Ethnic cleansing? Really, Netanyahu?


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has a new PR strategy that involves posting clever YouTube videos.   

Except exactly one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video declaring that removing Jews from their homes in the West Bank is “ethnic cleansing,” his minister of defense, Avigdor Lieberman, announced he was removing Jews from their homes in the West Bank.

As the very much missed Jon Stewart would say: “Wha-wha WHAT?”

Lieberman is no Peace Now-nik. But the Israeli High Court ruled that the illegal West Bank outpost of Amona must be evacuated, and Lieberman said he would follow the court’s ruling. Israel, he said, is a nation of laws.

So this is interesting. Assume, one day, there is a peace agreement with the Palestinians. Will Israeli families be made to abandon their settlements because the Palestinians are engaged in ethnic cleansing, or because the Israelis want to abide by international law? 

Wait, don’t answer. There’s more.

Because the very idea that the prime minister asserts — that the Palestinians want a Judenrein Palestine — is debatable.

In 2009, then-Palestinian National Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad spoke at a conference in Aspen, Colo. Asked if Jews would be able to live in a future Palestine, here’s what he said:

“In fact the kind of state that we want to have, that we aspire to have, is one that would definitely espouse high values of tolerance, co-existence, mutual respect and deference to all cultures, religions. No discrimination whatsoever, on any basis whatsoever. Jews to the extent they choose to stay and live in the State of Palestine will enjoy those rights and certainly will not enjoy any less rights than Israeli Arabs enjoy now in the state of Israel,” Fayyad said.

Oh, you say, but that’s Salam Fayyad. He’s like the Palestinian Elijah — more aspiration than reality. Except here’s Hanan Ashrawi speaking to the Times of Israel, reiterating what many Palestinians have told various media over the years:

“Any person, be he Jewish, Christian or Buddhist, will have the right to apply for Palestinian citizenship. Our basic law prohibits discrimination based on race or ethnicity.”

The Palestinians refuse to allow Israeli settlers to stay as Israelis in a future state, because they see the settlements as illegal, as do the majority of international bodies. But if the settlers want to stay as Jews loyal to Palestine, these leaders are saying “welcome.” 

“If Netanyahu argues that these positions are against Jews, we say to him that two Jews were elected in 2009 as members of Fatah’s Revolutionary Council: Ilan Halevi and Uri Davis,” senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said to the Times of Israel in 2014. “Our position is against settlements, considering them illegal and contrary to all international laws.”

So it turns out that Bibi’s very premise, that the Palestinians want Jews out, isn’t exactly true. A two-state solution would end Israeli sovereignty and control in Palestine, not necessarily a Jewish presence. It would separate the two sides legally, but not ethnically. Jews would be able to live and prosper in Ramallah. Palestinians would be able to live and prosper in Haifa — as tens of thousands of them already do. A two-state solution is not ethnic cleansing. It is border-setting.

The alternative to that solution is one that I can’t imagine Bibi really wants, though more and more Palestinians (and a few Jews) do. They want one state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.  And within that one state, they want each person to have one vote.   

Just to be clear on the details, that land, comprising the pre- and post-1967 borders of Israel, currently is home to 5.8 million Arabs and 6.2 million Jews, according to Arnon Soffer, a geography professor and one of the founders of the University of Haifa.

If Bibi wants to guarantee the rights of Israelis to live anywhere on that land, now would be a good time to say so, before Russian President Vladimir Putin goes through all the trouble of hosting a peace conference. In short order, Israel would be a very different state than what its founders intended, or it would cease being a democracy.

The late Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin thought it was best to divide the land, as did every Republican president and presidential candidate until, you know, Donald Trump. 

The rule of law matters to Israel —  or else why evacuate Amona?  And international law, demographics, security and economics matter, or else why evacuate Israelis from Gaza, or maintain Oslo?

The point is, YouTube is easy; peace is hard.


ROB ESHMAN is publisher and editor-in-chief of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal. Email him at robe@jewishjournal.com. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter @foodaism and @RobEshman.

New York rabbi claims only 1 million halachic Jews killed in Holocaust


A New York-based haredi Orthodox rabbi who has posted thousands of popular outreach lectures online said only about 1 million halachic Jews died in the Holocaust.

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi in a video posted Tuesday on his YouTube channel, cited high assimilation rates in Europe before World War II to make his claim that 80 percent of those identified as Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust were not Jewish according to halachah, or Jewish law.

“If you look at the percent of assimilation that there was in Europe, which already reached 80 percent, it’s reasonable to assume that 80 percent of the 6 million were not Jews,” said Mizrachi, who teaches at a yeshiva in Monsey.

“The truth is that not even 1 million Jews were killed. Not that this is, God forbid, an insignificant number, it’s massive, but there is a difference between 1 million and 6 million.”

Police detain guest from wedding video celebrating Duma attack


Police have detained at least one guest at a wedding where Jewish revelers were captured on video celebrating the deaths of members of a Palestinian family in a firebombing.

The man detained Tuesday has been identified in the Hebrew-language media as a resident of Kfar Tapuach, a West Bank settlement, and a friend of the groom.

On Tuesday, the Times of Israel reported that two of the wedding guests were detained.

The video, which was filmed at a Jerusalem wedding earlier in the month and released Dec. 23 on Israel’s Channel 10, shows friends of the suspected assailants in the July attack on a home in the Palestinian village of Duma that killed three members of the Dawabshe family — a toddler and his parents.

The party-goers are stabbing a photo of the Palestinian family and wave knives, rifles, pistols and Molotov cocktails. They also chant the words to a song that includes a verse from Judges 16:28, in which Samson says, “Let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” The crowd substitutes “Palestinians” for Philistines.

The youths in the video have been condemned from across Israel’s political and religious spectrum.

