Senate is on trial as well as the president,” he said at the morning news conference.

Trump was impeached for pressuring Ukraine’s government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender to face Trump in the presidential election this year. Trump has refused to cooperate with the impeachment, arguing that his actions were aimed at routing corruption in Ukraine.

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Book tracing the history of Jewish women wins top National Jewish Book Awards honors

Wed, 2020-01-15 16:46

(JTA) – A book tracing the history of Jewish women in America won the Jewish Book Council’s top national award.

America’s Jew­ish Women: A His­to­ry from Colo­nial Times to Today,” by Pamela S. Nadel, was recognized with the Jewish Book of the Year Award Everett Family Foundation Award. Her book breaks down the path of American Jewish women from colo­nial ?“Jew­ess­es” to 19th-cen­tu­ry domes­tic moth­ers, turn-of-the-cen­tu­ry immi­grants, mid-20th cen­tu­ry semi-assim­i­la­tion­ists and to today.

The council announced the winners of the 2019 National Jewish Book Awards, the 69th edition, on Wednesday.

Robert Alter received a Life­time Achieve­ment Award for his decades-long project “The Hebrew Bible: A Trans­la­tion with Com­men­tary.”

Two books on anti-Semitism received top honors. Deb­o­rah Lip­stadt’s “Anti-Semitism: Here and Now” was recognized with the Jew­ish Edu­ca­tion and Iden­ti­ty Award in Mem­o­ry of Dorothy Krip­ke, and Bari Weiss’ “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” was named in the  Con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish Life and Prac­tice in Mem­o­ry of Myra H. Kraft category.

Jew­ish Cui­sine in Hun­gary: A Cul­tur­al His­to­ry with 83 Authen­tic Recipes,” by András Koern­er, which the council calls “a com­pre­hen­sive and unique con­tri­bu­tion to the field,” received top honors in a new category, the Jane and Stu­art Weitz­man Fam­i­ly Award for Food Writ­ing and Cook­books.

Winners in the fiction categories include “Fly Already: Sto­ries,” by Etgar Keret for the JJ Green­berg Memo­r­i­al Award for Fic­tion; “The World That We Knew,” by Alice Hoffman, for The Miller Fam­i­ly Book Club Award in Mem­o­ry of Helen Dunn Wein­stein and June Keit Miller; and Naamah,” by Sarah Blake, for the Gold­berg Prize for Debut Fiction.

Other categories included biography, Holocaust literature and children’s literature. See the complete list of award recipients here.

The win­ners will be hon­ored March 17 at a din­ner and cer­e­mo­ny in New York City host­ed by Jef­frey Yoskowitz, author of “The Gefilte Man­i­festo.”

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Nazi flag removed from Australian home following pressure from neighbors and a Jewish lawmaker

Wed, 2020-01-15 15:11

SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — An Australian woman has taken down the Nazi flag she was flying from her home following a joint effort by neighbors and local police, as well as a Jewish member of Parliament.

Cheryl Lawdron told reporters that she had German ancestry and had the right to fly the flag featuring a large swastika and other Nazi symbols on her property in the country town of Beulah.

Victorian state lawmaker David Southwick of the Liberal Party contacted the municipal council, local police and residents to assist in coordinating efforts to have the flag removed.

The incident drew condemnation from the local community. The flag was removed late on Tuesday evening.

“Once again, this incident demonstrates the rising wave of anti-Semitism and racial hatred in Victoria and highlights the need for greater State Government action to crack down on incidents such as these in the future,” Southwick, who is Jewish, said in a statement.

He told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “a Nazi flag displayed in a small fruit farming country town that has people from different multicultural backgrounds, including Jewish and Muslim, shows that nobody is safe from this hate.”

Southwick called on the premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, to “introduce stronger laws to stamp out the public display of the swastika in Victoria.”

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Box resembling home-made bomb placed outside Amsterdam kosher eatery

Wed, 2020-01-15 12:14

AMSTERDAM (JTA) — A box resembling a home-made bomb was left outside a Dutch kosher restaurant where several anti-Semitic attacks have occurred.

The cardboard box, bearing the logo of the Heineken beer brand, was found Wednesday morning outside the HaCarmel restaurant in southern Amsterdam. It had masking tape fastening wires and a black electric trigger switch to its top.

The police bomb disposal unit rushed to the scene to examine the device, according to the Twitter account of the Federatief Joods Nederland group. Police said on social media that they are examining the box. They did not say whether explosives were found inside.

