JWeekly

  • El Al may delay SFO-Tel Aviv direct flights
    The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported this week that El Al, Israel’s national airline, might hold off on the launch of its nonstop route between Tel Aviv and San Francisco. El Al attributed the potential delay to winter flight scheduling and to matters related to switching to the new Boeing Dreamliner 787 planes. El Al already had started selling tickets for the three-flights-per-week route, which were scheduled to begin in November. United Airlines launched nonstop flights between SFO and Tel Aviv two years ago, to much fanfare. The route is popular with the thousands of Israelis based in the Bay Area and with tech companies that do business with Israel. The post El Al may delay SFO-Tel Aviv direct flights appeared first on J.. ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-23
  • Philip Roth, essential American Jewish author, dead at 85
    Philip Roth, whose notorious novels about the sex drives of American men gave way to some of the most probing examinations of the American Jewish condition in the 20th and 21st centuries, has died. He was 85. His death was confirmed to The New York Times by his friend, Judith Thurman. Early in his career, Roth drew outrage with sometimes stinging depictions of Jewish life, as well as his graphic portrayal in his breakout 1969 novel “Portnoy’s Complaint” of the protagonist’s sexual desires. Some worried that his work would endanger American Jews, providing fodder for anti-Semites. Roth, in his books, poked fun at the wrath he incurred from some in the Jewish community. One of his recurring protagonists, Nathan Zuckerman, is a novelist whose own writings have similarly upset many Jews. But after decades as one of America’s leading literary lights, the anger Roth once evoked was eclipsed by acclaim. Long after lesser novelists embraced semi-retirement, Roth published three magisterial novels that came to be known as the American Trilogy. In “American Pastoral” (1997), “I Married a Communist”(1998) and “The Human Stain” (2000), Roth traced the upheavals of the 1940s Red Scare, the turbulent 1960s and the debates over political correctness in the 1990s. His ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-23
  • ‘Zero anti-Semitism’ in Azerbaijan, says interfaith delegation in S.F.
    Azerbaijani Jewish leader Aleksandr Sharovskiy was at the airport in Brussels when he saw four charity containers — three asking for donations for hungry children, one featuring a panda seeking funds for endangered animals — and noticed that the container for the animals had the most cash. “If these jars were in Azerbaijan, nobody would give a penny for the panda, but most people would donate money for children,” Sharovskiy said as a way of describing the priorities of his countrymen. Sharovskiy was in San Francisco last week as part of an interfaith delegation of Azerbaijanis that included Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders. They came to promote their oil-rich nation as a paragon of multiculturalism and tolerance. The talk was titled “Multifaith Harmony Without Conflict: Religious Pluralism and Tolerance in a Majority Muslim Country.” A film shown before the panel discussion described Azerbaijan as “a country with zero anti-Semitism” and pointed out that Jews have been living there for more than two millennia. Nasimi Aghayev, the Azerbaijani consul general based in Los Angeles, said the group — whose visit was sponsored by the American Jewish Congress — was in the U.S. “to share stories of peaceful and harmonious coexistence,” adding ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-22
  • Why this Islamophobia confab in Berkeley was a lie-fest
    Hatem Bazian is a senior lecturer in the Near East Studies Department at UC Berkeley and founder of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project in UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender. Bazian is also the founder of the Students for Justice in Palestine and head of the American Muslims for Palestine, both which have been defined as fronts for Hamas. In November 2017, Bazian was caught on the Internet displaying anti-Semitic cartoons and accusations of organ theft by Jews. He proffered a non-apology apology by saying he could not be considered anti-Semitic because he willingly worked with some Jews opposed to a Jewish state. This is by way of introduction to the Islamophobia Conference Bazian held April 27-29 at UC Berkeley. It was his ninth annual gathering, with attendees convened to discuss the threat from Islamophobia in all forms. Attendance was sparse compared to previous years. Earlier conferences were held in the prestigious Boalt Hall law school auditorium, with more than 150 attendees and many presentations. This latest conference failed to muster more than 40 or 50 people on any given day. A proclamation praising this conference was read aloud in advance from Berkeley councilwoman Cheryl Davila on behalf ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-22
  • Moishe House goes Moroccan with matbucha and other favorites