Police in the West Bank said last week that an investigation was launched several days ago “into the many serious offenses displayed in the wedding video,” Ynet reported. The investigation is being handled by the Nationalistically Motivated Crimes Unit of the West Bank police.

WATCH: Searching for hummus in a tense Old City of Jerusalem


Harvey Stein is an Israeli-American filmmaker living in Jerusalem. His feature documentary “A Third Way – Settlers and Palestinians as Neighbors” will be released in February, 2016. You can find out more about his work at: www.jerusalemny.com/athirdway

Video shows huge explosion that rocks Tianjin in northern China


A huge explosion hit an industrial area in the northeastern Chinese city of Tianjin late on Wednesday evening, triggering a blast wave felt several kilometers away and injuring at least 50 people, domestic media reported.

State broadcaster China Central Television reported that the blast had erupted in a shipment of explosives at around 11.30 pm local time and that an unknown number of people had been injured, the South China Morning Post said on its website.

Videos of the explosion showed flames lighting up the night sky and state-run news agency Xinhua quoted residents in nearby districts as saying the blast had shattered windows. Citing a local hospital, Xinhua said more than 50 people had been injured.

He witnessed — and filmed — the horror of the Holocaust


In early April 1945, Arthur Mainzer, barely 22, was a United States Army Air Forces cameraman assigned to documenting the war in Europe; he’d been serving for three years, and, so far, World War II had not been a horrific experience for him. In fact, it had been exciting. He’d had adventures, suffered no injuries and fallen in love. Already, the Allies were sensing victory, the Nazi military was clearly in its death rattle, and Mainzer was looking for the war to be over so he could marry Germaine, the French woman he’d fallen for, and bring her back with him to the States.

Mainzer, who is Catholic, was born in Canada, and when he was very young, his family moved to Chicago, where he grew up in a neighborhood with people of various races and religions, including Jews. As a youth, he kept up with the war news, and in 1942, soon after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces. 

He’d been a film hobbyist in high school, so the Army sent him to technical school in Denver, where he learned the ins and outs of film cameras. He was then assigned to a unit in Culver City, working on military training films with an actor named Ronald Reagan.

By November 1943, Mainzer was assigned to be a combat cameraman in Europe. There, in a film unit headed by Capt. Ellis Carter, he accompanied many bombing missions; archival footage of his unit’s work shows bombs, sometimes as tracer-like streaks of light, hitting — or missing — their target.

In June 1944, soon after D-Day, Mainzer’s unit filmed bombing runs in Normandy and beyond. In the spring of 1945, three weeks before victory was declared in Europe, Mainzer was called upon to handle a special mission: He and his superior officer, Carter, were told to drive deep into Germany to a town called Weimar, where, they were told, a nearby labor camp had just been liberated. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower had ordered the soldiers in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army — who had entered that camp the day before — not to touch anything until the area was thoroughly filmed, and that was the job assigned to Mainzer and Carter. 


“It took a long while for me to get over this. It’s something you never want to see. … You never want to see again.” — Holocaust cameraman Arthur Mainzer

So the two, traveling by jeep, made the six-hour trip across Germany. As they drove, they talked about technical matters: They discussed how to handle their recently acquired 16-millimeter color Kodachrome camera, and they talked about their lack of a tripod, which would force them to do hand-held shots using heavy rolls of 100-foot film, whose weight would make it difficult for them to brace themselves.

On April 15, 1945, the two cameramen arrived at Buchenwald. Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw — and smelled and felt — when they stepped into the camp. Just inside, they were greeted by a large sign that read: “JEDEM DAS SEINE,” a German expression that literally means, “To each his own,” but really means: “Everyone gets what he deserves.”

In the film “Shooting War,” Mainzer is quoted on camera: “As a soldier in the American army, I had no knowledge of these [concentration] camps. I had not heard anything about it. It was horrible. There were bodies stacked up like cordwood.”

 

Mainzer, now 92, lives in Agoura Hills, north of Los Angeles, and his heart-wrenching concentration camp footage captured that April day and afterward went on to be used as damning evidence during the Nuremberg Trials. It has been archived by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Veterans History Project and has appeared in at least two documentaries: the recently aired “Night Will Fall” and “Shooting War” from 2000, both of which include on-camera interviews with Mainzer. A 20-minute YouTube clip of camp horrors that he filmed has been viewed more than 25,000 times.

Today, Mainzer is gentle, good-humored and still — as the Irish say — a fine figure of a man. He was friendly and forthcoming during a visit by a Journal reporter, but he suffers from the early effects of Alzheimer’s disease, which makes it hard for him to give coherent answers to questions. Fortunately, he also gave interviews years ago, some of which are in the public record, and those accounts, along with the interview done this past week by the Journal, provide a personal dimension to the shattering images he captured on film.

“There was an awful stench,” he told the Journal of that first shocking visit to Buchenwald. “I shot almost all the footage because Carter just couldn’t do it — it was too much for him. He was sick; he couldn’t stand the sight of it, so he loaded the camera, and I shot. I didn’t feel so good either, especially in the close-ups.”

 Scenes captured by young combat cameraman Mainzer immediately following the Allies’ liberation of Buchenwald

Mainzer’s footage shows huge numbers of dead bodies, skin-and-bone, piled haphazardly on a flatbed truck or lying on the ground. For each shot, he focused the camera on a single scene, as steady as he could for a long time, as much as 25 to 30 seconds for a single image. As the camera focuses on, or pans slowly across, bodies of people who have starved to death, 30 seconds can seem an eternity.

Then, often, the camera zooms in for a close-up. Even now, some 70 years since it was made, to watch the film is still unbearable.

