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In the Jewish heart of Pittsburgh, Mister Rogers was actually our neighbor

Wed, 2019-12-04 19:18

This story originally appeared on Kveller.

I’m sitting in a sold-out first weekend movie premiere of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” delighted by the fact that this movie was filmed in my Pittsburgh neighborhood, Squirrel Hill. It’s an upscale, multicultural neighborhood — far more diverse today than it used to be — that is also the center of the city’s Jewish community. 

Sadly, it is most famous now for the deadly attack on the Tree of Life synagogue. 

Squirrel Hill is also, quite literally, Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. Fred Rogers lived in Squirrel Hill, and for 33 years he filmed “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” at the nearby WQED studios. While surely anyone who grew up watching the show feels a personal connection to Rogers, here in Pittsburgh, he isn’t just a global icon. He’s a local hero. 

We’re at Squirrel Hill’s indie movie theater, the landmark Manor Theater, where the ticket-taker greeted us wearing a red cardigan while singing “It’s a beautiful day in Manorland.” I’m filled with anticipation, imagining how Tom Hanks — whom I most fondly remember from one of my favorite childhood movies, “Big” —  might bring Mister Rogers to life.

As the movie begins, Hanks comes down the stairs clad in Rogers’  iconic red cardigan. He sings the well-known opening music to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” — and the entire theater joins in a singalong. Hanks, as Rogers, is tying his sneakers, singing and looking directly at me just like Rogers used to do, many years ago, when I was a preschooler watching his show in my family’s New York City living room.

I’m trying not to get distracted by the obvious physical differences — Hanks’ glasses, his rounder face. I’m trying to measure up his smile and intonation against the memory of Rogers. Yet I’m comforted and reassured that Hanks is able to give voice to a very public person who, through the magic of television, as well as his pure and honest delivery, had a special way of making me feel special and cared for, just as he did for millions of other children. 

Seeing Hanks “do” Rogers is like meeting my long-lost friend all over again. And not just for the two hours that I’m sitting in the theater.  Like so many children who grew up watching his show, Rogers is someone I’ve long felt deeply compassionate toward — and that feeling only strengthened after the Tree of Life attack.

In those early and very dark moments, when a gunman murdered 11 Jewish souls, my social media feed became flooded with Mister Rogers memes.

“Look for the helpers,” they said, “You will always find people who are helping.”

When Rogers first uttered those lines, he was referring to his own memories of feeling scared by terrible news as a boy, and how his mother would encourage him to look for those helpers. In Rogers’ words, “To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” 

But during those very dark and traumatic days after the attack, I kept listening, looking for those helpers. Where were they?

Turns out they were there; I just had to be patient. The following week, during a rally for peace and unity held in honor of the victims in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, Tom Hanks would appear in the pouring rain, next to Joanne Rogers, Rogers’ widow. There, he’d say in earnest, “The people of Pittsburgh live in good neighborhoods that do not divide the city but define it.”

Hanks was just one of many helpers who would stand in solidarity with us, as if he was an insider to our community, to our pain. At that moment, he wasn’t just an adored celebrity, he was someone who cared about my city —  our city, our community. 

In the movie, Rogers takes a personal interest in Lloyd Vogel, a bitter and angered journalist (played by Matthew Rhys and based upon real-life journo Tom Junod) on assignment to interview Rogers for Esquire. Vogel struggles to feel compassion for his father, who had left Vogel’s mother while she lay dying. Vogel cannot forgive him for this. However, with the help of the children’s TV icon, he unwittingly begins to realize that he, too, needs a helper, when Rogers invites him to the set in Pittsburgh and performs with a puppet, Daniel the Striped Tiger, the iconic song, “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”

Following the attack, what did the citizens of Pittsburgh do with the mad that we felt? Well, our city and community came together in a most unprecedented way: There were crocheted hearts strung to tree branches; there were deliveries of notes, cards, flowers from across the globe; there were donations of money and meals; and Jews from other cities flocked to Pittsburgh to mourn with us, the prayers from so many lifting us up. 

In our community’s most vulnerable state, I stayed focused on those helpers. For months following the attack, buses flickered the slogan “Pittsburgh Strong” instead of their usual route numbers. One evening, as I was returning home to Squirrel Hill by bus, the driver and I chatted briefly about the disaster that befell our community. Movingly, he told me, “It’s terrible what happened to that synagogue, but know that we’re with you.”  

I had witnessed something I know to be true in catastrophes — that this attack brought the community closer with acts of compassion and kindness. Compassion doesn’t have to end in physical action, but the feeling itself starts with empathy towardssomeone else. Mister Rogers spent his life attuned to the needs of other people; he’d listen to children and adults compassionately from the depth of his soul. He had a true gift of putting himself in their shoes. 

Seeing how the entire city of Pittsburgh, the world at large, and Tom Hanks stood in solidarity with those beloved murdered souls unlocked Judaism’s highest value for me, personally: caring for the other. This senseless tragedy connected me to my Jewish heart and helped me to see how tethered to Pittsburgh, Mister Rogers and Judaism I’d become. In many ways, the three are spokes of the same wheel. Judaism is a religion of action, and Rogers, too, is a man whose actions are as great as his words. 

After the Tree of Life attack, our synagogues transformed into miniature “neighborhoods” of their own. By that I don’t mean they were separate islands of grief. Rather we were like community lamplighters — helpers — driven to restock our community with light. The Chabad congregation, where my family and I are members, would take on a mezuzah campaign, distributing free mezuzahs to people in the community as a way to offer blessings and security. Jewish community members, including our family, would prepare endless trays of food for the police and the FBI. We went to the Tree of Life to chant psalms as a means to offer healing and solace. As Tree of Life congregants came to our synagogue, we became one united Jewish community again, mourning together and resolute in standing strong together. We will not be clubbed by fear. “Ahm Yisroel Chai – the people of Israel live! 

Perhaps this is the greatest legacy of Mister Rogers — for the Pittsburgh community, and for the increasingly scary world at large: That in our darkest hour, with compassion and kindness as our guide, we can still find our way toward the light. We don’t need to just look for the helpers, we can be the helpers and light the way for others. 

