‘SISTINE SECRETS’: The New York Jewish Week speaks with the Yeshiva University rabbi whose book on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel has the media buzzing, antisemites foaming and some scholars seething.
IMAM’S DEFENDER: A New Jersey imam facing possible deportation over alleged ties to Hamas has found a defender in an area rabbi, who vouches for his interfaith bridge-building. The New Jersey Jewish News has the story.
BEARISH ON BEIJING BOYCOTT: Brooklyn’s Jewish Press says that Jewish leaders who are calling for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics are “way off base” — singling out for scorn analogies that have been drawn between the upcoming Games and the 1936 Berlin Olympics. “Not only is it disappointing and somewhat insulting for Jews to so casually invoke Nazism, it reflects an amateurish effort to couple a one-dimensional expression of evil with one of the more complicated political phenomena of our time,” the paper’s editorialist writes. On the other side of the country, San Francisco’s J. calls the comparisons with the Berlin Games “all too apparent — and valid.” Nevertheless, J. is also skeptical of Jewish calls for a boycott. “[T]he idea of a boycott is simplistic, and a boycott limited to Jewish tourists is foolish,” J.’s editorialist explains. “China’s daily infusions of billions of dollars are propping up the U.S. economy, while cargo ships arrive hourly teeming with Chinese products. But if the Goldfarbs from Schenectady don’t show up for the Olympics? Yeah, that’ll show ‘em.”
ISRAEL’S LIKE MIKE: Writing in Brooklyn’s Jewish Press, Yoram Ettinger makes the case that Israel has been a boon to America’s national security. Among other things, he notes that Israeli upgrades to American military systems have added value, prompting other countries to purchase them. “Israel, one might say, has been for the U.S. what Michael Jordan has been for Nike,” he writes.
WHO IS A JEW (IN PRISON)?: A Missouri inmate’s white-supremacist ties don’t mean that he doesn’t have a right to kosher food. The inmate claimed that he had converted to Judaism and stopped affiliating with white-supremacist prison gangs. The inmate’s court papers argued that kosher food was a necessity, because without it he “”must choose between eating non-kosher food and death, every bite he takes is done at the peril of his very soul.” St. Louis Jewish Light reports on a federal judge’s ruling in the case.
NEWSOM IN ISRAEL: San Francisco’s high-profile mayor, Gavin Newsom, headed to Israel — and San Francisco’s J. tagged along. The mayor of the famously left-leaning city tells J. that some of the anti-Israel speech that occurs in the Bay Area is antisemitic.
STARS DON’T COME OUT AT NIGHT FOR ISRAEL: For Israel’s 60th birthday, Los Angeles Jews are hosting a big concert at Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre, home of the Oscars. But, the L.A. Jewish Journal finds, Tinseltown’s stars won’t be much in evidence. “”We did not get a great response,” Genie Benson, an event producer, tells the Journal. “I was very surprised. I thought more people would want to jump on board.” Concert organizers did, however, do okay among the older celebrity set: Larry King and Kirk Douglas are both expected to appear.
MORMON MISSIONARIES, MEET JEWS: Several L.A. rabbis are working to explain Judaism to Mormon missionaries — but the missionaries had best be careful how they use their newfound knowledge. “I want to be clear,” Rabbi Isaac Jeret told the students. “I’m not here to help you missionize. If you really want to build a bridge between the Mormon and the Jewish communities, understand who we are and how vital and important and precious the Jews are to the Jewish people.” The L.A. Jewish Journal reports on these inter-religious encounters.
KEVIN MACDONALD HAS SOME THEORIES: The L.A. Jewish Journal has a lengthy profile of the man it dubs “the professor the anti-Semites love” — California State University Long Beach psychology professor Kevin MacDonald.
SACKS ON FIRST: The Jewish Chronicle’s “JC Power 100” is to British Jewry what the Forward 50 is to American Jewry. Topping the J.C.’s second-annual list of “those who wield the greatest influence on British Jewry” is Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks, who topped last year’s list as well (I’m sensing a tradition in the making here). In contrast to the rules of the Forward 50, one doesn’t have to be Jewish to make the J.C.’s list — Prime Minister Gordon Brown clocks in at No. 29.
KOSHER CHICKEN CHALLENGE: Things got messy when the British version of “The Apprentice” — hosted by Jewish businessman Sir Alan Sugar — challenged contestants to procure a kosher chicken in the Moroccan city of Marrakech. London’s Jewish Chronicle has the play-by-play:
How do you kosher a chicken? According to Jewish Apprentice candidate Michael Sophocles, by taking a halal chicken from the Marrakech soukh and then having an extra blessing muttered over it by a Muslim butcher. This desperate failure to achieve one of the 10 must-have items on Sir Alan Sugar’s list in this week’s BBC One programme achieved a new low back in the boardroom. Sir Alan, with an unerring talent for homing in on disaster, snarled at Sophocles and his fellow chicken-collector, Jenny Celerier, with equal wrath. “I thought it said on your CV you were Jewish? Did you put that on just to impress me? If you’re Jewish, how can you not know what a kosher chicken is?” Sophocles wriggled. “I’m only half-Jewish, Sir Alan,” he muttered. Wrong answer. Meanwhile, there was some unlovely wriggling from Ms Celerier, who first told Sir Alan that she did not know what kosher meant — a statement he plainly did not believe — and then claimed that she thought that Sophocles knew all about kashrut. Even more of a wrong answer, and it got her fired, only moments after the other Jennifer had also been despatched to the great taxi-stand outdoors. Two firings in one week, and neither of them the Jewish candidate — unbelievable!
The BBC has more on the contest.
I MAKE MISTAKES: In last week’s column, I suggested that the decision by a Toronto synagogue to leave the United Synagogue Conservative Judaism was part of a larger exodus of Canadian congregations sparked in part by dissatisfaction with the movement’s increasingly liberal stances on the religious roles of women and gays. In fact, the synagogue’s leadership had said that concerns about resources and dues were what prompted the split, and that ideology was not a factor. Last month, I mistakenly reported that Rabbi David Gruber, who specializes in interfaith marriages, lives in San Francisco, Calif., when he actually lives in Frisco, Texas.