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Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert paid a gospel singer. Records show the $5,500 went to an antisemitic preacher.

JTA - Wed, 2021-06-16 19:46

(JTA) — Louis Gohmert, the Texas congressman on the GOP’s far right, said he wanted to pay Steve Amerson, who sings gospel.

Instead, federal documents show, the money went to Steve Anderson, who spews antisemitism.

A staffer botched an internet search in making the filing to the Federal Election Commission, Gohmert’s chief of staff told The Daily Beast this week. Connie Hair said the $5,500 that Gohmert’s campaign paid indeed went to Amerson, a California-based Christian singer, for performing at a fundraiser in December.

But a staffer entered the amount on the FEC forms as going to Steve Anderson, the pastor who helms the Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. Hair said the staffer is amending the form.

The Daily Beast listed a number of statements in which Anderson celebrated the deaths of gay people, and sermons with titles like “The Jews Are Our Enemies,” “The Jews Killed Jesus” and “Jewish Synagogue = Synagogue of Satan.”

The post Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert paid a gospel singer. Records show the $5,500 went to an antisemitic preacher. appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

No change in Jerusalem or Gaza

Haaretz - Wed, 2021-06-16 19:42

Meet the Orthodox mom competing on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

JTA - Wed, 2021-06-16 19:34

This article originally appeared on Kveller.

If you’re in need of inspiration today, look no further than Orthodox mom of four Liba Yoffe, who is competing in the current season of “American Ninja Warrior.”

Yoffe, 35, is the apparently first Orthodox Jewish woman to participate in the popular fitness competition — now in its 13th season on NBC — which pushes its athletic contestants to their limits with incredibly difficult obstacle courses.

While many athletes apply to be on the show, Yoffe is clearly an exceptional case. Her audition video stands out as a testament to her strength — and we don’t just mean the  physical kind. (Although it must be said: Yoffe may be just 4 feet, 11 inches tall, but she is incredibly, amazingly, strong and fit!) Yoffe also draws an incredible amount of strength from her deep love of and respect for Orthodox Jewish tradition.

The audition video begins with Yoffe being introduced by her teenage daughter, Tehilla, who has alopecia and whom Yoffe credits with being the original source of her fitness inspiration. When her daughter was diagnosed at age 2 with the condition, which causes hair loss, Yoffe promised herself to become a confident and strong role model for her daughter — and she has only positively influenced more women since.

Throughout her fitness journey, Yoffe noticed that there was something missing in her religious community: the bridge between women in athletics and their commitment to their faith. Rather than exist outside of each other, Yoffe wants to show girls and women that devotion to religion and fitness can live harmoniously together.

Yoffe, who grew up in an Orthodox community in Far Rockaway, New York, and now lives in Phoenix, is living proof these passions can coexist. “American Ninja Warrior” is not her first time participating in a fitness competition — previously she had trained to be a powerlifter, beating records and making great progress in her lifting journey. But none of that mattered when she was barred from competing because the judges would not allow her to wear a skirt and sheitel (wig). It’s tradition for many Orthodox women to dress modestly, and the judges refused to make any religious exceptions for Yoffe, even after repeated requests.

It’s one of the reasons that she applied to compete on “American Ninja Warrior.” As Yoffe explains in the video: “I believe I can be the one that can show women and girls all over the world that it is possible to maintain your faith, and compete in athletics, and thrive, and be a strong, powerful woman inside and out.”

Yoffe has devoted herself to empowering women in everything she does. She is the founder and CEO of Spirit Fit Life, a fitness business dedicated toward helping women find their “strength from the inside out” through wellness, mindful eating and exercise. Yoffe tells Hadassah Magazine: “Mindset coaching is also a big part of what we do … You can’t have lasting change without digging deep into shifting your habits and personal triggers. This is not a diet or a one-size-fits-all program. We start on the inside because that’s where true transformation begins.”

Yoffe is also a certified childbirth educator and a doula. Now that’s a Jewish mom who can do it all!

Yoffe also notes that in stark contrast to the powerlifting competition, “American Ninja Warrior” was “very accommodating.” The producers provided kosher food and even moved dates around for her. They even seemed to emphasize her faith, getting her full skirt in the shots, which Yoffe says made her feel proud.

While this is her first time partaking in a competition like “American Ninja Warrior” — that would make her colloquially known as a “beginning ninja” — she says it will not be her last time competing, telling Hadassah: “This time next year … it’s going to be a whole different story.”