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I didn’t need to marry Jewish, but I wound up with a rabbi

Wed, 2019-12-04 19:02

This story originally appeared on Alma.

I am a product of a Jewish day school education, eight years of Jewish summer camp, and a Conservative Jewish upbringing. Finding a Jewish partner to marry and have Jewish babies with was in my DNA, as was tikkun olam. So it came as a huge shock to me that throughout my 20s and early 30s, not once was I attracted to a Nice Jewish Boy.

I had been on dating apps for eight years seeking my bashert. I dated a series of awful Jewish and non-Jewish men. One guy, definitely not Jewish, told me he was “legally” still married — after we had been dating a year. Oy.

As I dated more non-Jewish men, I created this narrative in my head: “Well, at least I’ll raise my children Jewish.” But here’s the thing: You can’t guarantee this unless you find a partner who’s spiritually on the same page as you are, and even then there’s no guarantee.

I remember sitting at dinner with my Jewish parents when we inevitably ended up talking about my love life. Ugh. But instead of shutting down the conversation and drowning my singledom in dirty martinis, I finally spoke out loud to the universe and my parents exactly what I was looking for in my partner.

“No,” I said, “my partner did not need to be Jewish. They needed to keep up with me, be kind, have confidence and hold their own in a room, and be generous with their money and their time.”

The list went on but I was clear: No, being Jewish was not a prerequisite; he just needed to be open to the idea of raising our children Jewish. That last part seemed to satisfy my parents’ heartfelt desire for a future grandchild’s bar/bat mitzvah.

Then, a month later, I started talking to somebody on the dating app Hinge. Jeff messaged me four times before I gave him the time of day. The rabbinical school student’s first message was “Shabbat shalom!” and I couldn’t roll my eyes hard enough. So cliché. I finally gave him my phone number and he asked me out.

As I walked into the bar to meet him, I remember seeing Jeff and having this strangely comfortable feeling of “Oh, there he is,” as if I recognized him from somewhere else. And not just a recognition of “Phew! He looks like his photos!” but a deep, soul level recognition.

My next thought was “That’s not a rabbi!” as I scanned this bald and bearded ginger, with his Chuck Taylors, Ray-Ban sunglasses on the table, jeans and plaid buttoned-down. And wait a minute, was that an earring in his left ear? We perused the menu and then I popped the question: “Do you keep kosher?” I held my breath as I waited for the answer.

It wasn’t that I actively sought out pork, but I definitely enjoy good food experiences and sometimes that includes mixing milk with meat. Would this be a new level of guilt and self-consciousness if we dated? And what if one day we ended up getting married and had to register for two sets of dishes? Would I have to change who I was to date a rabbi?

“No, I don’t keep kosher,” he told me. “What are your thoughts on chicken wings?”

I was embarrassingly giddy as my dream of eating cheeseburgers together remained alive and well.

We hit it off and laughed our asses off the entire night. Drinks, dinner, and then I invited him to ice cream.

On our second date, breakfast on the morning before Rosh Hashanah, Jeff invited me to the High Holiday services he was leading. Immediately I started to freak out and thought, “I’ve NEVER been attracted to a Jewish man … am I really about to date a rabbi?!” I liked this guy. Really liked him. But I was definitely not ready to see him “be a rabbi” before our third date. I thanked him for the invite and told him I already had plans.

So, instead, I stood miserably at services held at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills with my only Jewish girlfriend who I could convince to go with me. We were less than moved by the sermon, and both of us plotzed as we stared at the mechitzah, a floor to ceiling curtain separating the men and women. ?So when Jeff invited me to Yom Kippur, I accepted his invitation.

The night before, I bailed on Kol Nidre services and opted for a completely dramatic and totally unnecessary existential crisis. It was basically the “OMG does he keep kosher?!” conversation on steroids: Where should I sit/stand? What should I wear? Should I look sexy? No, it’s Yom Kippur, idiot. OK, maybe just a little sexy. Should I give him a kiss on the cheek when I see him? No, a hug is probably better. Am I really dating a ?rabbi?? Am I ready to see him ?be? a rabbi?! Am I Jewish enough for a Reform rabbi? Am I ?too? Jewish for a Reform rabbi? Maybe I shouldn’t go. I think I’m coming down with something. I’ll text Jeff.

I told him I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t think I’d make it to his service. He seemed disappointed but understood, and then he sent me one of my favorite texts ever: a photo of a ring on a middle finger that said “?? ?? ?????,” which in English means, “This too shall pass.” I realized how dumb I was being and how badly I needed to get out of my head. I liked this man, and I would have liked him regardless of the fact that he was a rabbi, or even Jewish for that matter. I went to the service and was very glad I did.

He must have really liked me, too. And two years later, he proposed … in Israel. SO cliché.

The author and her rabbi fiance

Both Jeff and I being Jewish makes our lives easier, though it completely and unequivocally does not matter. It wasn’t Judaism that brought us together. It’s the connection we have, the values we share, the families we come from, the love we have for each other and the people we have become that will make our marriage work. To quote his Rosh Hashanah sermon this year, “Love isn’t Jewish, love is love.”

I know now that I am absolutely “Jewish enough” to marry a rabbi. I’m not great at baking challah, but I’m learning. I sit with our community, where they’ll occasionally witness me sticking my tongue out at my rabbi fiance when we make eye contact during services. I wear whatever I want and at Rosh Hashanah services this year, my friend said I looked “rebbetzin chic.”

Looks like I’m on my way to becoming a solid rabbi’s wife, which, as it turns out, means I just get to be me.

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13 countries vote against a UN General Assembly resolution against Israel for the first time

Wed, 2019-12-04 18:25

(JTA) — The United Nations General Assembly passed five resolutions against Israel, but for the first time, 13 countries switched their positions and voted against a pro-Palestine measure.

The five resolutions passed Tuesday are among 20 against Israel that the international body will vote on during the 74th session of the General Assembly. By contrast, it will consider resolutions about six other countries – one each on Iran, Syria, North Korea, Crimea, Myanmar and the United States (for its embargo on Cuba), the nongovernmental organization UN Watch reported.