Just as Mainzer was shooting, Eisenhower ordered the Third Army liberators to go into nearby Weimar and gather all the adult residents. In an interview carried out by the USC-Shoah Foundation, Leo Hymes, an American soldier from Idaho who helped liberate the camp, describes how he and his fellow GIs brought the local Germans into Buchenwald to witness what was there. “We marched everyone in that town through the camp, and we made sure they dug the graves,” Hymes said.

Mainzer filmed that event, too, in color. “German civilians from Weimar were paraded through a tour of the camp to show them the atrocities, to show them what the Germans had done,” Mainzer said in his interview in “Shooting War.” “Many of these locals wouldn’t even look at the … bodies. Some were crying or had their mouth and nose covered with a handkerchief. … In the film, you can see that they did this [only] because they were required to; they weren’t too interested in looking at the atrocity.”

“In my mind’s eye there’s an image burned,” Hymes said in the Shoah Foundation footage, “of this big, strapping woman in an SS uniform, with her sensible shoes, carrying this broken, naked skeleton of a body over her shoulders, with her mouth covered with her handkerchief as she takes this body to be dumped into the mass grave on top of thousands of other bodies.”

Benjamin Ferencz is a Jewish, Hungarian-born American lawyer sent by Patton to investigate Buchenwald after its liberation. He, too, was there when Mainzer was filming the camp. In Ferencz’s interview for “When Night Falls,” he says: “It was like peering into hell.” As an eyewitness to the horror, Ferencz would later serve as one of the prosecutors at Nuremberg.

There are images that, once seen, can never be unseen. Near the beginning of Mainzer’s YouTube footage, a dark-bearded man lies on the ground on his back, his head turned to one side. His eye sockets appear empty. His arms are placed over his chest in such a way that the fingers of his thin and delicate hands are laced, palms on his chest. A close-up of his forearm reveals a large “slave labor” tattoo: 126747. 

The camera pans across piles and piles of twisted, emaciated bodies. The effects of disease, torture and starvation are obvious.

In an interview for the Veterans History Project, Mainzer described the scene: There “were areas where bodies were stacked up; they didn’t have time to burn them or bury them because the Allies were approaching. The Germans were getting ready to cremate some, but they didn’t have the time; they could hear the warfront approaching, so the SS guys [who ran] the camps just took off.”

The footage also shows human beings barely hanging on to life, some dressed in the now-familiar uniforms with wide vertical stripes. One man holds his hands clasped in front of him, as if in prayer, but the gesture is clearly meant as a thank-you to the liberators. There’s also a young man, legs much too weak and withered to hold him up, leaning against a doorway. And there’s a 4-year-old child amid the silent color footage, trying to smile — but the only expression he can manage is tears.

Marty Kaplan: What matters to me & why


I began making a list of what matters to me. Intellectual curiosity. Climate change. The First Amendment. My family. Giving back. One friend said to me, I know what I’d say: Money. Another friend told me: Those talks can be surprisingly honest.

That got me thinking. What’s the most honest answer I could give?

Right then, I knew. I had to come out. I had to say a three-letter word, beginning with G.

God.

For an academic, saying something good about God can be one of the last great taboos. So let’s break it. I’m talking about my relationship with God and no-God. You know that campaign, “We keep kosher at home,” my mother explained, whispering, so the other Jewish people at Ming’s eating trefe wouldn’t hear.

“But Rabbi Engel says—”

“Don’t tell Rabbi Engel.”

“But why—”

“That’s how we do it in our family.”

Yes, she admitted, later that night, sitting on my bed, after I had done with crying, yes, the Torah does contain 613 commandments, but only certain kinds of Jews obey them all. Fanatics. Our kind, the people of Schuyler Avenue, have made a little accommodation to modern life. We don’t live in the old country any more.

Thus was I introduced to the notion that the Torah was more like a buffet of options than an all-or-nothing proposition. My mother saw no slippery slope between her selective enforcement and moral anarchy. As long as people like us kept certain key commandments inviolable — Thou shalt not marry a shiksa, a Gentile girl, for example — our Jewish identity was intact.

I felt betrayed. It seemed to me that if one rule could be broken, all of them could. And so, perhaps inevitably, I rebelled. As my vision widened, as teachers and books and television and other kids ventilated my thinking, as puberty arrived, I began to question everything.

I confronted Rabbi Engel. If man descended from algae, how could Genesis be true? He patiently explained that some things — the idea of a “day,” for example — need not be understood literally. But Rabbi, I pressed, if one part of the Torah can be explained away as a metaphor, why can’t any other portion be waived as well?

It was like fighting with my parents about keeping kosher, only now it was the rabbi himself playing loosey-goosey with absolutes, and this time I felt not betrayal, but vindication.

I became the Voltaire of Schuyler Avenue, skewering everything on my skepticism. If God is good, I asked anyone who would listen, why did he let the six million die? If I can pick and choose among the commandments — if I’m free to eat shellfish — why isn’t another man free to murder? The answers confirmed my suspicion that religion was a con job, an iconoclasm also spurred by my devotion to Mad Magazine, the South Park of its time.

In high school, in AP physics and chemistry I learned the real rules that governed the universe: not scripture, but science. In AP biology I learned that life randomly emerged from an organic soup stewing for a billion years — no Creator required, thank you very much. In AP history I learned how much blood has been stupidly spilled in the name of an imaginary Deity.

By the time I arrived at Harvard, though I continued to eat matzoh on Passover and fast on Yom Kippur, these were acts of solidarity with my cultural and genetic heritage, not worship of my people’s God.

Harvard, from which I would graduate summa cum laude in molecular biology, completed my secularization. This is not a criticism. If Harvard had made me a more spiritual person, it would have failed in its promise to socialize me to the values of the educated elite.

Those values were, and are, secular. They enshrine reason, analysis, objectivity. The advance of civilization lies in the questioning of received wisdom, the surfacing of hidden assumptions, the exposure of implicit biases.