According to her Instagram, Yoffe isn’t sure if or when she will appear on the air. (According to Hadassah, only about 30% of contestants see their competition air.) But given her incredible story, we at Kveller will absolutely be watching “American Ninja Warrior” to look out for her! (The show airs on Mondays. There are still two rounds of “Ninja” qualifiers to come, on June 21 and 28.)

Whatever happens with the competition, we want to wish Liba a hearty mazel tov on her incredible achievements. We can’t wait to see what she does next!

The post Meet the Orthodox mom competing on ‘American Ninja Warrior’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Meet the Orthodox mom competing on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

The Forward - Wed, 2021-06-16 19:34
The producers provided Liba Yoffe with kosher food and and even seemed to emphasize her faith, getting her full skirt in the shots.

The holiness of returning to summer camp

JTA - Wed, 2021-06-16 19:23

This article originally appeared on Alma.

I am a camp person through and through. Camp has always been my happy place. For a long time it was the only place I felt genuinely Jewish.

I grew up being the only Jew most people in my hometown knew, and switched synagogues several times. I never felt attached to any Jewish community during the year, so my one month at camp had to provide all of my connection for the year. To steal from an Instagram caption I wrote after my last summer as a camper: “If you aren’t a camp person and you’re wondering why I always talk about camp, here’s why: the people that will always be there for me are those I’ve met at camp.”

Camp shaped me as it allowed me to be wholeheartedly Jewish and explore hobbies I would never get to at home. Daily services were annoying as a kid, but I also learned every Shacharit (morning service) prayer through experience rather than tedious studying. I learned every Lecha Dodi tune from weekly camp-wide Kabbalat Shabbat services. I got to learn how to make earrings in jewelry, paint with watercolor in art, and bake challah in cooking. I even got out of my comfort zone and climbed the ropes course every year.

I always connected more with people at camp than school because I felt like they just got it. Many of them could relate to being one of few people with their traditions in their school. Camp gives opportunities for structured learning and activities and free time. Living together capitalizes on the in-between moments and unstructured time that school doesn’t really have.

So naturally, when the time came, I transitioned pretty seamlessly from camper to staff. I had always known that I wanted to work at camp, so the decision to apply was easy. In summer 2019, I was a counselor as well as a ropes course specialist, so I spent most of my day working on the ropes course while still sleeping and eating with campers.

And then last summer happened. Due to the pandemic, camp had to move from in person to virtual. During a summer of mourning and loss, camp was still able to provide some distraction from the real world, albeit in a much different way. We ran two weeks of online programming including teaching edah (units divided by grade) songs, bunk bonding activities and maccabiah (color war). I was lucky to have high schooler campers who already had a lasting relationship with camp and would participate in any event we put on, but something was missing.

Every summer, counselors would remind campers that camp is not a physical space, but rather, it’s a mindset. They were right, but there’s no way to pretend that last summer wasn’t markedly different from all others. The community was technically there, but something about those Zoom calls was incredibly isolating.

Knowing that I will be back at camp this summer is the only thing that got me through the semester. I took the hardest classes I have since starting college, dealt with my parents’ divorce, and moved across the country after a semester at home. I’ve been incredibly lucky to get through a global pandemic without losing anyone I know personally. Even so, a huge part of my life has been missing.

In a normal year, camp is the most abnormal part of my life. But this year, camp will mark a much-needed return to normalcy. Calls with my camp planning for this summer are the only Zoom calls I don’t dread anymore, because I know that they’re leading somewhere better. Filling out tedious forms doesn’t feel like a chore, it feels like a reward for the year we’ve been through.

I only lost a year of camp as a staffer. I feel immensely for my kids who lost a whole year of being campers, and the connection and kehilla (community) that comes with it. My childhood is intertwined with camp, and I would not have come to love camp as a young adult had I not been able to go as a child. I would not have come to love and want to explore Judaism in the same way. As Rabbi Mitch Cohen put it last year, “camp gives children a time to be Jewish, to learn about Judaism in a joyous setting, where young role models set the standard, providing opportunities for deep spiritual, ritual, and ethical development.”

As a staff member, camp still affects me. I still learn and grow through both formal staff learning sessions and opportunities with my campers. I got to redo fifth-grade Shacharit services, this time knowing every single word and helping my campers learn them as well. As a camper, I was never the teacher, and definitely never an expert on anything Jewish. I also get to make new connections with older generations of staff and Jewish leaders. I can ask them career-guiding or philosophical questions instead of when lunch is.

