A view of the Harry and Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center in Milwaukee Wisconsin, which was one of several JCCs to receive more bomb threats on Sunday. Photo from Facebook.

At least 7 JCCs receive bomb threats on Purim

At least seven Jewish community centers in the United States and Canada received bomb threats while they were hosting Purim events.

The threats, either called in or emailed, were reported Sunday at JCCs in Rochester, New York; Chicago; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Cleveland; Houston, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

Most of the JCCs were evacuated and searched. None of the threats turned out to be credible.

For some of the centers it was their second threat in the past week.

The threats are part of a wave that has hit JCCs, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions since the start of 2017. More than 150 threats have been received since the beginning of the year, according to the Secure Community Network, which coordinates security across Jewish organizations in North America.

On Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the second such threat against the Rochester JCC in less than a week “a despicable and cowardly act” of anti-Semitism. Cuomo ordered the New York State Police to launch a more intense investigation into the threats, and to work with federal and local law enforcement on the investigation.

“Like all New Yorkers, I am profoundly disturbed and disgusted by the continued threats against the Jewish community in New York,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As New Yorkers, we will not be intimidated and we will not stand by silently as some seek to sow hate and division. New York is one family, and an attack on one is an attack on all.”

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he plans to provide additional law enforcement intelligence and staffing to the JCC in Milwaukee so it “continues to be a safe place” after it was evacuated Sunday for the fourth time in six weeks.

Meanwhile, a rally was held Sunday outside the Rady Jewish Community Centre in Winnipeg, Canada, which was evacuated due to a bomb threat on Thursday, “to send a signal of unity against fear and terrorism.”

Monty Hall’s best deal

For over 30 years, starting in the early 1960s, Monty Hall hosted “Let’s Make a Deal,” one of the most popular game shows in television history. He was not only the show’s impresario, he created and produced it, and today, at 91, he is still involved with its creative evolution.

But while Hall has fond memories of the thousands of “deals” he made on his show, when I met him for lunch the other day at the Hillcrest Country Club, he had other deals in mind.

In particular, he told me about a deal he made more than 75 years ago with a Jewish man named Max Freed.

Hall had dropped out of college after his first year because he couldn’t afford to continue. He was living with his family in Winnipeg, a city of long winters in western Canada that attracted many Jews from Ukraine. The Hall clan spent many years struggling financially and living in close quarters. 

Max Freed, on the other hand, was anything but struggling. He was a 29-year-old playboy with a thriving clothing company who wore fancy suits and had a reputation around town for living the good life. 

One fateful day, Freed bumped into Hall’s father, a kosher butcher, and asked him: “Was that your boy I saw yesterday washing the floors of a warehouse?” The father responded that yes, that was his son.

“Well,” Freed said, “tell him to come by my office tomorrow.”

When Hall showed up the next day, Freed made him an offer. If Hall returned to college, Freed would pay for all his schooling expenses, but with three conditions.

One, Hall’s grades had to be B-plus or higher. Two, Freed wanted a monthly report on his progress. And three, Hall had to promise that one day he’d do the same for another kid. (Freed also asked him to keep the deal confidential, a request Hall gladly ignored nearly 75 years later at our lunch.)

Hall, with the support of his family, jumped at the deal, so Freed asked him to get back to him with a budget.

As Freed reviewed the budget, which included tuition and living expenses, he noticed that Hall had put in only 25 cents for lunch. “Don’t you want a drink with your lunch?” he asked. “Go ahead and add 5 cents for a Coke, and throw in something for haircuts, too.”

Once they agreed on the budget, Hall promptly resumed his studies at the University of Manitoba.

For the next three years, Hall thrived. He was the first Jewish student to become president of the student body, a prestigious position. He had excellent grades and reported regularly to Freed, who kept a close eye on his progress. 

Hall’s accomplishments, however, were not enough to get him into medical school, so after graduation he moved to Toronto and began a career in radio broadcasting.