For the first time, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Brazil and Colombia voted against the annual resolution supporting the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat, which oversees the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. Those countries previously had abstained on the vote.

The resolution read in part that the committee “continues to make a constructive and positive contribution to raising international awareness of the question of Palestine and of the urgency of a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in all its aspects.”

It passed by a vote of 87 for and 23 against, with 54 abstentions.

Other resolutions demanded that Israel withdraw from the Golan Heights and provide information on the “question of Palestine.”

The votes on the five resolutions were taken in conjunction with the annual observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People at the U.N. on Nov. 27.

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Arizona State U student government passes resolution to support Jewish students

Wed, 2019-12-04 18:17

(JTA) — The undergraduate student government of Arizona State University passed a resolution in support of the Tempe school’s Jewish students.

The resolution, which passed Tuesday by acclimation, comes amid public discussion among campus student organizations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in the wake of fliers bearing swastikas and Stars of David circulated on campus, The State Press student newspaper reported.

Last month, four pieces of legislation were submitted to the Undergraduate Student Government Tempe on the topic of the conflict. One called for divestment from companies involved in “human rights abuses,” including a number in Israel.

The resolutions have been postponed over what the student government said were errors in the documents.

The Resolution to Stand With Jewish Students at ASU notes the rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes as reported in the FBI’s annual Report on Hate Crimes, as well as the October 2018 attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

It says that ASU Jewish students “have expressed concerns over their own safety on campus to the administration and police force in light of recent events, specifically Nazi propaganda.”

The resolution also says the student government supports “all students in mutual civil dialogue and debate in an environment that is free from threat and intimidation,” and that it “does not support anti-Semitism, and stands by the Jewish community.”

Opponents of the resolution said it conflated anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel.

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British newspaper publishes op-ed calling settlements ‘the trouble with Jews’

Wed, 2019-12-04 17:35

(JTA) — A British newspaper published an op-ed by the influential philosopher Slavoj Zizek that appears to defend Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn against allegations of anti-Semitism.

Zizek himself made a statement in his article in The Independent published Tuesday that is being attacked as anti-Semitic.

In an op-ed titled “There is no conflict between the struggle against anti-Semitism and the struggle against Israeli occupation,” Zizek wrote that “the trouble with Jews today is that they are now trying to get roots in a place which was for thousands of years inhabited by other people.” He is referring to the West Bank and the Israel-Palestonian conflict.

Zizek, whom the German Der Spiegel newspaper in 2015 described as “one of Europe’s boldest intellectuals and also a self-avowed leftist,” condemned British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis’ warning last month about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party ahead of the Dec. 12 election as “ethically disgusting.”

In The Independent, Zizek added in the context of Mirvis’ criticism about Corbyn, “the charge of anti-Semitism is more and more addressed at anyone who deviates from the acceptable left-liberal establishment towards a more radical left.”

Zizek also wrote: “I, of course, indisputably reject anti-Semitism in all its forms.”

But Honest Reporting, a Jerusalem-based organization whose mission statement is to fight bias against Israel in the media, accused Zizek of venting anti-Semitic sentiments in the op-ed.

He “may be able to dress up his bigotry in complicated philosophical language but it is ultimately clear that, despite his own claims to the contrary, his piece contains clear examples of anti-Semitism,” Honest Reporting said in a statement.

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Tiffany Haddish’s celebrity-filled bat mitzvah, in photos

Wed, 2019-12-04 17:24

(JTA) — Tiffany Haddish celebrated her bat mitzvah Tuesday night surrounded by an array of Jewish celebrity friends, including Billy Crystal, Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman.

The comedian, who celebrated in Beverly Hills on the occasion of her 40th birthday, released her Netflix standup special, “Black Mitzvah,” on the same day.

Sarah Silverman’s sister, Susan, a renowned rabbi, oversaw the service.

As Haddish told Alma, a website for young Jews, she became interested in her Jewish heritage after meeting her father, an Eritrean Jew, for the first time at age 27. She had previously worked as a performer at bar and bat mitzvahs but hadn’t known much about that part of her identity.

“For a long time, I didn’t even know black Jews existed. I didn’t know anything about Judaism for a long time,” she said.

Haddish, who has appeared in blockbuster comedies such as “Girls Trip,” showed off some of the Hebrew she learned on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” earlier this week.

Here’s a visual recounting of Tuesday’s big event:

Rabbi Susan Silverman, left, with Tiffany Haddish at Haddish’s bat mitzvah at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif., Dec. 3, 2019. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)


Haddish had a candle lighting ceremony. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)


From left to right: Rabbi Susan Silverman, Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, Tiffany Haddish, Aliza Rose Silverman and Billy Crystal, who is filming a movie with Haddish. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)


There was much rejoicing. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)


And there were plenty of yarmulkes. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Netflix)


Billy Crystal watches the ceremony. (Netflix)


Haddish appeared on a red carpet to premiere her Netflix special “Black Mitzvah” on the same day. (Netflix)


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This Holocaust-themed figure skating costume is just the sport’s latest to cause scandal

Wed, 2019-12-04 16:49

CALDWELL, N.J. (JTA) — Figure skating costumes have a long and sometimes ridiculous history. Until about the 1930s, women were expected to compete in ponderous and weighty skirts, making it hard to move freely, let alone tackle a triple lutz. 

That all started to change largely for two reasons. The first was Sonja Henie. Only 10 when she first began competing, she got away with shedding the standard cumbersome skating clothing women wore in favor of much shorter twirly skirts, which allowed her to perform jumps and other elongated moves that ultimately led to three Olympic gold medals. 

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The second reason was modern stretch fabrics, which entered the market (and the sport) in the 1950s. Thanks to increased flexibility, skaters could move much easier and show off body parts — and their athleticism — in ways that had been unthinkable.

Since that time, skating officials have struggled to determine what is and is not allowed in costumes, and what may or may not cross the line. Skaters must follow certain dress code rules, enforced by the International Skating Union, before they step on the ice in an official competition. Men must wear pants, not tights. Officials understandably implore skaters to don clothing that is “modest, dignified and appropriate for athletic competition — not garish or theatrical in design.” 