    Ophir Haberer faced a formidable task. The avid home chef began his recent Moroccan cooking class by asking people if they had any food sensitivities. The short answer? Yes, they did. Plenty. Multiple dietary requirements are the new normal. The young Jewish adults at the Oakland Moishe House shared run-of-the-mill sensitivities, like gluten and dairy; some people were vegetarians. One person couldn’t eat tomatoes. Another said no to cilantro. Another couldn’t tolerate high levels of spice. Of course tomatoes, cilantro and heat are all integral to Moroccan cuisine, and couscous, a staple that is the country’s most ubiquitous grain, has gluten. But Haberer took the challenge in stride. His meal ended up entirely gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. And in a concession to those avoiding sugar, he used a bit of coconut sugar rather than the traditional processed variety (even though it’s unlikely coconut sugar has ever been used by a Moroccan chef). Haberer recently left his job as festival coordinator for Wilderness Torah. For anyone who has attended the organization’s Passover in the Desert or Sukkot on the Farm events in the past two years, it was Haberer holding down all the details. He is not a professional chef but ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-22
  • Honors, happenings, comings & goings — May 2018
    Honors Three Bay Area educators are the winners of this year’s Morris Weiss Awards for teachers who continue the advancement of Holocaust and genocide education. The awards are presented by S.F.-based Jewish Family and Children’s Services, and each winner will receive $1,000 for professional development and an additional grant of $1,500 to their schools. Kitty MilletJennifer BanaszekThe winners are professor Kitty Millet, who teaches Jewish studies at San Francisco State University; Jennifer Banaszek, who teaches English at Thurgood Marshall Academic High School in San Francisco; and Jenna Goodman, who teaches middle- and upper-school English at the French American International School in San Francisco. The awards given by the JFCS Holocaust Center honor the late Morris Weiss, a founder of the center, a Holocaust survivor who testified at Nazi war crimes trials, and a dedicated activist who fought discrimination and anti-Semitism. Emma SchnurAbra GreenspanCarol BoothThe 2018 Helen Diller Family Awards for Excellence in Jewish Education have been given to four Bay Area educators. The winners are Abra Greenspan of Congregation Etz Chayim (Palo Alto); Adam Eilath of Jewish Community High School of the Bay (San Francisco); Emma Schnur of Gan Avraham Preschool at Temple Beth Abraham (Oakland); and Carol Booth of ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-18
  • Our readers tell us why we’re wrong about Gaza *and* Patrick Little
    It’s wrong to call anti-Semite Feinstein’s ‘top challenger’ I don’t know if this was irresponsible or intentionally misleading, but it was ridiculous (even on April 30, more so now) to call Patrick Little Feinstein’s top challenger. He probably won’t even have the most Republican support, but even if he did, it’s clear Kevin de León is Feinstein’s top challenger for the U.S. Senate. In fact, when you just see the headline without the article, it is probably defamatory toward Mr. de León, who everybody except this publication (for unknown reasons) identifies as the “top challenger.” Noah Rosenthal,Oakland Israel: The power of an idea that exceeds the reality Thank you for your editorial “Seven decades on, Israel is still a work in progress — as it should be.” This underscores the great paradox of Israel at 70: the fact that it is not merely a reality, it is also an idea! Suggesting that the idea of Israel is even more impressive than its reality might seem counterintuitive. The reality of the modern State of Israel has been achieved against unfathomable odds, overcoming centuries of dispersal, hate and massacres directed at the Jewish people culminating in genocide; repeated all-out wars of attempted ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-18
  • Major new teen initiative launches in Bay Area
    In the early 1990s, Debra Sagan Massey was a young adult working as a youth director at Congregation Beth Am in Los Altos Hills, and Mike Friedman was one of her teen charges. Today, 25 years later, Massey and Friedman are all grown up, and working together again — fittingly, with teens. Massey is a senior consultant for teen education with S.F.-based Jewish LearningWorks, and as such is collaborating closely with Friedman, the director of a major new effort to engage teens in Jewish life in the Bay Area — the Jewish Teen Education and Engagement Initiative. Part of a national push that started a few years ago, the initiative in the Bay Area is a five-year, $7.6 million endeavor with myriad Jewish agencies and entities involved. A press release in March announcing its launch noted that the program’s goal is “to provide innovative, compelling and sustainable opportunities” that get more Jewish teens of all stripes “engaged in Jewish experiences during their high school years.” “My Jewish life was ignited when I was a teen. That set me on a life course of deepening my Jewish engagement,” said Danny Grossman, CEO of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, one of the ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-18
  • Could Israel’s army have acted differently on the Gaza border? Experts disagree.
