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From McConnell to McCarthy, Republican leaders criticize Trump’s dinner with Holocaust denier

The Forward - 8 hours 41 min ago

(JTA) — A week after former President Donald Trump dined with two men who are known for their outspoken antisemitism, Republican leaders are beginning to speak out — though some are sparing Trump direct criticism.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader in the Senate, said Trump’s Nov. 20 dinner with Kanye West, the rapper and designer who in recent weeks has come out as antisemitic, and Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist who has denied the Holocaust and said he wants all Jews out of the United States, was a blow to Trump’s bid to be reelected in 2024.

“First, let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” McConnell said Tuesday when he met with a gaggle of reporters in the Senate. “And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the likely next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, did not directly criticize Trump, echoing a number of other Republicans who have spoken out.

Referring to Fuentes, McCarthy said, “I condemn his ideology; it has no place in society at all.”

About Trump, he said, “The president can have meetings with who he wants; I don’t think anybody, though, should have a meeting with Nick Fuentes.” McCarthy said Trump condemned Fuentes “four times.” Trump has not done so, although he has said multiple times that he did not know who Fuentes was and that he was an unexpected guest of West, who now goes by Ye.

Trump responded to the mounting criticism late Tuesday, saying again that he hadn’t known Fuentes, an organizer of rallies on his behalf, before the meeting, and for the first time indicating disapproval of his views.

“I had never heard of the man — I had no idea what his views were, and they weren’t expressed at the table in our very quick dinner, or it wouldn’t have been accepted,” Trump told Fox News.

The varying responses — McConnell outspoken and McCarthy evasive — reflected where each leader stands in the party. McConnell, who has tangled with Trump since the former president spread lies about winning the 2020 election that led to a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, handily headed off a Trump-backed leadership challenge earlier this month, even as Republicans failed to recapture the Senate in midterm elections.

McCarthy, on the other hand, leads a caucus that wrested the House from Democrats but by a bare majority. If he wants to be elected speaker on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress, he needs the vote of a small but powerful faction of House Republicans who remain loyal to Trump.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, has called on Trump to apologize — an action Trump has always been loath to take.

“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist., an antisemite, and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize for it,” Pence said Monday on NewsNation, a cable network.

Pence, unfailingly loyal to Trump during the presidency, has broken with the former president since refusing to heed Trump’s pleas to illegally rig the electoral vote count on Jan. 6. The vice president, in a ceremonial role, supervises the count. A number of the rioters who breached the Capitol said they hoped to kill Pence.

A number of GOP senators, confronted by reporters in the halls of Congress as they returned from Thanksgiving break, also spoke out. “I think it’s ridiculous that he had that meeting,” said Joni Ernst of Iowa. “Just it’s ridiculous. And that’s, that’s all I’m gonna say about it. Just crazy.”

A handful of Republicans, including several who have for years criticized Trump, spoke out as soon as the meeting with Fuentes was confirmed last Friday. A few others who were close to Trump, including David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel, also spoke out to denounce the meeting.

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

The post From McConnell to McCarthy, Republican leaders criticize Trump’s dinner with Holocaust denier appeared first on The Forward.

From McConnell to McCarthy, Republican leaders criticize Trump’s dinner with Holocaust denier

JTA - 9 hours 1 min ago

(JTA) — A week after former President Donald Trump dined with two men who are known for their outspoken antisemitism, Republican leaders are beginning to speak out — though some are sparing Trump direct criticism.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader in the Senate, said Trump’s Nov. 20 dinner with Kanye West, the rapper and designer who in recent weeks has come out as antisemitic, and Nick Fuentes, a white supremacist who has denied the Holocaust and said he wants all Jews out of the United States, was a blow to Trump’s bid to be reelected in 2024.

“First, let me just say that there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” McConnell said Tuesday when he met with a gaggle of reporters in the Senate. “And anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.”

Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the likely next speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, did not directly criticize Trump, echoing a number of other Republicans who have spoken out.

Referring to Fuentes, McCarthy said, “I condemn his ideology; it has no place in society at all.”

About Trump, he said, “The president can have meetings with who he wants; I don’t think anybody, though, should have a meeting with Nick Fuentes.” McCarthy said Trump condemned Fuentes “four times.” Trump has not done so, although he has said multiple times that he did not know who Fuentes was and that he was an unexpected guest of West, who now goes by Ye.