This view is not the product of a left-wing conspiracy to undermine traditional values; it is the inevitable consequence of an Enlightenment that began with Galileo, Descartes, and Newton… and a modernity launched by Darwin, Marx, and Freud… and a post-modernity postproduced by Lévi-Strauss, Foucault, and Derrida.

The prized act of mind in the Academy is the laying bare of hidden agendas. Nothing in culture is neutral. Nothing is what it seems. The educated person knows that love is really about libido, that power is really about class, that religion is really about fantasy, that altruism is really about self-interest.

At bottom, all values are relative to their communities. At bottom, everything is political. At bottom, everything is contingent, driven by the mores of time and place, reducible to its origins in evolution and history.

In every field, this view was being pursued to its postmodern conclusion; all the leading theorists were busy committing epistemological suicide. Look at the ideas that bit the dust: in aesthetics, the notion that there are objective standards of good and bad; in literary criticism, that there are right and wrong ways to interpret a text; in law, that justice is beyond politics; in psychiatry, that there are fixed distinctions between normalcy and madness; in anthropology, between savage and civilized; in art, between high and low.

The project of thinking, I came to understand, was to dismantle its own foundations.

Even science itself was under siege. The great achievement of the philosophy of science, I learned, was to reveal that science is saturated with politics. When scientists find evidence that conflicts with a paradigm, and they have to choose between discarding the evidence or discarding the paradigm, they make that choice not by applying objective rules, but by deciding who among their peers they trust.

By my last year in college, I was no longer a scientist. I was searching for answers elsewhere. In Dostoevsky, in Nietzsche, in artists who had looked deeply into the human condition, what they found, what I found, was the Abyss. We are alone. Life is absurd. We shiver in the pointless void, haplessly contesting the meaninglessness of our fate. Our yearning for purpose is doomed. It is our burden to live in a time when our minds have deprived us of our capacity for soothing self-delusion. In other words, everything sucks. In other words, nihilism.

A nihilist who doesn’t kill himself is lacking in followthrough, but not in analysis. Though I had thought myself out onto an intellectual ledge, I didn’t jump. I kept going — as many people keep going — by making an armistice with the ways of the world. Call it nihilism lite. It sounds like this:

If everything does come down to politics, it’s still better to know that, so that we can fight for our side’s values, than to pretend otherwise, and be the victim of their side’s values posing as transcendent norms. Even if love can be reduced to evolutionary biology and neurotransmitters, it can still feel like it makes the world go round. Even if values aren’t God-given, moral conduct is still possible. We abide by Kant’s categorical imperative: The rules we should follow are the ones we’d want to be universal laws.

This works. It’s practical. It helps countless people get out of bed in the morning.

But it is an armistice, not a peace. Existential desperation is never far away. It is difficult to face mortality without God. It is hard to tell children that the universe is indifferent to them. Even for the most fortunate, it is painful to confront the night thought, Is this all there is?

No wonder religious fundamentalism is booming. Fundamentalists know who they are and where they fit. They have no difficulty recognizing evil. They are confident that theirs is the one true way. We have Kant; they have God. They live by the literal word of the Bible; we live by its poetry. They are commanded; we are merely moved.

But fundamentalism is not a rational choice. It is not willed by the intellect; it is a mysterious visitor. I have often daydreamed about that visitor. If the God of the Lubavichers or the Satmars were to appear to me and demand obedience, I suspect I would gladly give it. But I am no more capable of partaking in Hasidic ecstasy than I am of heeding the biblical injunction against mixing linen and wool. It is not an option for me. Once the mind thinks some thoughts, it cannot unthink them.

This is the sadness at the heart of secular lives. No one wants to live in a pointless, chaotic cosmos, but that is the one that science has given us. We may yearn for the divine, but hipster neo-Dadaism is the best we can do. Everything’s ironic. Everything’s a joke. But inside, it can feel awful. The things you want a God for — an afterlife, a comfort, a commander — seem unavailable.

That’s where I thought I would spend my life: a cultural Jew, a closet nihilist, searching despite myself for something transcendent to fill the hole where God was.

I found that something in my dentist’s chair.

When he told me I ground my teeth, I denied it. I didn’t think of myself as unduly stressed; I had long ago decided that life is a roller coaster. Stress comes with the territory, and you deal with it, even thrive on it. That I was grinding my teeth suggested I was kidding myself. A part of me, beyond my conscious control, was having a hard time, and taking it out on my molars. Wearing a night guard would be like admitting defeat — letting my unconscious torpedo my equanimity.

“You’d be surprised how many of my patients use them,” my dentist said. “A lot of people hold tension in their jaw. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.” I imagined myself reaching to my night table for my night guard. It made me think of the false teeth my Russian grandmother kept in a jelly glass by her bedside.

“Are there any alternatives?” I asked him. He pessimistically suggested meditation.

What appealed to me about meditation was its apparent religious neutrality. You don’ t have to believe in anything; all you have to do is do it. I had worried that reaping its benefits would require some faith I could only fake, but I was happy to learn that 90 percent of meditation was about showing up.

The spirituality of it ambushed me. I saw no visions, heard no voices, felt no caressing hand. But unwittingly I was engaging in a practice that has been at the heart of mysticism for millenniums. I’d read that people of all faiths had learned to meditate without violating their personal beliefs. At the time, I took this to mean that there was nothing inherently religious about meditation, which suited me just fine.

I was wrong. The reason that meditation doesn’t conflict with religious beliefs, whatever they are, is that it shares a highest common denominator with all of them.

To separate 20 minutes from the day with silence and intention is to pray, even if there’s no one to pray to. To step from the river of thought, to escape from monkey mind even for a moment, is to surrender to a transcendent realm. To be awakened to consciousness empty of content; to be thunderstruck by the mystery that there is something, rather than nothing; to be mindful, to be present; to be here, now: this is the road less traveled, the path of the pilgrim, the quest.