    What should an army do when tens of thousands of protesters mass on its border? When that happened on Gaza’s border with Israel on Monday, Israeli soldiers opened fire on protesters who were storming the border fence, killing 60 and wounding more than a thousand. In the days since, debates have raged over larger ideas and issues like terrorism, occupation, withdrawal, blockade, civilians and militants. But in real time on Sunday, did the Israel Defense Forces conduct itself appropriately? Could it have defended its border with less bloodshed? Here are the cases for and against the IDF’s conduct — and an example of a similar situation where things ended a little differently. Defenders of Israel’s conduct say it minimized casualties. “The number of casualties was very, very small,” said Doron Almog, who led the IDF Southern Command from 2000 to 2003. Like other Israeli officials and veterans, he is defiant. What the world described as a protest, he said, was a crowd-sourced operation by Hamas, the militant group governing Gaza, to infiltrate Israeli territory and harm civilians. “What’s the last time you stood opposite 47,000 people?” he said. “Are you crazy enough to imagine what that is? What happened was a planned affair by Hamas. Hamas ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-18
  • Shining a light on mental health in the Jewish community
    Sylvia A. (not her real name) survived cancer 40 years ago. She knows what it feels like to have a disease people don’t want to talk about, one that used to be stigmatized and discussed in hushed tones. Many years later, when she began caring for a brother who had been diagnosed as bipolar, she learned about a different kind of stigma. “Words that come up when you have mental illness in your family are ‘crazy’ or ‘a little looney,’” says the longtime member of Sacramento’s Jewish community with frustration. “These are not words that educated people should use, but they do. “I want mental illness to be accepted like any other kind of illness,” she says. “Just because it’s the brain, that’s still part of the body. There is all of this suffering when there doesn’t have to be.” Julie Steinberg, also of Sacramento, believes stigma about mental illness comes from fear and, like others, invokes the C-word. “It’s like when we used to whisper cancer,” she says. “I’d like to find a different word for mental illness, like brain disorder.” Before her daughter Jordana was diagnosed with a mood disorder, she would have childhood tantrums that would last ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-18
  • This week, we enter the wilderness. Will we ever find our way out?
    Bamidbar Numbers 1:1–4:20 Hosea 2:1-22 To peruse any of the great many Jewish prayerbooks out there is to open a window onto our millennia-old tradition of pouring our hearts out before God. Many of our prayers are expressions of gratitude, whether for grand miracles or everyday moments. Others are petitionary; still others are calls of praise. And some prayers express delight, pure and simple, at the privilege we share of being alive for a brief time in this fragile, wondrous world. On the subject of petitionary prayer: It is no secret that part of the means of Jewish survival has always been to engage life as it is while also praying and working for what it can be. We never have stopped striving, and we never have stopped praying — for shelter, for wisdom, for peace. So at first glance it seems ironic that the setting for Bamidbar, this week’s Torah portion, is a place as far from the peace and serenity we long for as it could possibly be. In fact, it is a profoundly unsheltered, disconcerting place. It is embedded in the very first verse; Bamidbar — in the wilderness. There are pages upon pages of rabbinic commentary ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-18
  • Deaths for the week of May 18, 2018
    Obituaries are supported by a generous grant from Sinai Memorial Chapel. Drama scholar and historian Mel Gordon, 71, died on March 22 in Richmond. A world-class expert in acting theory, he taught at NYU and UC Berkeley and directed theatrical productions in Europe and the U.S. Obituaries in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Daily Californian and the Berkeleyan characterized Mel’s scholarly contributions as “multifaceted,” “wide-ranging,” “eclectic” and “unorthodox.” He published groundbreaking volumes on performance technique, Grand Guignol horror shows, the underworld cultures of Weimar Berlin and Nazi-occupied France, and Yiddish theater. Mel described himself as “an authentic Jew […] looking for something lost.” His book on the origins of Jewish humor traced back to the botkins, traditional performers at shtetl weddings. He composed opera librettos based on renowned Jewish-Russian actor Mikhoels and false messiah Shabetai Zvi. Locally, Mel wrote and directed plays about sexologist Hirschfeld and “clairvoyant” Hanussen, two provocative Jewish personalities in Weimar Berlin. Mel is survived by his brother Norman Gordon, nephew Maer Ben-Yisrael and his wife Joni, their children Elorah and Ada, nephew Mark Gordon, his wife Lauren, their daughters Vivian and Audrey, companion Bijou O’Keefe, former wife Sheila Gordon, and special friends Aimee ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-18