Trump responded to the mounting criticism late Tuesday, saying again that he hadn’t known Fuentes, an organizer of rallies on his behalf, before the meeting, and for the first time indicating disapproval of his views.

“I had never heard of the man — I had no idea what his views were, and they weren’t expressed at the table in our very quick dinner, or it wouldn’t have been accepted,” Trump told Fox News.

The varying responses — McConnell outspoken and McCarthy evasive — reflected where each leader stands in the party. McConnell, who has tangled with Trump since the former president spread lies about winning the 2020 election that led to a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, handily headed off a Trump-backed leadership challenge earlier this month, even as Republicans failed to recapture the Senate in midterm elections.

McCarthy, on the other hand, leads a caucus that wrested the House from Democrats but by a bare majority. If he wants to be elected speaker on Jan. 3, the first day of the new Congress, he needs the vote of a small but powerful faction of House Republicans who remain loyal to Trump.

Meanwhile, Mike Pence, Trump’s vice president, has called on Trump to apologize — an action Trump has always been loath to take.

“President Trump was wrong to give a white nationalist., an antisemite, and a Holocaust denier a seat at the table, and I think he should apologize for it,” Pence said Monday on NewsNation, a cable network.

Pence, unfailingly loyal to Trump during the presidency, has broken with the former president since refusing to heed Trump’s pleas to illegally rig the electoral vote count on Jan. 6. The vice president, in a ceremonial role, supervises the count. A number of the rioters who breached the Capitol said they hoped to kill Pence.

A number of GOP senators, confronted by reporters in the halls of Congress as they returned from Thanksgiving break, also spoke out. “I think it’s ridiculous that he had that meeting,” said Joni Ernst of Iowa. “Just it’s ridiculous. And that’s, that’s all I’m gonna say about it. Just crazy.”

A handful of Republicans, including several who have for years criticized Trump, spoke out as soon as the meeting with Fuentes was confirmed last Friday. A few others who were close to Trump, including David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel, also spoke out to denounce the meeting.

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The post From McConnell to McCarthy, Republican leaders criticize Trump’s dinner with Holocaust denier appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Jewish passengers booted off Lufthansa flight in May are getting $20,000 payouts

The Forward - Tue, 2022-11-29 23:48

(JTA) — Nearly seven months after they were denied boarding in Frankfurt, a group of more than 100 Hasidic Lufthansa passengers are getting paid for their troubles.

The airline is paying each passenger $20,000 plus giving them $1,000 to reimburse them for expenses incurred during the May incident, according to Dan’s Deals, the discount travel website that first reported the incident at the time. After legal fees and some other expenses, each passenger will net approximately $17,400, the site is reporting.

Lufthansa would not confirm the dollar figures but told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it is seeking to settle with each of the affected passengers, capping a series of conciliatory responses to the incident.

“Although we are not commenting on the details, we can confirm that Lufthansa endeavors to settle the claims with all of the passengers denied boarding on May 4th, 2022,” the company said in a statement.

That date was when airline agents in Frankfurt barred many Jewish travelers coming from New York City from boarding their connecting flight to Budapest, citing the fact that some of the passengers were not wearing masks, as was required at the time. But that rule was applied inconsistently, passengers said at the time, and a Lufthansa supervisor was caught on video speaking disparagingly about Jewish passengers as a group.

“It’s Jews coming from JFK. Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems,” the supervisor said on the video, which Dan’s Deals shared shortly after the incident.

Amid intense media coverage, Lufthansa publicly apologized, saying in a statement that the company “regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight.”

The company added, “What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values. We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type.”

In late July, Lufthansa announced the creation of a senior management role to combat discrimination and antisemitism, even as an independent investigation commissioned by the airline concluded that there was no evidence of institutional antisemitism that led to the incident.

And in September, the American Jewish Committee announced a new program to train Lufthansa employees how to identify and respond to antisemitism.

Many of the Jewish passengers bound for Budapest were headed there for an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of Rabbi Yeshayah Steiner, a miracle-working rabbi who died in 1925.

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

The post Jewish passengers booted off Lufthansa flight in May are getting $20,000 payouts appeared first on The Forward.