When I am asked whether I believe in God, I say that belief is the wrong word to use. I experience God. God may be the wrong word to use, too.

What I experience — no, not always, and sometimes not at all — is known to every mystic tradition. It has been called Spirit, Being, the All. It is what the Kabbalah calls Ayin, Nothingness, No-Thingness. It’s ineffable. It’s why Jewish mystics call God ha-zeh — the This. You can point to it, but you can’t describe it. You can sing it, but you can’t say it. It is better conveyed by silence than by language, by dance than by liturgy. And it is the experience at the heart of all contemplative practices, whether you’re looking for it or not.

The All is a long way from Newark, and silence is a long way from Harvard. As am I.

I used to think scientific materialism was the apex of human evolution. I used to think nihilism was the tragic price of progress. I used to think the soul was just a metaphor, a primitive name for dopamine. Now I think thinking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

What matters to me and why?

What’s mattered most to me in my life is… wrestling with that very question: What matters?

And why? Why does wrestling with that question matter to me so much?

I can’t help it. I have to. That’s the thing about experiencing the ineffable. That’s the thing about the This.


Marty Kaplan holds the Norman Lear chair at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.  Reach him at martyk@jewishjournal.com.

The best of Jon Stewart’s Jewish jokes


With the announcement that Jon Stewart is leaving 'The Daily Show', we take a moment to pause and recall his finest moments as the de facto CEO of Jewish humor in America.  There is so much we will miss.  First, his sharp interviews (not with celebrities, with authors and politicians), as well as his ability to call TV media and politicians to task, to offer us all a unique and alternative view of the news even as it occurred.  But just as much, we will miss his wit, his snark, his generosity, curiosity, humanity, mugging, voices, New Jersey tough guy impression, and occasional giggle.  Stewart’s departure leaves a big Jewish-sized hole in late night entertainment —  it was always a pleasure when his Jewish jokes acted as a dog whistle to the two percent of America who really got them.  See the clip below for his “Best Of” Jewish Jokes.

Clip Bonus:  If you look carefully in one of the clips, you’ll see President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sharing a matzoh. Oh, happier days….

Stabbing tutorial being shared on Palestinian social media


Palestinian social media networks are showing a video on proper stabbing techniques.

The video began circulating on Saturday, the Israeli news website NRG reported.

Two masked men in black wearing black-and-white checkered keffiyehs present demonstrations on how to turn the knife after stabbing, as well as how to stab quickly and walk away.

At the end, in Arabic writing, the video says, “What are you waiting for? Rise up and stab.”

On Friday, two Israel Police officers were stabbed near the Lion’s Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City.

Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis: The First 80 Years [DOCUMENTARY]


Rabbi Harold Schulweis, regarded as the most influential synagogue leader of his generation, died at his home after a long struggle with heart disease. He was 89.

Read his full obituary here.

WATCH LIVE: Alan Gross gives statement on release


ZOA presses Nike on refusal to address video ad with anti-Semitic overtones


After initially raising concern on the issue this summer, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is continuing to press the Nike footwear and apparel giant to remedy its promotion of a pre-World Cup animated video whose content has what critics call anti-Semitic overtones.

ZOA initially wrote to Nike on July 2, and after receiving what it considered an unsatisfactory response, sent a Sept. 18 follow-up letter to Nike that has yet to be answered. While Nike has defended the advertisement (called “The Last Game”) based on arguments that it had no intention to offend Jews and that the ad is no longer appearing on television, ZOA is asking the company to publicly apologize for the video, remove it from the public domain, and take other steps that would fall in line with how Nike addressed a past episode that offended the Muslim community.

“The video—which sends the message to ‘Risk Everything’—features animated international soccer stars competing against evil clones who have taken over the sport,” ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Susan Tuchman, director of ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, wrote in their most recent letter to Nike. “These evil clones are wearing uniforms with a logo virtually identical to the Jewish Star of David. Star-of-David-like images are also depicted throughout the video, including a white rectangle with a Star-of-David likeness in the center, strongly resembling the Israeli flag (without the stripes). Whether intended or not, Nike is promoting a message that is deeply offensive to the Jewish community—that Jews and Israel are evil and that one should ‘risk everything’ to defeat them.”

Others who have objected to the Nike video include the Israeli Knesset, the World Zionist Organization, and general viewers.

In their July letter, the ZOA officials wrote to Nike Chairman Philip H. Knight and President & CEO Mark Parker that “some of the animated soccer stars in the video—i.e., the ‘good guys’—are wearing shirts with a ‘Fly Emirates’ logo and a ‘Qatar Airways’ logo, which must mean that these Arab airlines co-sponsored the video. It is no secret that the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have a deeply troubling history of anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel.”

“No one should wrongly interpret the Nike video as a sign that Nike is anti-Semitic,” the ZOA letter stated. “That would not be good for the Jewish people. That would not be good for Nike.”

Nike issued two responses to ZOA’s first letter. In the first, on July 15, it wrote to Klein that it would forward his comments “to our Advertising Department for their consideration.” Then on July 28, Pierre-Laurent Baudey—Nike’s vice president of global football brand marketing—wrote to Klein and Tuchman that the logo shown on the clones’ player uniforms is a soccer ball, and that its resemblance of any other image is “entirely coincidental and unintentional.” Baudey wrote that Nike “never intended any disrespect” and that it understands “the concerns of the Jewish community.” The ad is “no longer being run on TV or in cinemas,” stated Baudey, who did not describe any actions Nike plans to take regarding the video.

“We have raised your concerns with our creative teams and Nike will be more vigilant in our oversight of graphics and images used in our campaigns,” wrote Baudey. “In this instance we can confirm our designers were focused on producing a graphic that represented a football and that there was no ill intent.”