Of course, the pandemic has changed how camp will operate this summer. All staff members are required to be fully vaccinated before first session starts. Everyone will be getting tested often, and camp will operate as a bubble. Within the bubble, we’ll have pods, and maybe by the end of the session we’ll be able to come together as larger groups. But even though we’ll be in pods, wearing masks and getting COVID tests often, we’ll be back at camp. We won’t feel the same isolation we’ve felt over the past year. Instead we’ll be within our community surrounded by those we love. The optimism of this summer is incredible compared to the despair of last.

Camp gave me my best friends, college roommate and love for Judaism. I would not be the person I am today without it. In geography, we discuss the concepts of space and place. While space is just a matter of measurements, place is a matter of meaning. People ascribe meaning to spaces, making them important places. Going back to that place always feels like returning somewhere holy, and I can only hope that this summer will be the same.

The post The holiness of returning to summer camp appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

I’m glad Marjorie Taylor Greene apologized for her Holocaust comparisons. What she does next matters more

The Forward - Wed, 2021-06-16 18:51
For Marjorie Taylor Greene to deserve a future in the GOP, she needs to take concrete actions that show she is working to fight anti-Semitism.

Ukraine honors 2 tiny sects with Jewish roots as ‘indigenous peoples,’ and Putin is furious

JTA - Wed, 2021-06-16 18:41

(JTA) — Two tiny sects with Jewish roots have been dragged into yet another diplomatic fight between Russia and Ukraine.

The few hundred Karaites who remain in Ukraine today are remnants of a sect that broke off from mainstream Judaism in eighth-century Iraq. They were was documented in Crimea in the 13th century and nearly wiped out during the Holocaust.  

The nearly extinct Krymchaks, meanwhile, are related to Karaites but are believed to be more heavily descended from Georgian Jews.

Last month, Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky unveiled a bill that he said was designed to help preserve the heritage of the tiny minority groups, plus the Tatars, a Muslim people.

But by designating those groups “indigenous peoples,” Zelensky, who is himself Jewish, angered Russia, which zealously guards the interests of Ukraine’s ethnic Russian minority.

Russian President Vladimir Putin came out swinging, using the opportunity to further stoke Ukraine’s many preexisting interethnic tensions. He protested the bill’s perceived implication that ethnic Russians, who make up about a third of the population of Ukraine, and other groups are somehow not indigenous to it.

“The division into indigenous, first-class categories of people, second-class and so on — this is definitely completely abhorrent, reminiscent of the theory and practice of Nazi Germany,” Putin said Wednesday on the Russia 1 television channel.

Historians agree that the peoples that are now known as Slavs have inhabited Ukraine long before the arrival about 500 years ago of the Tatars. Ethnic Slavs also arrived centuries before the Jewish sects.

But Slavic cultures are not in danger of disappearing in Ukraine. In fact they are thriving amid a surge of nationalism in the wake of the 2014 conflict, a turbulent revolution that invited Russian meddling.

Things are different for the some 300,000 Crimean Tatars living in Ukraine and in territories internationally recognized as belonging to it.

Russia’s seizure of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 has separated many families from the Tatar minority, which even before the war was dwindling due to assimilation, emigration and a low birthrate. The financial crisis created by the war, especially in eastern Ukraine where most Tatars lived, has expedited immigration to large cities and the disintegration of centuries-old communities.

The Karaites and Krymchaks are in far worst shape. Most of the 800 or so Karaites live in Crimea. In 2007, the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress estimated there were only 300 Krymchaks in Ukraine.

Recognizing this, Zelensky’s bill “promotes the development of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and religious identity of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine,” the document states. It prescribes special funding for media and cultural projects focused on preserving the heritage, languages and education of the three groups the bill designates.

A bitter dispute divides many ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians in the country, which for the past five years has been dealing with breakaway enclaves of ethnic Russians in its eastern regions.

Ukraine’s Jews – about 50,000, according to a 2020 demographic study — also have been divided by this fight. At issue are the status of the Ukrainian and Russian languages and the state’s attitude to Ukrainian nationalists who collaborated with Nazi Germany to fight against the Soviet Union.

Some Jewish groups, like the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, join ethnic Russians in  vocally opposing the glorification of Nazi collaborators by government and private groups. But other groups, like Vaad, defend Ukrainian nationalist sentiment and opposition to Russia.

Ukraine’s Jewish organizations have not spoken about the bill on indigenous people.

