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Mossad has a top-notch PR advisor. We're not allowed to tell you her name

Haaretz - 1 hour 51 min ago
Israel's censor won't allow revealing the identity of the paid consultant, citing Iranian threats to 'anyone working with the Mossad'

New Gaza work permits intended to postpone next clash

Haaretz - 1 hour 53 min ago
Israel announced that it was increasing the number of work permits granted merchants and workers from the Gaza Strip to 10,000, the highest number in years

Park East Synagogue pushes out assistant rabbi, sparking protest

JTA - 3 hours 47 min ago

NEW YORK (JTA) — Park East Synagogue, a Modern Orthodox congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, fired its popular assistant rabbi after the longtime head rabbi rebuffed a congregant-led push to “revitalize the synagogue.”

Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt, 34, had been working for the synagogue for a decade and was known for his outreach to Russian-speaking families. He began at Park East as a rabbinic intern and congregants told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that many hoped he would lead the synagogue one day.

But his tenure there abruptly ended with an email from Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier that went out to community members on Monday. Schneier wrote, “Assistant Rabbi Benjamin Goldschmidt is no longer employed by our Synagogue,” but did not elaborate on the decision.

The firing is making waves in the venerable 133-year-old congregation, which is linked to a day school named for Schneier. More than 200 people have signed a petition protesting Goldschmidt’s termination, but their identities have been hidden after a note said the first 70 signatories “were receiving harassment for speaking up.” The synagogue claims a membership of 700 households.

This story is part of JTA's coverage of New York through the New York Jewish Week. To read more stories like this, sign up for our daily New York newsletter here.

Neither the synagogue nor Goldschmidt responded to requests for comment. Goldschmidt’s biography on the synagogue website, which was active as of the beginning of the week, has been deleted.

Reached by phone Wednesday, the synagogue board president, Herman Hochberg, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he was not at liberty to discuss why Goldschmidt was fired, but said it was not “because we don’t like him.”

Goldschmidt is the son of Moscow Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt and has written in a number of publications about his work as well as Israeli politics. His 2014 wedding to the journalist Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt was the subject of a feature in the New York Times’ “Vows” section.

Goldschmidt’s firing follows a contentious exchange of emails to the synagogue membership by members and Schneier. On Oct. 4, a group of four synagogue members sent an email out to the membership list titled “The future of Park East Synagogue.” The email praised Schneier, 91, who has led the synagogue for more than 50 years. But it also expressed concerns about the synagogue’s trajectory.

“As congregants, we are concerned about the state of our beloved synagogue and what the future holds,” it said. “Our overall synagogue attendance has declined; while Shabbat services used to bring in several hundred worshippers, now they bring in far smaller numbers, with few younger individuals and families (unless there is a special event).”

The email announced that the signatories would form a committee to work with Schneier, Goldschmidt and the Park East leadership on how “to revitalize the synagogue.”

In his own email, sent two weeks later, Schneier inveighed against that email and another, sent to the synagogue’s affiliated day school, which he said were “not authorized by me.” He defended his record at length, and then, without any segue, announced Goldschmidt’s termination.

“When I became the Rabbi of our beloved congregation, there was a single building and approximately forty members,” he wrote. “Under my leadership, and with the help of the wonderful team around me, we have grown by leaps and bounds to become a vibrant center for Jewish life in New York City.”

According to the petition launched Oct. 19,  signatories “were shocked and disheartened” by the decision.

The organizer of the petition did not respond to a request for comment, but a string of comments below the petition express outrage at Goldschmidt’s firing.

“I’m devastated by this shocking and uncalled for news,” wrote Aliza Licht, the former president of the parents association at Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School. “Rabbi Goldschmidt and Avital are nothing but bright lights and beacons of all that is good in this world. They have our full support and deep appreciation for all they have done and will continue to do.”

The post Park East Synagogue pushes out assistant rabbi, sparking protest appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Israel's Interior Minister voices opposition to anti-Bibi law- Bennett undecided

Haaretz - Wed, 2021-10-20 23:06
If passed, the law would preclude anyone under prosecution for a transgression carrying three or more year's imprisonment from serving as head of the government

Israel's Clalit HMO study shows 93% reduction in symptomatic COVID for vaccinated teens

Haaretz - Wed, 2021-10-20 22:58
The study, which tested the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine in the 12-18 age group, also shows a 90 percent reduction in documented cases of infection.