In response, Klein and Tuchman wrote Baudey in a Sept. 18 letter that they were “taken aback” by his “indifferent response” to their concerns about the ad’s anti-Semitic content. 

In both of their letters, ZOA officials proposed that Nike take the following steps to remedy the situation: issue a public apology to the Jewish community; remove the ad from the public domain; permanently cease using any image or symbol that resembles the Star of David or any other Jewish symbol; implement organizational changes in its design department to tighten scrutiny of logo designs; investigate how an image of the Star of David came to be used; and issue a public statement that delineates “all the remedial steps that have been and will be taken to remedy the harm that Nike has caused.”

In 1997, when the Muslim community objected to a logo on a line of Nike sneakers because the logo was perceived to resemble the word “Allah,” Nike publicly apologized to Muslims for any unintentional offense, agreed to recall all products carrying the design, introduced training for Nike designers in Islamic imagery, and agreed to investigate how the design came about.

Going even further, Nike agreed to build three playgrounds for Islamic communities in the U.S., at locations determined by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

ZOA said that while it isn’t asking for the construction of any playgrounds in Jewish communities, it expects Nike “to show the same concern about having offended the Jewish community, as it showed when the Muslim community was offended by Nike’s actions.” ZOA told Nike it would give the company 15 days to respond to the Sept. 18 letter, which to date has not been answered.

“We urge Nike to stop treating this matter without the sensitivity and concern it deserves,” Klein and Tuchman wrote. “Otherwise, we will be compelled to notify the public by articles, letters, and even advertisements, and to call on consumers to stop purchasing Nike products.”

Responding to Nike’s defense that the logo on the clones’ uniforms was intended as a soccer ball rather than a Jewish star, Klein told JNS.org, “If it’s readily recognized as a Jewish star, it’s a Jewish star. … Most people [who see the ad] will think it’s a Jewish star.”

“You would have never seen this [kind of offensive ad] a year or two ago in America,” he added.

Nike did not return a request for comment from JNS.org.

Who wants to become a Yiddish maven?


Teaching Torah with videos to appeal to younger students


Rabbi David Fohrman has a passion for teaching Torah to the Jewish people. He has taught at Johns Hopkins University, written a book about narratives in the book of Genesis, and was a lead writer and editor for ArtScroll’s Talmud translation project.

But after a while, he realized he wasn’t going to reach the younger generation if he didn’t meet them on their level, so he started creating videos on biblical topics.

Fohrman taught himself how to create animated, narrated videos, and in 2011 formed Aleph Beta Academy, through which he released the videos. The academy, which is sponsored by the Hoffberger Foundation for Torah Studies, today has 1,300 individual paid subscribers, along with more than 200 schools worldwide that watch his videos, learn through his lesson plans and teach his methodology of exploring the sacred text.

“I think the Jewish community has always embraced new efforts [and] new technology in its efforts to convey Torah to a new generation,” Fohrman said. “We did it with the printing press centuries ago. Commentators didn’t shy away from publishing books, insisting instead on sticking with quills and ink. … I suppose you could always cry foul, and suggest that ancient wisdom should not be dressed in new clothes. But I don’t buy into that notion.”

Aleph Beta’s video curriculum is used by schools in Los Angeles, New York, Israel and other Jewish communities around the globe. It’s composed of videos that teach about the holidays, the weekly parasha (Torah portion), the Ten Commandments, prayer, and other biblical themes and stories.

For example, a video lesson on Tisha b’Av uses the holiday and the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza to illustrate, among other things, the concept of “baseless hatred.” The video has multiple sections, with study points for each, and is accompanied by a 32-page teachers guide as well as student worksheets. 

The final part of the lesson is designed to promote students’ self-reflection on the topic, by advising teachers to ask students when and how they get mad and what they can do to control that anger.

At L.A.’s Yeshiva High Tech School, which was founded in 2012 as a blended-learning high school that individuates learning primarily through the use of technology, teacher Samantha Hauptman utilizes Aleph Beta for her ninth- and 10th-grade girls. She finds that it gives students a chance to dive into Torah study differently than they have before.

“A lot of times, kids have learned these biblical stories [but] they haven’t gone that deep,” Hauptman said. “This curriculum allows them to make connections they haven’t made in the past. It enriches their understanding of Humash [the Five Books of Moses]. … It opens up doors that have never been opened before.”

Hauptman said her students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the videos. “I probably learned as much as my students last year because of [the video lessons],” she said.

Ruthie Matanky, Judaic Studies teacher at Shalhevet School, has been following Forhman’s teachings for the past 3 1/2 years. Once she heard about Aleph Beta, she starting using it for her ninth-, 10th- and 12th-graders. She either watches the videos at home, and then formulates lesson plans and quizzes around them, or shows the weekly parasha videos in class. The lessons are “a really accessible way to learn really deep concepts. When I watch the videos, I can take notes at the same time. It’s a little faster than reading a book,” she said.

Compared to using textbooks, Matanky said the videos are “something that students can connect to a lot more. [They’re] for different types of learners, too. Some students are really great visual learners. … It’s another option that can widen the spectrum of how we learn and teach in the classroom.”

“The people, the Jewish People, are meant to have a romance with the book,” Fohrman said. “We’re not supposed to be able to stop thinking about it, like a lover doesn’t stop thinking of his or her beloved. We are supposed to have a passionate relationship to Torah. But all romances need to guard themselves from going stale. We are trying to bring new passion into the romance between the people and the book.” 

Hamas releases video of tunnel infiltration


On Monday, July 28, five IDF soldiers were killed at Kibbutz Nahal Oz by Hamas terrorists, who infiltrated a tunnel network and filmed the attack. This is the video. 

WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT

President Obama on Gaza: ‘Israel has a right to defend itself against rocket and tunnel attacks’


VIDEO: Hamas terrorists killed by IDF on Israel’s Zikim beach


Israeli soldiers killed four Palestinian gunmen who slipped into southern Israel by sea from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, the army said.