Zelensky, a former actor with little political experience and plummeting approval ratings, has been careful not to anger Ukrainian nationalists. He has expressed displeasure about the naming of streets for nationalists whose troops murdered countless Jews during the Holocaust, but tends to focus on restoring the economy during COVID-19.

In attacking Zelensky over the new bill, Putin referenced Zelensky’s own ethnic identity. He suggested that Zelensky’s designation of Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks as “indigenous” is an injustice to Ukraine’s Jews, whose presence there was first documented in the 11th century — about 200 years before the newly designated indigenous groups.

“Zelensky himself is a Jew ethnically,” Putin told Russia 1. “I don’t know, maybe he has mixed blood. So what will be done with such people? What will happen to them now? Perhaps their body parts should be measured like in Nazi Germany, so ‘real Aryans’ may be set apart from the fake ones? So now they’ll define a ‘real Ukrainian’?”

In Ukraine, critics of Putin said he was throwing stones from inside a glass house.

“In Russia, indigenous peoples are only allowed to dance around in national costumes,” Syres Bolyayan, a Ukraine-based member of Russia’s tiny Erzya minority – a Finno-Ugric group – told Radio Liberty. “Those who fight for the rights of their people are persecuted for extremism or get forcefully admitted into psychiatric hospitals.”

The post Ukraine honors 2 tiny sects with Jewish roots as ‘indigenous peoples,’ and Putin is furious appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Biden says he and Putin agreed to work to keep Iran from getting nuclear weapons

Haaretz - Wed, 2021-06-16 18:41
Leaders discuss Tehran's atomic program in summit meeting in Geneva, agree to launch nuclear arms control talks to build on New START treaty

Jared Kushner signs deal to write tell-all book

The Forward - Wed, 2021-06-16 18:36
His publisher said the book “will be the definitive, thorough recounting of the administration — and the truth about what happened behind shut doors.

Jared Kushner signs tell-all book deal

JTA - Wed, 2021-06-16 18:35

(JTA) — Jared Kushner is writing the “definitive” account of the Trump presidency, his publisher says.

Broadside Books, a conservative imprint of HarperCollins, said in a release Tuesday that Kushner’s book “will be the definitive, thorough recounting of the administration — and the truth about what happened behind closed doors.”

Broadside said the book, to be released in early 2022, would describe Kushner’s role “in the administration’s most significant accomplishments.”

Kushner, who is Jewish and married to former President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka, helped shape Trump’s Middle East policy, worked on criminal justice reform, led the effort to contain the coronavirus pandemic and took a lead role in his father-in-law’s presidential campaigns.

The post Jared Kushner signs tell-all book deal appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Canadian-Jewish politician Annamie Paul narrowly survives Israel-fueled leadership challenge

JTA - Wed, 2021-06-16 18:19

(JTA) — Annamie Paul, the head of Canada’s Green Party, will keep her position after an emergency meeting over tensions within the party without the no-confidence vote that her critics had demanded.

Instead, the party is demanding that Paul, who last year became the first Black and Jewish leader of a Canadian political party, disavow a former adviser who accused Canadian politicians of antisemitism, according to CBC News.

The meeting Tuesday night was spurred by a rift that opened within the party during the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. After Paul issued a statement calling for both sides to cease violence, two party lawmakers said she had not gone far enough to condemn Israel. A senior adviser, Noah Zatzman, criticized that response and accused Canadian lawmakers, including in the Green Party, of antisemitism.

Last week, the party voted not to renew Zatzman’s contract. Now Paul must formally disavow his comments or face a potential no-confidence vote in the future, the CBC is reporting.

The Green Party’s official platform supports a two-state solution and calls on both Israelis and Palestinians to eschew violence against civilians ando pursue peace talks. Paul — who told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency last year that she wanted the party to lead on racial justice, social services and climate change — has not made Middle East policy a focus of her leadership.

“There are differences of opinion that come up naturally within parties. And certainly Israel and Palestine is one that has demonstrated the differences of opinion,” Paul told reporters last week before decrying a recent surge in antisemitic incidents in Canada.

Meanwhile, one of the Green Party lawmakers who expressed solidarity with the Palestinians has apologized for her comments after defecting to the Liberal Party, whose Middle East platform is similar to the Greens. Jenica Atwin had accused Israel of “apartheid,” a charge that party leaders say they reject. She said she regretted her choice of words and condemned antisemitism in a statement last week.

The post Canadian-Jewish politician Annamie Paul narrowly survives Israel-fueled leadership challenge appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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