In 2017, a 29-year-old man waving a Palestinian flag smashed the windows of HaCarmel with a wooden club, stealing an Israeli flag hanging there. Police officers stood by as he vandalized the place but arrested the suspect when he came out.

The perpetrator, Saleh Ali, was a Syrian asylum seeker. He was convicted of vandalism after 52 days in jail while awaiting his trial. He was released with no additional penalty. Dutch Jews criticized the ruling because it did not contain a reference identifying his actions as a hate crime.

The restaurant in recent years has been the target of multiple incidents, including damage to the windows and the pelting of its façade with eggs.

Last year, the owner, Sami Bar-On, said he would have to close down unless police manage to curb the attacks on his business.

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At debate, Democrats blast Trump for leaving Iran deal

Wed, 2020-01-15 05:09

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Escalating tensions with Iran dominated the first part of the latest Democratic debate, with candidates blaming President Donald Trump for leaving the Iran nuclear deal and pledging to return to it.

The debate broadcast by CNN from Des Moines, Iowa, the first state to have a nominating contest next month, opened with questions about Trump’s Iran policy.

“Donald Trump is taking us pell-mell toward another war,” said Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, one of six candidates to meet the polling and fund-raising requirements to qualify for the debate.

“You must have an authorization of military force if you’re going to go to war with Iran,” she said. “That is so important, because we have a situation where he got us out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, something I worked on for a significant period of time. As president, I will get us back into that agreement.”

Trump earlier this month ordered the assassination of a top Iranian general in retaliation for a deadly attack last month on a U.S. base in Iraq by militias allied with Iran.

Four of the other five candidates on the stage also slammed Trump for leaving the deal, either because they were asked about it or because they volunteered it: former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, businessman Tom Steyer, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was not directly asked about Iran, but has in other contexts also blasted Trump for leaving the 2015 deal, which swapped sanctions relief for rollbacks in Iran’s nuclear program.

Trump has said the deal’s provisions are inadequate. “Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, stated, ‘We should replace the Iran deal with the Trump deal.’ I agree!” Trump tweeted immediately following the debate. Trump wants a deal that ends Iran’s nuclear capacity outright as well as its missile program and its regional adventurism.

The moderators asked Buttigieg and Klobuchar whether they would stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Each said yes, but did not elaborate how they would do it.

The perception among Democrats that Trump stokes divisions among Americans, which has dominated past debates, came up in this debate only at the end, when Biden mentioned it in his closing remarks.

“Character is on the ballot,” Biden said. “Not what Donald Trump is spewing out, the hate, the xenophobia, the racism.”

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The Democrats gave you a debate. Mike Bloomberg gave you a meatball.

Wed, 2020-01-15 04:01

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Michael Bloomberg didn’t make the cut for the Democratic debate, so his social media team dined out on a meatball.

With the mayor’s face on it.

The social media team for the former New York mayor, who is running for the Democratic nomination, spent the debate tweeting out “facts” that suggested that Bloomberg’s campaign was not taking Tuesday’s debate, broadcast by CNN from Iowa, seriously.

“Mike’s not in tonight’s @CNN #DemDebate,” Team Bloomberg said as an opener. “But, to get to know him better, here are some interesting facts about Mike. #BloombergFacts.”

A source close to the campaign confirmed that Bloomberg’s team was behind the feed. It was not hacked.

The team started out with what appeared to be truthful facts — where in Boston Bloomberg was born, and where he graduated university (Johns Hopkins) and how many terms he served as mayor (three) for instance — but soon transitioned to facts that were, well, truthy.

The first was a photo of Bloomberg’s face appearing on a meatball. “Test your political knowledge:v SPOT THE MEATBALL THAT LOOKS LIKE MIKE.”

Test your political knowledge:

— Team Bloomberg (@Mike2020) January 15, 2020

“Everyone around the office calls him ‘Mike,’ except for one weird intern who calls him ‘Mitch’,” read another “fact.”

A few poked fun at Bloomberg’s reputation, including his efforts to regulate junk food.

“Mike advised people to eat less salt, because it leads to hypertension,” said a tweet. “He also advised people to stop eating pineapple on pizza, because it’s disgusting.”

Bloomberg met the polling minimum for the debate, but not its fund-raising requirements because he is refusing to raise funds and is using his own money. Bloomberg, who founded the Bloomberg News empire, is estimated to be worth over $50 billion.

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