Hamas, the dominant force in Gaza, claimed responsibility for the infiltration at Zikim beach, which occurred as Israel bombed the Palestinian enclave with the stated purpose of quelling cross-border rocket fire.

Hamas said it was in telephone contact with the commander of the squad that stormed Zikim and that he was exchanging fire with the army.

Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said four gunmen were killed by combined fire from troops, the air force and the navy. Israeli forces were still searching the area. He did not say whether the gunmen had swum in or landed by boat.

Lerner said an Israeli soldier had been wounded in the incident, which he described as rare. The Israeli military keeps Gaza under tight naval cordon.

Watching footage from the Israel-Gaza battlefield [VIDEO]


Israel, as always, fights its battles on two fronts: The actual front, now in Gaza and in the skies over Israel, and the public relations battlefield. Today, that means social media, too.

As in past conflicts, the Israel Defense Forces is posting footage from its battles in and around Gaza on its YouTube channel and its Twitter feed.

Here are some of the latest videos:

Palestinians mass on the roof of a Gaza building to thwart an Israeli airstrike by acting as human shields:

Israel kills infiltrators along its coast:

Hamas targets are killed after entering Israel from the sea:

Katy Perry, bar mitzvah DJ?


Katy Perry has released a new promo video for her new single, “Birthday,” that features the singer as a mistress of disguise.

Among other birthday-related professionals — an aged dancer named Goldie (for her “golden nuggets”) and a Craigslist birthday clown — Perry dresses as “Yosef Shulem,” a bar mitzvah DJ who has a penchant for telling offensive rabbi jokes.

Pop culture mavens who caught wind of the ire Perry drew after dressing as a geisha at the American Music Awards might have expected the pop star to learn a little about cultural (in)appropriation. But there she is, wearing a kippah, a Jew-fro, and some hastily applied facial hair.

Maybe Perry is just riding the wave of other famous bar mitzvah videos.  But the kippah-slapping, gravel-voiced Yosef Shulem character is enough to give us pause — or maybe refrain from downloading her new single.

“Did you hear about the rabbi who gave out free circumcisions?” Perry-as-Shulem asks. “He worked for tips!”

Watch the video here:

Flash flood in Israel’s desert (VIDEO)


Is this what the Red Sea looked like when the waters came rushing back after the Israelites had crossed?

Watch this flash flood from Israel’s Negev Desert as an empty riverbed comes roaring back to life.

Watch: Shaquille O’Neal speaks Hebrew


So a rabbi and a former NBA star walk into a trade show…

Seriously though, Michigan rabbi (and JTA contributor) Jason Miller, actually did run into Shaquille O’Neal at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas last Tuesday.

Inspired by hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons‘ “Shabbat Shalom” closer at the end of an interview given at the show, and by an old TMZ video of Shaq wishing Jewish friends a “L’shana tova,” Miller decided to ask Shaq to recite some Hebrew phrases–on camera.

As Rabbi Miller noted on his blog, the basketball legend gladly obliged. Todah rabah Shaq!

The debate of the year: David Suissa vs. Peter Beinart


Jewish Journal President David Suissa debates political author Peter Beinart spar about Israel in the debate of the year.

Moderated by Sinai Temple's Rabbi David Wolpe.

ADL raps rapper Kanye West for ‘classic anti-Semitism’ [VIDEO]


The Anti-Defamation League rapped rapper Kanye West over his off-the-cuff remarks in a radio interview that Jews and “oil people” are more well-connected than black people in general and President Obama in particular.

“If the comments are true as reported, this is classic anti-Semitism,” the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement.  “There it goes again, the age-old canard that Jews are all-powerful and control the levers of power in government.  As a celebrity with a wide following, Kanye West should know better.  We hope that he will take responsibility for his words, understand why they are so offensive, and apologize to those he has offended.”

For the record, here’s what West said:

Man, let me tell you something about George Bush and oil money and Obama and no money. People want to say Obama can’t make these moves or he’s not executing. That’s because he ain’t got those connections. Black people don’t have the same level of connections as Jewish people. Black people don’t have the same connection as oil people.

“You know we don’t know nobody that got a nice house. You know we don’t know nobody with paper like that we can go to when we down. You know they can just put us back or put us in a corporation. You know we ain’t in situation. Can you guarantee that your daughter can get a job at this radio station? But if you own this radio station, you could guarantee that. That’s what I’m talking about.

Longtime West observers might suggest that these comments are just classic crazy Kanye rambling, a habit that occasionally has taken the rap impresario into some offensive places. Back in 2011, West drew criticism when he whined that his detractors looked at him as if he were Hitler. (The ADL seems to have steered clear of that Kanye kerfuffle.)

Still, West’s latest crazy comments provided an opportunity for some thoughtful punditry.

Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress agrees that West was engaging in stereotyping and takes issue with his premise. “The Presidency is as connected an office as exists anywhere in the world,” she writes.

But Rosenberg also suggests that there is a kernel of legitimate insight in West’s remarks. She suggests that West was giving voice to “a sense that there isn’t enough internal solidarity and self-help in African-American communities, in part because there aren’t enough black people in positions of power who can extend a hand up to the people who aspire to follow him.”

Nevertheless, Rosenberg concludes:

It’s one thing, though, to attempt to learn from the ways that other marginalized groups have built political and cultural power. And it’s another entirely to ascribe them with mystic powers of solidarity that paper over deep divisions and conflicts that do great harm to both members of the groups in question, and to people outside them. West may admire Jewish networking, but I doubt that he wants African-Americans to have the exact same experience of Jewish political organizations in the U.S., which haven’t exactly been conflict-free. Invoking some sort of monolithic Jewish authority isn’t just a bad idea because it’s a stereotype, and one that’s fueled hatred and suspicion of Jews for years. It’s a myth that obscures the difficulties of building political power and an enduring movement.