Contemporary skaters, coaches and officials have long walked a fine line between artistic expression and costumes that are too immodest or simply offensive. 

The recent controversy over a Holocaust costume is just the latest example where governing officials and skaters fail to understand history, tact and the bounds of basic good taste. 

Russian skater Anton Shulepov, as so many have before him, skated his season’s free skate program to moving music from “Schindler’s List.”

The problem wasn’t the music. It was the costume. His featured an odd mix of elements, including the uniform worn by Holocaust-era concentration camp guards and a prominent yellow star across his chest. 

The International Skating Union allows fans to vote for their favorite costume each season, and this one made the list. It was not until protests began that the union’s officials backtracked

The ISU regrets that by error the wrong costume (Free Skating instead of Short Program costume) of Mr. Shulepov has been presented for voting.

This error has been corrected and the ISU sincerely apologizes for this mistake and the bad sentiments it has caused.

— ISU Figure Skating (@ISU_Figure) December 2, 2019

This wasn’t the first time that Nazi imagery in a skating routine has sparked outrage.

In a 2016 performance set to a moving song from the soundtrack of “Life is Beautiful,” an Italian film in which a Jewish father  tries to distract his son from the Holocaust’s horrors, “former Olympic ice skater Tatiana Navka and her dance partner Andrei Burkovsky dance in the striped pajamas and yellow six-pointed stars which Jewish victims of Nazi concentration camps were forced to wear.” At the end of the routine, Burkovsky is killed by simulated machine-gun fire.

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Skating is both art and athleticism. The best programs combine each aspect seamlessly. Costuming is an important part of the artistry: When done right, it shows off the skater’s creativity and point of view. 

It’s doubtful that Shulepov was trying to be deliberately offensive. Many Russians take great pride in the nation’s historic anti-Nazi stance. Millions lost their lives in what today is known as The Great Patriotic War

But this unfortunate incident does provide an opportunity to engage with the larger ongoing dialogue about how we remember the Holocaust and who is permitted to use its symbolism — not to mention the sacred symbols associated with other cultures and events. 

Ten years ago, Olympic ice dance champions Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin landed in hot water for donning costumes made from faux tribal designs. While Domnina and Shabalin allegedly intended to pay homage to aboriginal culture, the costumes were widely seen as a mockery of an authentic heritage too often misunderstood by outsiders. 

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A similar dynamic is at play in this latest case. The costume Shulepov wore should have been nixed from the outset. It is no more appropriate for a non-Jewish skater to put on a vile mark of the murder of a million Jewish children on his breastbone than it would be for a white skater to don false chains and act out the horrors of The Middle Passage across the ice. 

Many nations have failed to provide their citizens with an education about the Holocaust and other acts of historical genocide. This latest incident makes clear that even more cultural education and sensitivity is needed for people all over the world.

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Leave the Holocaust out of your self-promotion, political agenda and profit-seeking

Wed, 2019-12-04 16:28

NEW YORK (JTA) — Here we go again: Just this week, two more cases of the abuse of Holocaust imagery have surfaced and created an international stir. 

In November, Russian figure skater Anton Shulepov wore an Auschwitz-themed costume during his free skating performance at the Grand Prix of Figure Skating event. To compound the offense, the International Skating Union listed it on Sunday as a contender in the best costume category, which is open to voting from the public. After protests, the skating union quickly removed the Shulepov costume from its top list.

That same day, Amazon announced it was removing holiday ornaments that displayed an image of the same Nazi concentration camp on the products from its marketplace.

Unfortunately, Nazi analogies and imagery have been proliferating for some time. For more than a decade, inappropriate and offensive comparisons to the Holocaust have increasingly cropped up in popular culture in the United States. Sports and other celebrities have compared their personal struggles to those of Anne Frank or, at a traumatic time in their lives, make inappropriate comparisons to Hitler or the Holocaust to make a point.

Then there is the use of Nazi analogies to make a political point. Sometimes it’s by pro-life individuals who refer to abortion as worse than the Holocaust. Sometimes it’s by folks on the left who are troubled by Donald Trump’s behavior and refer to him as a second Hitler. 

And some, like Shulepov, are simply looking for attention. The use of concentration camp designs, the pinning of the Jewish yellow star and the very word Auschwitz definitely cause people to sit up.

Each manifestation is offensive and insensitive in its own way. The use of Holocaust references by high-profile public figures such as entertainers trivializes history and the political use of the Holocaust stops civil discussion dead in its tracks. In each case, the attention seekers don’t think for a second about those who actually perished in the gas chambers. 

They all deserve repudiation. The murder of 6 million Jews, including 1.5 million children, is not a subject for glib analogies, lightheartedness or political exploitation.  

In calling out those who misuse the memory of the Holocaust, one must distinguish between the motives of the offenders. There are meaningful differences between those who must be called out for their evil intent, those who are undermining rational discussion about serious issues and those who are guilty of self-promotion at the expense of the victims of genocide.

Are there occasions where it would be deemed legitimate to cite the Holocaust or compare something to those tragic events? Historical and political analysis surely leaves room for serious comparisons. In the popular sphere, however, it is far better to be cautious and generally avoid such usage.

All this matters more and more, not only because of the general debasement of facts and history, but because the Holocaust itself is either being questioned, ignored or complained about.

Holocaust denial is alive and well in extremist circles. White supremacists like David Duke and Arthur Jones and Islamist extremists like Iran’s former leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad simply deny the Holocaust and claim it’s a fantasy foisted on the world by all-powerful Jews. 

ADL’s Global 100 Survey of 101 countries several years ago revealed that 45 percent of the respondents indicated that they had either never heard of the Holocaust or weren’t sure. 

And ADL’s most recent poll of 18 countries showed that 30 percent of people believe that Jews talk too much about the Holocaust.

The misuse of Holocaust analogies and imagery is not only a slap in the face to all those who died. It is also contributing to the trivialization and diminution of the understanding of those horrific events which are so important in making sure that such things never happen again.

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Gal Gadot and her husband are remaking an Israeli crime drama for a US audience

Wed, 2019-12-04 15:35

(JTA) — Gal Gadot and her husband are remaking an Israeli crime drama for showing in the United States.