Searching what happened to my grandfather and other Belgian Jews under the Nazis

The Forward - Tue, 2022-11-29 23:44

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?? ???? ???? ?????? ????? ??? ????? ?????????, ??? ??? ??? ????? ?????? ????? ??? ????????? ?? ?????? ???? ???????????; ????? ???? ????????? ?????? ??? ???????? ???? ????, ????? ??? ?? ?????? ??? ??????????: ?? ??????????? ??? ?? ???????? ??? ????????-??-???? (???????????). ?? ??? ??????? ?????? ?? ??????????????? ????, ??? ??? ???? ???? ????? ???? ?? ?????? ??? ?????. ????? ????? ????? ??? ?????? ??? ?????? ????, ??? ???? ????? ???? ??? ?????????? ?? ??? ??? ????????, ?? ?? ???? ?????? ??? ??????? ??????. ???, ???? ?? ??????????. ?? ??? ?????? ?? ????, ????? ?? ??????? ??? ?? ?????????????? ????? ??? ??????: ???? ??????? ???? ??? ????? ??????? ???? ?????? ??? ?????????????? ?????. ???????? ??? ??????? ???? ?? ????????, ???? ?? ???????, ????? ???? ???? ????? ?????? ??? ???????? ??? ?????????, ??? ??????, ?????? ?? ??????, ???????? ?????? ??????? ?????? ??? ?? ???????? ???? ?? ??????????? ????? ?????? ??????. ?? ???? ????? ????? ???? ???-???? ????? ????? „?? ??????? ????????“.

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The post Searching what happened to my grandfather and other Belgian Jews under the Nazis appeared first on The Forward.

Comedian Freddie Roman, who brought the Borscht Belt to Broadway, dies at 85

JTA - Tue, 2022-11-29 23:43

(New York Jewish Week) — Freddie Roman wasn’t just a Catskills comic but a curator and preservationist of a comedy tradition born at the Jewish resorts in upstate New York’s Catskill Mountains. 

For years he served as dean of the Friars Club, the New York city clubhouse of popular entertainment, where faded stars and up-and-comers gathered to puff on cigars, trade crude jokes and roast one another with, well, even cruder jokes. 

In 1991, long after the Borscht Belt itself had faded as a popular tourist spot, he created “Catskills on Broadway,” a revue starring him and fellow tummlers Dick Capri, Marilyn Michaels and Mal Z. Lawrence. It ran for 453 performances.

“‘Catskills on Broadway,” the New York Times said in its upbeat review, “manages to reproduce the ambiance of the Catskills. The basic difference is that on Broadway there is not a nosh in sight. But there is a groaning board of jokes about eaters and stuffers.” 

Roman died Saturday afternoon at Bethesda Hospital in Boynton Beach, Florida, his booking agent and friend Alison Chaplin told the A.P. Sunday. He was 85.

Born Fred Kirschenbaum on May 28, 1937 in Newark, New Jersey, and raised in Jamaica, Queens, Roman started emceeing at age 15 at the the Crystal Spring Hotel in the Catskills, which was owned by his uncle and grandfather. He soon was performing at hotels and resorts in the region for the largely Jewish crowd, and later played the “big rooms” in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. A highlight of his career was opening for Frank Sinatra.

Although never a crossover star like Alan King, Jackie Mason or Joan Rivers — three other Jewish comics with roots in the Catskills — he nonetheless stayed busy, most recently with a recurring role in the Amazon series “Red Oaks.”

But the comic’s comic was also credited with reviving the Friars Club, which had lost much of its luster when he first arrived in 1970. As its elected dean (“Every two years, they keep re-electing me,” Roman told a reporter in 2005. “No one seems to run against me. Maybe no one wants it.”), he experimented by admitting women and holding showcases for young comics. The changes worked, and younger comics like Susie Essman, Jeff Ross and Paul Reiser became regulars.

The younger comedians have “added a wonderful new vibrancy to the club,” Roman told the New York Jewish Week in 2000. “This is going to continue to be a wonderfully funny Friars Club.” 

Reiser was one of the comedians remembering Roman on Twitter this week. “A great loss to the world of comedy,” he wrote. “He was such a huge supporter & mentor when I was starting out. A GREAT comic, the ultimate pro with the biggest heart. I will miss our phone calls and his big, beauty [sic] laugh.”

Ross, who earned the title of “Roastmaster General” at the Friars Club, remembered Roman with a quip about his booming voice: “They call him Freddie Roman because you can hear him in Italy.”