Tablet’s Adam Chandler, meanwhile, thinks West’s remarks were “ultimately harmless.” He writes:

But Kanye, who once declared himself “the Lyor Cohen of Dior Homme” (that’s Dior Homme, not Dior, homie) after the Israeli industry mogul, wasn’t just talking about Jewish power in music. He was talking about Jewish power in everything. Was it pernicious? Not entirely. Just last May we were talking about Vice-President Joe Biden’s oratorical contribution to Jewish Heritage Month, which raised some hackles because it was so laudatory of Jewish influence that it seemed to resemble the tropes of those who trade in conspiracies about Jewish power.

Discarding the fact that one does not become senator, POTUS, or editor of the Harvard Law Review without some contacts, this seems another inelegant but ultimately harmless utterance about Jews, which speaks to a popular perception that keeps some Chinese employers interested in hiring Jewish workers. For those who were fixating on the statement over Thanksgiving, I’ve got to ask, how you gonna be mad on vacation?

The Dr. David Applebaum z’l Symposium: Preparedness for Mass Casualty Events


The Symposium on Preparedness for Mass Casualty Events is in commemoration of the 10th Yahrzeit of Dr. David Applebaum, who was the Director of the Emergency Room at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Dr. Applebaum and his daughter Nava were victims of a terror attack on the eve of Nava's wedding.

[For more coverage of the event, click here]

The Western Region, Am. Cmte. Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem and Co-Chairmen, Dr. Eli Baron and Dr. Daniel Wohlgelernter are proud to sponsor such a timely and important Symposium featuring:

Moderator:

Peter Rosen MD — the 'Father' of Modern Emergency Medicine

Panelists:

William Begg, MD — Danbury Hospital, Connecticut (Sandy Hook Elementary School)

Joel Geiderman, MD — Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

Bruce D. Logan, MD — NYU Downtown Hospital (WTC — 9/11)

Ofer Merin, MD — Deputy Director-General, Head of Emergency Hospital Preparedness for Mass Casualty at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem and Senior member of two IDF medical relief missions in Haiti and Japan

Richard Wolfe, MD — Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston Marathon)

Special Guests:

Debra Applebaum

Israel Consul General David Siegel

Dr. Yitzhak Applebaum

Bob Dylan music video is latest coup for Israeli digital ad whiz Vania Heymann


The first official music video for Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” is making the rounds on the internet. And Dylan’s endorsement is only half the reason why.

The video, produced by media start-up Interlude, includes a novel interactive channel-tuning button, each channel mimicking a different cable channel or news program, featuring cameos by Drew Carey and a matzah-eating Danny Brown. The video was filmed under creative directorship of 27-year old Vania Heymann, an Israeli graduate of the Bezalel Arts school.

In just two years, Heymann’s video portfolio has grown from student film trailer about Yiddish-speaking hitman “Der Mentsh” to a digital shorts series on Eretz Nehederet (Israel’s Saturday Night Live), a Pepsi Max commercial and now a Bob Dylan music video — 48 years after the original release — with the artist’s blessing.

Seems as if Heymann isn’t pacing himself between achievements in digital advertising. As long as he doesn’t tire out, that could be a good development for digital media consumers and brands.

Watch: Mila Kunis, James Franco, and Zach Braff in ‘Tar’ trailer


And now for your viewing pleasure, the trailer for the indie film “Tar,” or as we like to call it, a film featuring a supremely high ratio of Jews.

There’s the sexy Mila Kunis, the highly roast-able James Franco, and the quintessential Kickstartering Jersey boy next door, Zach Braff. On the highbrow end of the spectrum, the film tells the story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C.K. Williams, author of “Jew on Bridge.”

“Tar,” which also stars Jessica Chastain and Bruce Campbell, was written and directed by 12 New York University film students and premiered last year at the Rome Film Festival.

Watch: Drake’s ‘Worst Behavior’ video


If you have 10 minutes to spare, check out Drake’s short film/video “Worst Behavior.”

It’s packed with shots of Memphis, f-bombs, and cameos from Drake’s dad Dennis Graham, Juicy J, Project Pat, and a very entertaining white guy dressed up like Drizzy’s OVO owl.

Jewish highlight: “I imported mine/Bar mitzvah money like my last name Mordecai/F***you bitch I’m Mordecai/My mom probably hear that and be mortified.”

Yeah, that’s definitely possible.

Watch: Mel Brooks talks to Conan about his Jewish roots


On the latest installment of “Serious Jibber-Jabber,” host Conan O’Brien welcomes Mel Brooks, whom he calls “one of the funniest men on earth.”

The web series, in which Conan “talks for a long time with interesting people,” is old school in that it is longer than 10 minutes, making it the perfect format for an old-school entertainer like Brooks, whose career spans over a number of decades and includes cultural treasures such as “Get Smart,” “Blazing Saddles,” “The Producers” and so much more.

The two sit down for over an hour and discuss everything from Richard Pryor to “Spaceballs” to growing up in Williamsburg, a neighborhood so Jewish “you take a wrong step and you step on a Jew,” Brooks joked.

Growing up in such an insulated community, Brooks was convinced comedy was a specifically Jewish medium, and that only Jews could be funny.  He also describes his heartbreak upon learning that so many renowned authors did not share his heritage.

“Between Beckett and Yates and James Joyce, these were old Irish writers,” he said. “The best f****** writers in the world not one was a Jew. I had a nervous breakdown. I cried for about a month. I was only restored by when they told me Modigliani was a Jew.”

And that’s all in just the first 10 minutes. Tune in for the rest — it’s worth it.

Video: Malala Yousafzai talks with Jon Stewart