Gadot and Yaron Varsano’s Pilot Wave production company has joined Endemol Shine North America and Endemol Shine Israel to remake the series “Queens,” Deadline Hollywood reported.

“Queens,” which will air its second season on the Israeli cable network HOT in 2020, is the story of the women of the Malka crime family trying to run the family business after the men are killed by a rival crime syndicate.

The Hebrew word malka means queen.

“These complex characters are captivating, delightfully funny and emotional,” Gadot and Varsano said in a statement. “It is rare to find content that conveys characters in such a truthful way, while mirroring society.”

Gadot and Varsano have launched several projects since founding Pilot Wave earlier this year, including a series about the actress Hedy Lamarr and a film about Polish Underground leader Irena Sendler, with Gadot playing the title character in each. Pilot Wave is also working on “My Dearest Fidel,” an adaptation of Peter Kornbluh’s magazine article about the close friendship between ABC journalist Lisa Howard and Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

Gadot is starring in “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is scheduled to be released in June. She also will star in “Red Notice,” also starring Ryan Reynolds and Duane Johnson, the biggest feature film ever made by Netflix. The action thriller, set for release in late 2020, is centered around the pursuit of the most wanted art thief in the world.

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3 teens throw rock at bus filled with Jewish elementary schoolers in Brooklyn

Wed, 2019-12-04 15:14

(JTA) — Three teenagers threw a rock at a school bus transporting children from a Jewish elementary school in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights.

The rock cracked a window on the side of the bus. The students attend Bais Rivka, a Chabad school.

A second bus driver witnessed the attack on Tuesday and described the teenagers to police, COL Live reported. The driver of the bus that came under attack filed a police report.

Police are seeking the teens on criminal mischief charges, WABC-TV reported.

Brooklyn, notably in Crown Heights, has seen a rash of attacks against identifiable Jews in recent months.


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McGill student union board rejects motion for Jewish student to cancel Israel trip or be impeached

Wed, 2019-12-04 12:55

MONTREAL (JTA)—McGill University’s student union did not ratify a call for a Jewish student to resign for accepting a free trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The Students’ Society McGill University’s board of directors – the union’s chief governing body – on Monday rejected a motion passed days earlier by its legislative council that said fellow councilor Jordyn Wright must resign from the SSMU or face impeachment.

The motion was condemned as discriminatory and anti-Semitic by Wright herself and an array of others.

They included McGill’s own administration, the Anti-Defamation League, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, and hundreds of McGill students.

Wright was the only McGill student, and the sole Jewish participant, singled out to resign. At least one other, non-Jewish student from McGill and its student union is attending the trip.

“CIJA (The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs) applauds the SSMU’s board of directors for unequivocally rejecting the legislative council’s discriminatory motion targeting a Jewish student leader,” the Centre’s Quebec co-chair Rabbi Reuben Poupko said in a statement.

Wright was invited on the trip, called Face to Face, by Hillel Montreal.

She was identified by Hillel as “an invaluable student to have on this trip due to your student leadership experience and connections on campus.”

The trip is scheduled to leave at the end of the month and visit Israel and the West Bank.

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Allan Gerson, lawyer who made it easier for terror victims to sue governments, dies at 74

Tue, 2019-12-03 22:25

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Allan Gerson, a lawyer who made it easier for the families of terror victims to sue foreign governments, has died.

His daughter Daniela told family and friends that he passed away Sunday at his Washington, D.C., home. His wife, Joan Nathan, the cookbook author and authority on Jewish cuisine, told The Washington Post that Gerson, who was 74, died from complications from the degenerative brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob.

In 1992, by his mid-40s, Gerson had already made a name for himself as a member of the U.S. Department of Justice team that helped bring to justice Nazi war criminals, a Reagan administration deputy assistant attorney general whose focus was human rights and a senior counsel to U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations.

Gerson then launched the process that would lead him to the unprecedented challenge of suing Libya for its government’s role in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The bomb killed 259 people on board and 11 on the ground. The efforts of Gerson and his team were frustrated at first by the principle of sovereign immunity, which maintains that foreign governments are above the law. Separate lawsuits targeting Pan Am for poor security measures seemed to be the more sensible route for redress for victims’ families.

Rebuffed by the courts, Gerson took his case to Congress, which eventually passed laws that were upheld by the courts and have led to a new discipline of law that holds foreign entities accountable for terrorist attacks on U.S. civilians. Under the laws, attorneys have successfully sued Iran and the Palestine Liberation Organization, among others. Gerson’s efforts led to $10 million payouts by the Libyan government to each Lockerbie victim starting in the early 2000s.

A separate lawsuit Gerson joined against Saudi Arabia for its alleged role in the 9/11 attacks is still in the courts.

Gerson, a native of the former Soviet Union, moved with his Polish-born parents to the United States in 1950 under false identities, assuming the names of a family that had permission to enter the country. They eventually obtained legal status and citizenship under their real names.

That led Gerson to identify in a 2017 op-ed for The Washington Post with “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who had arrived as children.

“Deportation is terribly punitive, especially for the young who have known no home other than the United States and did nothing worse than hold on to their parents’ hands,” he wrote. “And even if not deported, today’s dreamers could still face severe deprivation, including limits on their ability to work and to obtain funding for college.”

Gerson graduated from New York University Law School, and also earned a graduate degree in law from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a doctorate from Yale.

Gerson, who dabbled successfully in photography and jewelry design, is survived by three children, two grandchildren and a brother, in addition to his wife.

His family asked that he be honored with contributions to HIAS, the Jewish immigration advocacy group that assisted in his settlement and that now advocates for dreamers.

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Seth Rogen and his dad honored by Jewish group for their contributions to Jewish culture

Tue, 2019-12-03 22:06

NEW YORK (JTA) — Seth Rogen and his father were honored by the secular Jewish group The Workers Circle — formerly known as The Workmen’s Circle until Monday night — for their contributions to Jewish culture, activism and promotion of the Yiddish language.

Rogen, 37, who usually plays Jewish characters in his movies, recently studied Yiddish for “An American Pickle,” an upcoming film in which he plays a Jewish pickle maker who emerges from a pickle barrel after being stuck there for 100 years.