My very first Friars roast joke… “They call him Freddie Roman because you can hear him in Italy”.

— Jeff Ross (@realjeffreyross) November 26, 2022

After its Broadway run, “Catskills on Broadway” toured around the country, keeping the Borscht Belt flame burning. In his shtick, Roman commented about everything from his childhood in Queens to his “retirement” in Florida.

“I took a cholesterol test,” Roman quipped. “My number came back 911.”

For years his home base was a condo in Fort Lee, New Jersey, from which he would “commute” to the Friars Club on E. 55th St.

While Roman never got his own sitcom or became a household name, he appeared to have no regrets.

“I’ve met everyone and been a lot of places,” he told the New York Times. “Alan [his son, a TV producer] put me in one of his sitcoms once, playing myself. That’s the greatest honor. And his daughter, who is 4, laughs at my jokes. Who can beat that?”

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The post Comedian Freddie Roman, who brought the Borscht Belt to Broadway, dies at 85 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Walmart pulls $40 ‘elegant sunscreen scarves’ that were actually Jewish prayer shawls

The Forward - Tue, 2022-11-29 23:38

(JTA) — “Why wear a tallis to shul when you can wear a very real product from Walmart?” Ilan Kogan, an Orthodox rabbinical student, asked on TikTok late Monday.

Kogan was talking about “Elegant Sunscreen Scarves Sun Block Shawl Scarf Beach Shawl Towel Clothing Accessories for Women Judaism (Blue),” the search engine-optimized title for a product that looked a lot like a tallit, the shawl worn by Jews during morning prayers.

His post was one of several to call attention to the product listed on Walmart’s website, with reactions ranging from curiosity (“I have so many questions,” tweeted Atlantic columnist Yair Rosenberg) to outrage (from the watchdog group Stop Antisemitism). By Tuesday afternoon, Walmart had removed the item, which had been listed for $40.99, as well as a second with a similar name from a different seller that had been available for the cut-rate price of $14.49.

“Walmart has a robust trust and safety program, which actively works to prevent items such as these from being sold on the site,” a spokesperson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “After reviewing, these items have been removed.”

Like other products that have drawn criticism from Jewish consumers — such as “Schindler’s List” leggings printed with scenes from the iconic Holocaust film — the “elegant sunscreen scarves” reflect the oddities of contemporary merchandising.

In this case, the products were sold by third-party vendors using Walmart’s online marketplace, where shoppers can browse up to 60 million items. Those products are not subject to the same practices as those that Walmart sells directly, and many of them have names that are more a list of keywords than an accurate description of what a customer might receive.

Additionally, the tallit for sale were not actually intended for use by Jews. The printed Bible verses on the corners and the fish imagery visible in some of the product photos are giveaways that the items are made for Messianic Jews, who pray using the trappings of Jewish tradition while also believing in the divinity of Jesus.

Messianics and others who appropriate Jewish practices, including, increasingly, right-wing Christian activists, represent a growing market for ritual items. A search for “tallit” returned 286 items on Walmart’s website on Tuesday afternoon; some were clearly marked as Messianic but many others lacked language indicating that they are not traditional Jewish ritual items.

A search on Amazon, home to the internet’s largest storefront, turns up even more results, some coming from reputable Judaica brands but many others from brands seeking to appeal to Messianics and traditional Christians.

@notarabbiyet I hate everything about this #walmart #jewish #jewishtiktok #tallis #sale #terrible #fyp #fyp? #greenscreen ? Sunset Lover - Petit Biscuit

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

The post Walmart pulls $40 ‘elegant sunscreen scarves’ that were actually Jewish prayer shawls appeared first on The Forward.

Jewish passengers booted off Lufthansa flight in May are getting $20,000 payouts

JTA - Tue, 2022-11-29 23:34

(JTA) — Nearly seven months after they were denied boarding in Frankfurt, a group of more than 100 Hasidic Lufthansa passengers are getting paid for their troubles.

The airline is paying each passenger $20,000 plus giving them $1,000 to reimburse them for expenses incurred during the May incident, according to Dan’s Deals, the discount travel website that first reported the incident at the time. After legal fees and some other expenses, each passenger will net approximately $17,400, the site is reporting.