A self-evident law

Haaretz - Wed, 2021-10-20 22:15

Jewish actor declines Off-Broadway role as Syrian immigrant amid conversation about representation

JTA - Wed, 2021-10-20 22:12

(JTA) — An Off-Broadway show about an undocumented Syrian immigrant will open without the Jewish actor who was slated to play the part.

“The Visitor,” starring the Tony Award-winning actor Ari’el Stachel, was set to open Off-Broadway at New York’s Public Theater in April 2020 and is only now in previews following the COVID-19 shutdown.

Stachel had previously expressed misgivings about his casting in the musical, in which he plays an undocumented Syrian character who is sent to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center. Earlier this year, he told Playbill, he asked the production team why his character — who was raised in the United States — would speak with an accent.

The start date of “The Visitor” had been delayed this fall, with the theater citing “conversations and commitments around equity and anti-racism.”

This story is part of JTA's coverage of New York through the New York Jewish Week. To read more stories like this, sign up for our daily New York newsletter here.

Requests for comment from Stachel’s representatives were not immediately returned.

“The Public Theater and Ari’el Stachel have made a mutual decision that he will step away from THE VISITOR and his role in the production,” the theater said in a statement posted Oct. 20 to its social media channels. “We are grateful for his artistry and participation over the past six years. We wish Ari well in his future endeavors.”

“The Visitor” previews began Oct. 16, but in the show’s early preview performances, including one attended by JTA, Stachel’s role had been filled with an understudy.

The stage musical is adapted from the Oscar-nominated 2007 film of the same name. It tells the story of Walter, a white college professor, who travels to New York City to find Tarek and Zainab, a young, undocumented couple staying in his apartment. After Tarek, who is Syrian, is arrested due to a misunderstanding and subsequently sent to an ICE detention center, Walter gets entangled in their lives trying to help him stay in America.

According to Playbill, “recent discussions have included the concern over the centering of a middle-aged white man as a protagonist in a story largely about immigrant experiences as well as assurances that cast members have access to resources to fully participate in telling these stories.”

The COVID-19 shutdown of New York theater coincided with the protests over the police killings of African-Americans, forcing many theater and arts companies to confront issues of representation and inclusivity.

Stachel has been with the show since early workshops, and his frustration over his character’s accent has been one of the more contentious issues of the show.

“I got to the point where I couldn’t separate the experiences I was having in the world with what I was doing on stage. It is not enough to just play a role and have fun, it really needs to exist and align politically, spiritually, artistically, for me,” Stachel told Playbill in April. “I thought to myself, ‘my brown body needs to be not seen as an “other” anymore,’ so I’m actually trying to morph this opportunity.”

Stachel previously won a Tony for his role as Haled, an Egyptian musician, in “The Band’s Visit,” the smash-hit stage adaptation of the 2007 Israeli movie. Stachel’s father was born in “an immigrant absorption tent city” to Yemeni Jews and his mom is Ashkenazi, from New York.

“In third grade, someone told me I was too Black to be Jewish,” he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2017. By high school, said Stachel, “I started avoiding being seen in public with my father. I didn’t want to be seen with somebody who looked like an Arab.” “The Band’s Visit,” about an Egyptian band stranded in an Israeli backwater, helped him connect with his Middle Eastern and Arab identity.

When auditioning for Haled, Stachel explained to Playbill, he “felt this was actually our only shot and, at the time, it was exhilarating to just have a job on Broadway. By the time I got around to ‘The Visitor,’ actually, I started having an issue with the fact that all of the roles I was playing had accents.”

The post Jewish actor declines Off-Broadway role as Syrian immigrant amid conversation about representation appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Israeli studies show: COVID vaccine does not harm female or male fertility

Haaretz - Wed, 2021-10-20 21:59
A study conducted in Israeli hospitals finds there was no difference in the number of eggs, sperm quality, and the rate or quality of embryos, in comparison to participants who did not get the COVID vaccine

Snowstorms, bears and Stars of David: Even in Alaska, a tiny Jewish community can make its voice heard

JTA - Wed, 2021-10-20 21:56

(JTA) — I grew up Jewish in Alaska. The Jewish community in Anchorage, the city where I grew up, did things their own Jewish way. It was the only kind of Judaism that I knew.

For example, I used to think that everyone had their bar or bat mitzvah during the summer, because in Alaska, anyway, that was the best time to invite relatives.