Rogen’s father, Mark, 66, was an assistant director of The Workers Circle chapter in Los Angeles. Both of Rogen’s parents were Labor Zionists who have performed in Yiddish theater productions.

The Workers Circle debuted its new name at a ceremony Monday in Manhattan nearly 120 years after its founding in 1900.

“As the first woman to lead the organization, I am proud to uphold a welcoming and inclusive culture,” the group’s executive director, Ann Toback, said in a news release. “Everything we do communicates our commitment to living our progressive values, and that includes choosing a name that reflects both our origin and our contemporary ideals.”

The Rogens were presented with the organization’s Generation to Generation award. In a short speech, the younger Rogen described the room as having “more people who speak Yiddish” than there has been “in any room since the shtetl in the 1920s.”

The actor and filmmaker also added an anecdote about activism: When Seth was a child, his father made the news in his native Vancouver for interrupting a Hanukkah lighting ceremony to yell at an adversary, a man named Bill Vander Zalm, about all his “injustices.” (He did not elaborate.)

The elder Rogen did so even though his wife, Sandy — the couple met on a kibbutz in Israel in the 1970s — told Mark that she would pretend not to know him if he went through with the plan to yell at the man during Hanukkah.

“If you believe in something,” Seth Rogen said, “you should stand up for it, and yell about it, and scream about it, even if it will make you look so nuts that your own wife pretends not to know who you are.”

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Why Israelis feel at home on this remote Brazilian island

Tue, 2019-12-03 21:54

MORRO DE SAO PAULO, Brazil (JTA) – Summer is just around the corner here and the breathtaking beaches of Brazil’s northeastern coast will be packed soon with tourists from around the world. Many of them will be sababas.

A derivative of an Israeli slang word that roughly means “cool,” sababas is how many locals in this picturesque car-free village refer to Israeli backpackers.

“There’s an invasion of Israelis in the summer,” said Miguel Kertzman, president of the Jewish federation in the Brazilian state of Bahia.

Kertzman estimates that some 5,000 Israeli tourists will disembark in Bahia’s capital city of Salvador between December and the Carnival holidays in late February.

“The large majority are youths who have just finished the army and need to have a good rest and just relax,” Kertzman said. “There is no better place than Morro.”

Settled in 1535, Morro de Sao Paulo – or St. Paul’s Hill – is one of five villages on Tinhare, one of 26 islands in an archipelago just off Brazil’s Atlantic coast. The once sleepy fishing village first drew hippies and backpackers in the 1970s and became a trendy destination in the 1980s, but even today Morro’s population is less than 4,000.

Yet more than a dozen establishments along the village’s main street feature signs in Hebrew, including a hostel, restaurant, tourist agency and a pizza place. Locals show off Hebrew tattoos, local children have Israeli names and flags display the Hebrew word for “messiah.” During the summer, the beachfront clubs are busy all night. Drugs are cheap and abundant.

Signs at the Sampa no Morro hotel reception desk feature Hebrew. (Marcus Gilban)

“For 22 years, I’ve always been told what to do and what not to do. We go straight from school to the army,” backpacker Boaz Cohen said. “Now nobody else tells me what to do. If I want to party, I will. I like to feel free. I know I’ll need to go to college and take care of the future, but during this travel period, I have no pressure.”

Ortal Shani, 23, said many come because there are not so many rules.

“People dance in the streets, fool around, feel free, drink, smoke. It’s a worry-free life. It’s paradise,” Shani said.

Not even the 24-hour trip seems to keep sababas from this Brazilian heaven. From Tel Aviv, it requires a 15-hour flight to Sao Paulo, followed by a 2 1/2-hour flight to Salvador, the capital of Bahia, and then a three-hour boat ride to Morro. Israelis are the second largest group here by nationality (after Argentines, who have a dramatically shorter trip), according to the Cairu municipality, which includes Morro de Sao Paulo.

Morro is by far the most sought-after destination for Israelis booking travel packages through Tisot Drom America, a tourist agency run by Mauricio Laukenikas, 44, a Rio-born member of the Jewish community of Salvador.

“We are ready for another summer with lots of thousands of Israelis. The number grows every year,” Laukenikas told JTA. “Morro offers lush nature, lots of parties. It has become a meeting point for Israelis, who can speak their language and be well supported by the Chabad.”

The local outpost of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement was opened two years ago and has already become a meeting place for Israelis in Morro. It is led by 24-year-old Rabbi Mendy Gerenstadt, who was born in Israel and brought to Brazil when he was 3 months old after his parents became Chabad envoys in Sao Paulo.

“People spend three or four weeks here, and there used to be nothing of Judaism,” Gerenstadt said. “We hold prayers and classes, but also provide health assistance and help in the case of emergencies. I asked myself where was the place that needed more help, so here I am.”

Rabbi Mendy Gerenstadt, right, points at a Chabad sign in Hebrew at a beach promenade in Morro de Sao Paulo. (Courtesy of Beit Chabad)

During the Carnival season, Gerenstadt will ship some 200 pounds of kosher meat to Morro from the Jewish community of Belem more than 1,000 miles away.

“Our house is a place for Israelis to be in touch with Israel and Judaism,” he said.

In 2012, a YouTube video helped make Morro even more popular among Israelis. A Brazilian rabbi with an internet television show interviewed a local Afro Brazilian youth, who amazingly answered in fluent Hebrew, including the Israeli hard-to-pronounce guttural “r” and several slang expressions.

“Israelis are my friends, they are a present from God to me,” said Marcos dos Santos, who was filmed holding his son Assaf, a common Israeli name.

Santos’ passion for sababas started accidentally. Raised in a poor family in the countryside, he moved to Morro 15 years ago seeking a job. He was hired at a local hotel, where he met an Israeli who was impressed by the way he treated the clientele and offered to teach him Hebrew.

“He told me that because Israelis spend several months far from their families, they needed special care,” Santos said. “For him, I could be the right guy.”

Today, Santos owns his own small hotel, Sampa no Morro. The reception area features several signs in Hebrew, an Israeli flag and two menorahs given as gifts by guests. A painted message in Hebrew — “I was in Morro with Marcos and his family” — has become a popular backdrop for selfies.