Lufthansa would not confirm the dollar figures but told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that it is seeking to settle with each of the affected passengers, capping a series of conciliatory responses to the incident.

“Although we are not commenting on the details, we can confirm that Lufthansa endeavors to settle the claims with all of the passengers denied boarding on May 4th, 2022,” the company said in a statement.

That date was when airline agents in Frankfurt barred many Jewish travelers coming from New York City from boarding their connecting flight to Budapest, citing the fact that some of the passengers were not wearing masks, as was required at the time. But that rule was applied inconsistently, passengers said at the time, and a Lufthansa supervisor was caught on video speaking disparagingly about Jewish passengers as a group.

“It’s Jews coming from JFK. Jewish people who were the mess, who made the problems,” the supervisor said on the video, which Dan’s Deals shared shortly after the incident.

Amid intense media coverage, Lufthansa publicly apologized, saying in a statement that the company “regrets the circumstances surrounding the decision to exclude the affected passengers from the flight.”

The company added, “What transpired is not consistent with Lufthansa’s policies or values. We have zero tolerance for racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination of any type.”

In late July, Lufthansa announced the creation of a senior management role to combat discrimination and antisemitism, even as an independent investigation commissioned by the airline concluded that there was no evidence of institutional antisemitism that led to the incident.

And in September, the American Jewish Committee announced a new program to train Lufthansa employees how to identify and respond to antisemitism.

Many of the Jewish passengers bound for Budapest were headed there for an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of Rabbi Yeshayah Steiner, a miracle-working rabbi who died in 1925.

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The post Jewish passengers booted off Lufthansa flight in May are getting $20,000 payouts appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Walmart pulls $40 ‘elegant sunscreen scarves’ that were actually Jewish prayer shawls

JTA - Tue, 2022-11-29 23:31

(JTA) — “Why wear a tallis to shul when you can wear a very real product from Walmart?” Ilan Kogan, an Orthodox rabbinical student, asked on TikTok late Monday.

Kogan was talking about “Elegant Sunscreen Scarves Sun Block Shawl Scarf Beach Shawl Towel Clothing Accessories for Women Judaism (Blue),” the search engine-optimized title for a product that looked a lot like a tallit, the shawl worn by Jews during morning prayers.

His post was one of several to call attention to the product listed on Walmart’s website, with reactions ranging from curiosity (“I have so many questions,” tweeted Atlantic columnist Yair Rosenberg) to outrage (from the watchdog group Stop Antisemitism). By Tuesday afternoon, Walmart had removed the item, which had been listed for $40.99, as well as a second with a similar name from a different seller that had been available for the cut-rate price of $14.49.

“Walmart has a robust trust and safety program, which actively works to prevent items such as these from being sold on the site,” a spokesperson told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “After reviewing, these items have been removed.”

Like other products that have drawn criticism from Jewish consumers — such as “Schindler’s List” leggings printed with scenes from the iconic Holocaust film — the “elegant sunscreen scarves” reflect the oddities of contemporary merchandising.

In this case, the products were sold by third-party vendors using Walmart’s online marketplace, where shoppers can browse up to 60 million items. Those products are not subject to the same practices as those that Walmart sells directly, and many of them have names that are more a list of keywords than an accurate description of what a customer might receive.

Additionally, the tallit for sale were not actually intended for use by Jews. The printed Bible verses on the corners and the fish imagery visible in some of the product photos are giveaways that the items are made for Messianic Jews, who pray using the trappings of Jewish tradition while also believing in the divinity of Jesus.

Messianics and others who appropriate Jewish practices, including, increasingly, right-wing Christian activists, represent a growing market for ritual items. A search for “tallit” returned 286 items on Walmart’s website on Tuesday afternoon; some were clearly marked as Messianic but many others lacked language indicating that they are not traditional Jewish ritual items.

A search on Amazon, home to the internet’s largest storefront, turns up even more results, some coming from reputable Judaica brands but many others from brands seeking to appeal to Messianics and traditional Christians.

@notarabbiyet

I hate everything about this #walmart #jewish #jewishtiktok #tallis #sale #terrible #fyp #fyp? #greenscreen

? Sunset Lover – Petit Biscuit

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The post Walmart pulls $40 ‘elegant sunscreen scarves’ that were actually Jewish prayer shawls appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Deeply Jewish comedy is having a moment, even as antisemitism rocks pop culture

The Forward - Tue, 2022-11-29 23:14

(JTA) — Two weeks after a Trump-supporting heckler threw a beer can at Ariel Elias at a club in New Jersey over her politics, the Jewish comedian’s fortunes took a turn for the better. A video of the incident went viral and she made her network television debut on Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night talk show.