Later, of course, I encountered many forms of Judaism. I have lived in Jerusalem. I have worshipped and worked at Jewish communities too small for a synagogue and congregations with over 1,500 families. All these experiences convinced me to become a rabbi. But I would have never predicted that, after ordination at Hebrew Union College- Jewish Institute of Religion in 2017, I would come back to my hometown as a rabbi.

I now officiate at b’nai mitzvah in the very sanctuary where I received mine. As a lover of nature and someone who has grown to appreciate Judaism in smaller cities and towns, I feel Alaska is a great place to be Jewish. While some may think it’s distant and cold, I have always found it cozy and welcoming.

Except when it isn’t.

This past year, as our state officials and politicians decide on how to best fight COVID, we saw an uptick of people comparing health mandates to the Holocaust. During a contentious Assembly meeting on mandating masks in Anchorage, protesters against mask mandates started wearing yellow stars of David, appropriating the Holocaust and the Nazis’ genocide against the Jewish people. Anchorage’s mayor at one point even exclaimed that the Alaskan Jewish community would support these protesters’ message.

A small community of some 4,500 people, far from the large centers of Jewish life, might have been expected to let this go. Or perhaps grumble among ourselves and let “outsiders” object for us.

Instead, at a hearing on masks in September, one of my congregants, State Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar, read a letter I had written. “It was heart-wrenching for me when I noticed individuals were wearing yellow Stars of David, mimicking my Jewish ancestors who perished during the Holocaust,” he read, quoting me. “For myself and most Jews, seeing the yellow Star of David on someone’s chest elicits the same feeling as seeing a swastika on a flag or the SS insignia on a uniform. I believe it is a constitutional right to protest for your values. But I request that you do not use symbols that diminish the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust.”

The mayor apologized the next day, thanks to the work of a confident Jewish community that showed him how hurtful his remarks were for Alaskan Jews.

Our confidence comes with deep roots. In 1900, a community of 60 Jews celebrated Rosh Hashanah in Nome using a Torah brought by Sam Bayles, a Latvian immigrant who sought his fortune in the Alaska Gold Rush. The Bayles Torah stayed in Nome until after World War I, when it was moved slightly south (537 miles) to my congregation, Congregation Beth Sholom in Anchorage, where it remains today alongside other Torah scrolls with their own uniquely Alaskan histories.

Their stories are much the same as the story of how Jews came to Alaska. Whether through a pioneering spirit, a sense of amazement or a need to connect with tradition in the farthest North, Jews have been coming to Alaska since before it was even a state. 

I often feel that Jews in the lower 48 consider Judaism in Alaska to be diminished due to its isolation and its limited population. We certainly have our own unique problems here. Starting Shabbat is a difficult venture when our sunsets are swinging from light most of the night to dark most of the day. Moose get in our sukkot, and snowstorms and bears have prevented us from coming or leaving shul.  

However, I believe that Judaism is beautiful here. This is not a place where Judaism just survives, but a place where Judaism thrives. We have our own special Alaskan way of being Jewish.

For example, our community, which has 160 family members, has no formal mikveh, or ritual bath, and yet we are surrounded by mikveh possibilities. Every one of Alaska’s 3 million lakes are pristine, and most of them are remote. Every summer I ready laminated mikveh prayer cards for Jewish Alaskans who wish to enjoy a mikveh experience against the incredible backdrop of rugged mountains and emerald green forests.

Most people’s Jewish experience, I imagine, come from a connection to Jewish institutions, Jewish professionals and Jewish friends. My Jewish experiences seem always to be nestled among the splendor of God’s creations.

The dispute over Holocaust analogies and its resolution was a great reminder that Jews in Alaska are a part of, not apart from, Alaska. We are not an isolated shtetl, but rather working members of the Alaskan community. There are several current Alaskan Jewish lawmakers, and we have been represented in state leadership all the way back to the framing of the Alaska Constitution. Prior to the current Anchorage mayor’s hurtful comments, three of the city’s previous mayors were Jewish. 

We love this place, and we support it in every way we can.


The post Snowstorms, bears and Stars of David: Even in Alaska, a tiny Jewish community can make its voice heard appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

FDA clears Moderna and J&J boosters, backs 'mix-and-match' strategy

Haaretz - Wed, 2021-10-20 21:53
The FDA said Americans can choose a different shot than their original inoculation as a booster, paving the way for millions more people in the United States to get the additional protection
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