“Everything I have today I owe to Israelis,” the 33-year-old evangelical Christian told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I can’t live without Hebrew. I even dream in Hebrew. In the winter, when there are not so many Israelis here, I spend the day talking to my Israeli friends on WhatsApp.”

The Santos family poses at picture spot that reads “I was with Marcos and his family” at the Sampa no Morro hotel. (Marcus Gilban)

A second boost to Morro’s popularity among Israelis came in 2017, when the first season of the “Magic Malabi Express” comedy series aired on Israel’s Channel 10. The show is an adaptation of an autobiographical book by Miki Geva, an Israeli actor and comedian who visited the island after his military service, and the first season was shot in Morro.

The series was a watershed moment, according to Yasmin Tiker, a 24-year-old Israeli who rents apartments to a clientele that is 80 percent Israeli. Born to a Brazilian mother who immigrated to Israel, she speaks flawless Portuguese.

“Israelis often recommend places they like, post on the internet, leave testimonials. They make their point clear about what they like and rely heavily on tips from their countrymen,” Tiker said.

“There is a connection among Israelis, something I haven’t seen in any other nationality. One helps the other a lot, no matter if they know each other or not. If an Israeli has a problem, he will never feel alone here.”

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Linda Sarsour clarifies her comment that Israel is ‘built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else’

Tue, 2019-12-03 21:06

(JTA) — Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour took to Twitter to clarify recent controversial comments she had made about Israel.

Speaking Friday at the annual conference of American Muslims for Palestine in Chicago, Sarsour had criticized progressive Zionists.

“Ask them this, how can you be against white supremacy in America and the idea of being in a state based on race and class, but then you support a state like Israel that is based on supremacy, that is built on the idea that Jews are supreme to everyone else,” she said.

Sarsour is a surrogate for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, and one of the original national organizers of the Women’s March. She has frequently spoken harshly against Israel and its government.

In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Sarsour said her comments had been referring to Israel’s nation-state law.

“I was specifically referring to the racist argument at the heart of the nation-state law recently passed by the Israeli government – not the Jewish people. I apologize for the confusion,” she wrote.

The controversial law, passed last year, asserts that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, that national self-determination in the State of Israel is “unique to the Jewish people,” and that Hebrew is the state’s language — while Arabic, previously an official language, is now designated as having “a special status in the state.”


Over the weekend, I made comments about Israel that require context to understand. I was specifically referring to the racist argument at the heart of the nation-state law recently passed by the Israeli government – not the Jewish people. I apologize for the confusion.

— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) December 3, 2019

In her tweets, Sarsour said that “We need to be consistent and challenge the State of Israel on its system based on valuing one people over another. We are against a supremacist state in America that values race/class over others & we need to be honest in how we speak about Israel.”

She also dismissed criticism against her comments as an “attempt to paint the Left in USA & UK as antisemitic to disrupt potential transformative campaigns & opportunities for true progress for our nations.”

Sarsour’s comments at the conference had drawn criticism on social media, including from Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

“She slanders the founders of Israel as supremacists, invoking a centuries-old anti-Semitic trope when she describes them as having believed that Jews are ‘supreme to everybody else,'” Greenblatt wrote Tuesday of Sarsour’s comments.

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Why Israel isn’t a top consideration for US Jewish voters

Tue, 2019-12-03 20:22

WASHINGTON (JTA) — It’s the perennial anomaly of Jewish voter surveys: Vast majorities feel an attachment to Israel, but relatively few are thinking about the Jewish state when they cast their vote.

On the day of last year’s midterm congressional elections, J Street, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group, asked Jewish voters to name their two most important issues. Just 4 percent chose Israel. The same survey found that 65 percent said they were somewhat or very emotionally attached to Israel.

The J Street survey is not an outlier. The American Jewish Committee, a foreign policy and civil rights group, found a similar discrepancy in its 2015 poll, in which barely a quarter of respondents listed Israel as one of their top three issues, though more than 70 percent agreed strongly or somewhat that caring about Israel is “a very important part” of being Jewish.

What accounts for the difference?

Like most American voters, Jewish Americans tend to care about issues that directly affect them more than what’s going on in a country an ocean away.

The J Street survey found that 43 percent of Jewish Americans listed health care as one of their top two issues in 2018, a time when President Donald Trump was attempting to dismantle health care protections passed under President Barack Obama. In 2015, the AJC survey found that 41.7 percent of U.S. Jews listed the economy as one of their top concerns amid the ongoing recovery from the Great Recession of the late 2000s.

“When pollsters prod Americans about their foreign policy views, the results are clear: they want the government to focus less on the rest of the world,” Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, has written. “Short of a war or other violent attacks on American installations, foreign policy rarely takes center stage during presidential elections. Presidential candidates almost always campaign on how they intend to jump-start the economy.”

In a hyperpolarized political environment, policy particulars tend to matter less than which side a politician is on, according to Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Thus Jews are likelier to vote for their favored party than they are to consider the specifics of Israel policy.

“American politics also is increasingly defined by the concept of ‘negative partisanship’ — that is, voting more against the other side than for your side,” Kondik said in an email.

All this presumes that candidates meet a certain baseline of support for Israel. Experts on Jewish voting behavior say that Jewish voters will prioritize concerns other than Israel only so long as a candidate meets a basic threshold of support.

“If a candidate is sympathetic to Israel, has expressed support for Israel, that is a bright line a candidate has to have crossed in order to be acceptable to the vast majority of American Jews,” said Jason Isaacson, the AJC’s chief policy and political affairs officer. “The nuances of how [being pro-Israel] is expressed becomes less of a factor to most American Jews.”

Case in point is Bernie Sanders, the Jewish senator from Vermont running for the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders has been extraordinarily critical of the Israeli government by the standards of American politics, even suggesting recently that some U.S. aid to Israel should instead go to Gaza.

But at the same time, Sanders insists he is pro-Israel and has criticized those on the left who would deny its right to exist as a Jewish state.

Sanders’ expressions of support for Israel were “designed” to meet the threshold for Jewish voters, according to Issacson.