She spent most of her five-minute set talking about her Jewish identity and how it clashed with parts of her upbringing in Kentucky.

“I’m Jewish from Kentucky, which is insane, it’s an insane origin story,” she said last month before getting to jokes about how Southerners mispronounce her name and how badly her parents want her to date Jews.

Even though the crowd found it funny, Elias’ tight five wasn’t particularly groundbreaking. In the world of standup comedy, discussing one’s Jewish identity in a deep way has become increasingly common on the mainstream stage over the past several years. Jewish comedians are going beyond the bagel and anxiety jokes, discussing everything from religiosity and traditions (and breaking with those traditions) to how their Jewishness has left them prone to awkward situations and even antisemitism.

Ari Shaffir calls his most recent special, which was released earlier this month and titled “Jew” — and racked up close to four million views on YouTube in two weeks — “a love letter to the culture and religion that raised [him].” In his recent one man show “Just For Us” — which drew widespread acclaim and a slew of celebrity audience members, from Jerry Seinfeld to Stephen Colbert to Drew Barrymore — Alex Edelman discussed the details of growing up Modern Orthodox (and infiltrating a group of white nationalists). In 2019, Tiffany Haddish released a Netflix special called “Black Mitzvah,” in which she talks about learning about her Jewish heritage.

At the same time, the current uptick in public displays of antisemitism — punctuated by a series of celebrity antisemitism scandals and comedian Dave Chappelle’s controversial response to them — is complicating the moment for comedians who get into Jewish topics. Jewish comics are even debating what kinds of jokes about Jews are acceptable and which cross a line.

“I find it ironic that at a time where more Jewish comedians feel comfortable expressing their Judaism (i.e. wearing a yarmulke, making Jewish-oriented content) and not hiding it (by changing their name for example), we also see an up-swelling of outright antisemitism,” said Jacob Scheer, a New York-based comedian. “I don’t think — and hope — those two things are not related, but I find it really interesting and sad.”

The two phenomena could be related. Antisemitic incidents nationwide reached an all-time high in 2021, with a total of 2,717 incidents, according to an April 2022 audit from the Anti-Defamation League. Those incidents range from vandalism of buildings to harassment and assault against individuals.

“Now that [antisemitism is] a headline, it actually helps me to do what I need to do, which is just be extra out and loud and proud,” said Dinah Leffert, a comic based in Los Angeles. “I was hiding who I am just so I can survive in this environment. But this environment is not worth it if I have to hide.”

Scheer said that “people who are Jewish with an emphasis on the ‘Jew’ are having a moment.”

“[The] ‘Jew-ish’ world I wouldn’t say is dead, but I don’t think the ‘Jew-ish’ world is producing that much,” he said.

By “Jew-ish,” Scheer clarified that he means comics like Seinfeld and Larry David, who often infuse secular, culturally Jewish material into their comedy. Their apex of fame came during a time when Jewish comedy was not nearly as mainstreamed — the “Seinfeld” sitcom team was famously told that their idea was “too New York, too Jewish.”

Some of Seinfeld and David’s Jewish comedic successors, such as Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen, sprinkled in more explicitly Jewish jokes before 2010. But today, “you see more Alex Edelmans coming out,” Scheer said, referencing the increase in visibility for comedians with more observant upbringings.

Things have progressed to the level of “Jews doing comedy for other Jews about Jewish things,” Scheer added. In August, the first-ever Chosen Comedy Festival at the Coney Island Amphitheater in Brooklyn featured a lineup of mostly Jewish comics whose repertoires ranged from impressions of old Jewish women (who sound like bees) to breakdowns of the differences between how Sephardi and Ashkenazi Jews say “Shabbat shalom.” Leah Forster, who also performed at the festival, uses her Hasidic upbringing as source material for her standup routines, creating characters and using accents and impressions. (In her early days as a comedian, Forster performed for women-only audiences while she was a teacher at a Bais Yaakov Orthodox school in Brooklyn.)