Hall had a restless personality and was always on the lookout for new opportunities. He moved to the United States and began working in television, creating and producing shows. His big break came when he sold “Let’s Make a Deal” to a major network. 

In the charity world today, Hall is known
as the man who doesn’t say no

As Hall became one of the best-known names in television, Max Freed was becoming very proud of his “investment.” The two always kept in touch, becoming so close that Freed’s son once said to Hall: “I think he loves you more than he loves me!”

But it wasn’t just Hall’s fame and success that made Freed proud — it was also his charitable work. Hall went way beyond his original promise to help another kid get an education. In fact, he became one of America’s most celebrated fundraisers, helping charities of all stripes raise more than $1 billion.

In the charity world today, Hall is known as the man who doesn’t say no. 

A few years ago, Hall heard from a doctor that Freed, by then 99, was nearing the end. He took the first flight to Winnipeg to be near him.

When Hall got to his bedside, he moved his face “nose to nose” with Freed, who was now “mostly blind and mostly deaf.” They talked and reminisced for about 20 minutes.

Finally, putting his mouth close to his friend’s ear, Hall said to the man who had picked him up 75 years earlier while he was washing floors in Winnipeg: “Max, you gave me a life.”

Max Freed, the former playboy who invested in that little Jewish boy he hardly knew, replied, in a barely audible voice: “No, Monty, you gave me a life.”

David Suissa is president of TRIBE Media Corp./Jewish Journal and can be reached at davids@jewishjournal.com.

Winnipeg to host first Conservative gay ceremony in Canada

A Winnipeg synagogue is about to become the first Conservative shul in Canada to host a same-sex wedding ceremony.

Shaarey Zedek Synagogue will be the scene on Jan. 21 for the “renewal” of marriage vows between two men wedded in a civil service in Vancouver in 2004, the Winnipeg Jewis Post and News reported.

Canada did not legalize same-sex marriage until 2005.

The service will be held under a chuppah and conducted by Rabbi Larry Pinsker.

The ceremony is the culmination of a three-year process intended to welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered (GLBT) people into the congregation.

The first stage, said Ian Staniloff, the synagogue’s executive director, was to allow same-sex couples to buy joint burial plots in 2009. The second was to welcome them as members.

While the Conservative movement’s Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, in Dec. 2006, approved extending blessings to same-sex unions in commitment ceremonies, Staniloff noted that same-sex couples in the congregation were not satisfied with that. They want their unions to be sanctified.

“The Shaarey Zedek has been talking the talk,” one of the men, 67-year-old Arthur Blankstein, told the paper. “Now it is time for the congregation to walk the walk.”

Boy allegedly set Jewish girl’s hair on fire after making slurs

A Canadian teenager was arrested for allegedly setting a Jewish classmate’s hair on fire after making anti-Semitic remarks.

Winnipeg police have charged the 15-year-old boy with assault with a weapon following an investigation of the Nov. 18 incident in the hallway of a local high school. Police say he confronted a 14-year-old girl and made the slurs before pulling out a cigarette lighter and singing her hair.

The girl did not suffer any serious physical injuries.

Police weren’t notified of the incident until Nov. 25 and arrested the boy on Dec. 4, CBC News reported.

Staff at the high school told the Winnipeg Free Press that the boy was suspended immediately, and he was later withdrawn from the school by his legal guardian.

Police said a possible hate crimes charge must be approved by Manitoba justice officials.

Investigators said the boy’s Facebook page contained posts of an “anti-Semitic” and “Nazi” nature. A school official said the teens had exchanges on social media prior to the incident.

Shelley Faintuch of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg called the incident “a shocking act of violence that must not be tolerated. The allegation that the attack may have been motivated by ant-Semitism makes it of special concern to the Jewish community, but in actual fact, an attack like this affects all communities.”

Alan Yusim of B’nai Brith Canada said the incident “tears at the fabric of the community. I think there should be zero tolerance for any hate-motivated activity in our schools.”