“My assumption is for a segment of the American Jewish community it will accomplish that purpose,” Issacson said.

They might even be an asset, according to Jim Gerstein, a founding partner of GBAO, the firm that conducts J Street’s surveys. Jewish Americans are not as hawkish as Israelis, Gerstein said, and are more likely to favor a more evenhanded role for the United States.

“They don’t want the U.S. putting itself in a position where it affects its credibility because it favors Israel over the Palestinians,” Gerstein said. “They want the U.S. to be credible. They don’t support the Israeli government’s hawkish policies.”

Most American presidential candidates have met the Israel threshold, but there are exceptions. President Jimmy Carter’s share of the Jewish vote plummeted from 64 percent in 1976 to 45 percent in 1980. Despite having brokered Israel’s first-ever peace treaty with an Arab state, Carter’s hostile relations with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, exemplified by the American vote for a U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel just weeks before the election, were seen as playing a major role in Carter’s loss of Jewish support.

Four years later, Sen. Charles Percy, a moderate Illinois Republican, lost in an upset to Democratic Rep. Paul Simon in part because Percy had pushed hard for the sale of advanced radar aircraft to Saudi Arabia. Illinois Jews were seen as key to handing the seat to Simon.

Of course, there are Jews who clearly do rank Israel highly — and some of them have a lot of money. Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate who gave millions to Republicans in the 2016 election cycle, has said Israel is his principal policy concern. So has Haim Saban, the Israeli-American entertainment mogul and major donor to Democrats, who has said that he cannot support Sanders in part because of differences over Israel.

And in swing states with a substantial Jewish population — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Georgia, Nevada, Arizona and Florida, among them — even the relatively small percentage of Jews who consider Israel first can be enough to determine the outcome in a close election.

Political action committees associated with partisan Jewish groups are set to spend big to promote their message to Jewish voters in those states.

The Republican Jewish Coalition’s PAC has said it will spend $10 million, and the Jewish Democratic Council of America is ready to spend at least $1 million.

A spokeswoman for the Democratic Majority for Israel, the pro-Israel Democratic group launched earlier this year, said it is prepared to spend “millions.”

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Brown U committee urges divesting from companies ‘facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine’

Tue, 2019-12-03 20:01

(JTA) — A Brown University advisory committee has recommended that the college divest from “companies identified as facilitating human rights abuses in Palestine.”

On Monday, six of the nine members of the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility in Investment Practices voted in favor of the motion, The Brown Daily Herald reported.

The advisory committee at the university, which is located in Providence, Rhode Island, makes nonbinding recommendations about investment and “issues of ethical and moral responsibility” to the school’s president and governing body. It is made up of members representing the faculty, staff, students and alumni.

In March, undergraduates at Brown voted in favor of a nonbinding measure to boycott Israel by a more than 2-to-1 margin.

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Scarlett Johansson is back as Black Widow

Tue, 2019-12-03 20:00

(JTA) — Scarlett Johansson is back as Black Widow, also known as Natasha Romanoff, in a 2-minute trailer for a movie about her Marvel Universe character.

The trailer for the new “Black Widow” film dropped on Monday, and introduces fans to Natasha Romanoff’s sister Yelena as well as characters Alexei/ The Red Guardian and Melina, played by Rachel Weisz.

“I’ve lived a lot of lives, but I’m done running from my past,” Johansson, as Romanoff, says in a voiceover. She says she has to take care of some “unfinished business” and adds: “We have to go back to where it all started.”

Black Widow first appeared in Marvel’s “Iron Man 2” and since then has appeared in four “Avengers” films, as well as “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Captain America: Civil War.”

In the Marvel universe, the Romanoff character was trained as a young girl by the KGB, and her prowess as an expert assassin earned her the Black Widow moniker. She later defected from Russia to become a member of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, a secret American espionage and counter-terrorism agency.

The new Black Widow movie is scheduled to open in May.

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French parliament calls some forms of hate against Israel anti-Semitism

Tue, 2019-12-03 19:46

(JTA) — The lower house of France’s parliament passed a nonbinding resolution on Tuesday that calls some forms of hatred of Israel expressions of anti-Semitism.

The resolution, which passed in a 276-154 vote, also calls on the government to join other European nations in adopting the definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The definition states that some forms of vitriol against Israel, including comparing it to Nazi Germany, are examples of anti-Semitism, though criticizing Israel’s policies is not.

Reuters reported that fewer than half of the 577 members were present for the vote.

The resolution says the IHRA definition can be effective in fighting “anti-Semitism in its modern and renewed form, which incorporates manifestations of hate toward Israel, which are justified only by its perception of a Jewish collective.”

Weeks of debates in the French media preceded the vote on the resolution introduced by Sylvain Maillard of President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling LREM centrist party.

In October, 39 organizations wrote an open letter to National Assembly President Richard Ferrand warning against passing the resolution. The letter argued against a separate definition of anti-Semitism, as it would “weaken the universalist approach” to combating all forms of racism” and compromise “defense of freedom of expression and assembly for groups and activists that must be allowed to defend the rights of Palestinians and criticize Israel’s policy without being falsely accused of anti-Semitism.”

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Kamala Harris drops out of 2020 presidential race

Tue, 2019-12-03 18:39

(JTA) — Kamala Harris, the junior senator from California, is dropping her presidential bid.

“My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue,” Harris, 54, told supporters in a message on Tuesday.

The former California attorney general had failed to gain steam among the crowded field of Democratic contenders after a promising start.

To my supporters, it is with deep regret—but also with deep gratitude—that I am suspending my campaign today.

But I want to be clear with you: I will keep fighting every day for what this campaign has been about. Justice for the People. All the people.https://t.co/92Hk7DHHbR

— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) December 3, 2019


The daughter of a mother who immigrated from India and a father who immigrated from Jamaica, Harris is married to Douglas Emhoff, a Jewish lawyer.

The couple married in 2014 — Harris’ sister Maya officiated — and smashed a glass to honor Emhoff’s upbringing. Harris has a few other Jewish connections, too — including having collected money to plant trees in Israel as a kid. 

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