The festival, which was hosted by Stand Up NY (an Upper West Side club that Scheer says is known for being “the Jewish one”) welcomed a packed audience of about 4,000 guests, many of whom were Orthodox. A second Chosen Comedy Festival will take place in downtown Miami in December.

(The New York Jewish Week, a 70 Faces Media brand, was the media partner for the Chosen Comedy Festival but had no say in its lineup.)

The festival’s co-hosts, Modi Rosenfeld and Elon Gold, who frequently collaborate, both grew their audiences in the early days of the pandemic: Rosenfeld with his camera-facing comedic characters, like the esoteric Yoely who delivers news updates with a Hasidic Yiddish twist; and Gold with his Instagram Live show “My Funny Quarantine,” which featured guest appearances from other comedians. Both Gold and Rosenfeld work antisemitism into their material.

Some are finding the moment difficult to navigate. In late October, at the standup show she runs in Los Angeles, the comic two slots ahead of Dinah Leffert asked the room, “Is anyone still even supporting Kanye at this point?” The crowd responded with resounding whoops, claps and cheers, leading Leffert to feel like they did support Kanye West, the rapper who spent much of last month in the news for his multiple antisemitic rants.

Just a few jokes into her own 10-minute set, Leffert walked offstage.

“My body wouldn’t let me keep being inauthentic about what I was really feeling,” she said. “I don’t want to give laughter to people who are anti-Jewish.”

Leffert, who is openly Zionist, said she also observes a level of anti-Zionism in comedy clubs these days that feels to her like antisemitism.

“They’re not criticizing Israel,” she said. “It slips into antisemitism very quickly. And it’s just a really hostile environment.”

During the last large-scale military flare-up of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in May 2021, she felt inundated with Palestinian flag comments on posts about Jewish holidays, not Israel.

“You just get Palestinian flags underneath your Hanukkah posts,” she said.

Also in October, at a club in Omaha, comedian Sam Morril told a joke about how he hopes Jeffrey Epstein won’t be honored during Jewish Awareness Month.

“Can I ask why you chose to yell out ‘free Palestine’ after a Jeffrey Epstein joke?” he responded. When the heckler said she was making a “public statement” and was looking for “justice,” Morril answered: “A public statement? At the Omaha Funny Bone?”

Eitan Levine, a New York-based comedian known for his TikTok show “Jewish or Antisemitic” — on which he asks people to vote on whether objects like ketchup and mayonnaise, for example, are Jewish or antisemitic (in a loose comic version of the word) — said he receives similar comments online.

“This is a TikTok video about bagels,” Levine said. “What do you mean, you want me to take a stance?”

Though the response to his show has been largely positive and he has gone viral several times, Levine still receives all kinds of white supremacist comments on his videos — with backwards swastika, money bag or mustachioed man emojis evocative of Hitler, along with comments that say “jas the gews” as a spoonerism for “gas the Jews,” as a way to avoid TikTok censorship. Levine said he manually deletes these kinds of comments, but sometimes that’s not enough; one of the guests on his show had to cancel an in-person show due to online threats made against her.

“This stuff is clearly happening and it is dangerous and it is scary,” Levine told JTA.

Writer and comedian Jon Savitt, whose writing has been featured on College Humor and Funny or Die, and says he has often been “the first Jew that people have ever met,” recently launched an experimental web page called Meet A Jew, where users can connect with a Jewish person, much like a pen pal. His 2016-2018 standup show “Carrot Cake & Other Things That Don’t Make Sense” largely dealt with antisemitism — and its audience, he was surprised to see, was largely non-Jewish.

“Not only did I have people come up to me after the show, but I had non-Jews come up to me months later when they saw me and say ‘tikkun olam‘ [Hebrew for the Jewish principle of repairing the world] to me, or recite Hebrew,” Savitt said. “And to me that was the coolest use case because not only were they there, but they kind of retained something.”

Savitt says he isn’t trying to change any extremists’ minds with Meet A Jew, but he sees it as one step that could engage people who may be ignorant or unaware and give them a place to ask questions.

“Although it shouldn’t be on us to educate everyone or to have to constantly be standing up for ourselves, I think there are ways that we can bring other people into the conversation as well,” he said.

This article originally appeared on JTA.org.

The post Deeply Jewish comedy is having a moment, even as antisemitism rocks pop culture appeared first on The Forward.

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