  • In SF, former PM Ehud Barak slams Israel’s rightward shift
    Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak worries about the Iranian nuclear threat. He worries about the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. But what worries him most about Israel’s long-term survival? The rightward direction of the current Israeli government. Speaking May 16 to a near sellout crowd at the JCC of San Francisco, Barak said the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies are “embarrassing,” and that they have “locked the door on the two-state solution, which is the only viable and sustainable one.” In town as part of a book tour in support of his newly published memoir “My Country, My Life,” Barak was scheduled to speak the next day at the Commonwealth Club. At the JCC, he said many things that would please progressive observers of Middle East politics, such as harshly criticizing Netanyahu’s support of Jewish settlements deep in the West Bank. Not progressive enough for some dozen or so anti-Zionist protesters in attendance, part of a larger group protesting outside. They noisily interrupted Barak three separate times, chanting slogans, such as “Palestine will be free,” and calling Barak — a former Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces — a war criminal.
    read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-17
  • Why some Israelis celebrate Shavuot with flowers in their hair
    Despite being buried under a mound of cheese in recent years, Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks, is not a holiday celebrating lactose tolerance. It is actually a harvest holiday commemorating bikkurim — the biblical custom of bringing offerings to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem comprising the Seven Species of the Land of Israel: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates. Shavuot is also the holiday of the giving of the Torah  to the Jewish people at Mt. Sinai; this tradition became central to Jews in the Diaspora who could not celebrate Shavuot as an agrarian holiday. With the renewal of Jewish settlement of the Land of Israel, as the Ministry of Tourism puts it, “the new farmers (mainly in the kibbutz and moshav cooperative farming communities) reinstated the agricultural aspect as the main focus of the holiday, and a rich and colorful tradition developed around ceremonies commemorating the bringing of bikkurim. From early on, the kibbutzim and moshavim instated secular ceremonies: parades of wagons (and later tractors and other agricultural machinery) bearing the fruits of the fields. That bounty also included the most precious crop: children dressed in festive spring attire, heads festooned with garlands of flowers. However, flower garlands are not unique to Shavuot, and head wreaths, ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-17
  • Sen. Feinstein blasts Nikki Haley for blocking UN Gaza inquiry
    Sen. Dianne Feinstein strongly criticized America’s United Nations ambassador Wednesday for blocking a U.N. Security Council proposal to investigate Israeli military shootings that left over 60 Palestinians dead on Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip. “I’m deeply disappointed,” said Feinstein referring to Ambassador Nikki Haley’s moves to prevent a U.N. inquiry into Israel’s firing on mostly unarmed protesters as they massed in the thousands along the border and sought to storm Israel’s security fence there. “Without question there should be an independent investigation when the lives of so many are lost.” The violence, which also left over 2,500 wounded, took place Monday, the same day that the United States dedicated its new embassy in Jerusalem. The protests at the fence have been held weekly for close to two months, but intensified on the day of the embassy opening, leading to condemnations worldwide of Israel and the United States. Most of the international community views recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as a violation of international law. Its status remains contested. Haley used the threat of the U.S. veto on the Security Council to block proposals for an inquiry and berated the council for even considering the issue. “I ask my ... read more
    Source: JWeeklyPublished on 2018-05-17