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Top of the morning to you on this final day of August. Pour a cup of coffee, add a dash of Sweet’N Low (its inventors were Jewish) and get your fill of today’s Jewish stories…
‘The Patient’ is one of the most Jewish shows on television: In the new Hulu series, Steve Carell stars as Dr. Alan Strauss, a Jewish therapist held captive in the basement of a patient who happens to be a serial killer. There’s a major narrative arc about Alan’s son’s Orthodox conversion, and the script is peppered with asual mentions of kashrut, kaddish and kibbud av v’em — honoring one’s parents — plus a soundtrack featuring Leonard Cohen and Debbie Friedman. And the series asks some very Jewish questions about fathers, sons and inherited trauma through Holocaust flashbacks. Read our review ➤
Opinion | An Orthodox Jew with 1.3 million followers is fueling an early-stage pogrom against trans youth: The Libs of TikTok account run by Chaya Raichik, a former real estate broker-turned social media provocateur, has been featured regularly on Fox News and boosted by Donald Trump Jr. She’s been accused of stoking a moral panic and of inciting hatred and harassment. Now, in a new column, Elad Nehorai draws parallels between her campaign and the antisemitic hate that underpinned massacres on Jews in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Pogroms are not singular events,” he argues. “Mass violence requires years of priming an audience to believe that a vulnerable minority is in fact an enormous danger to the majority.” Read his essay ➤
The Holocaust bus tour that was truly a trip to hell (snack bar included): Jerry Stahl, a bestselling author, felt like his life was collapsing – his career was stalling and his third marriage was in tatters. In search of clarity, he traveled to the Nazis’ most infamous concentration camps — and wrote a book about it. The travelogue is filled with dark humor and keen insight, following his journey with mostly Midwestern tourists as his personal demons collided with the ghostly ones of the Shoah. Robert Downey, Jr. has already optioned the book for a possible movie. Read the story ➤
The Jewish Museum’s new exhibit is barely Jewish. Does that matter? What exactly is Jewish art — does it have to deal with Torah, or the Holocaust, or shtetl life? Does it have to be by a Jewish artist? These are the questions that our correspondents, Mira Fox and Irene Katz Connelly, pondered when they toured “New York: 1962-1964,” the newest exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Manhattan. Covering the intersection of art and history, it traces the civil rights movement and the rise of Pop Art — but doesn’t focus on Jews’ roles. Read their take ➤
How the Wild West was won with the help of some little-known Jews: In a new documentary, filmmaker Amanda Kinsey tracks the long, strange journey of the Jews who settled, and sometimes mythologized, the West. Among them: “Bronco Billy,” who was an Arkansas Jew named Maxwell Aronson, and lawman Wyatt Earp, who eventually married a Jewish woman named Josephine Marcus, settled in L.A. and “took off his guns and put on a kippah” when attending Jewish functions. Read the story ➤
Update: Yeshiva University petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to block its LGBTQ student club. But the university’s well known graduate schools, Benjamin Cardozo School of Law and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, seem to be distancing themselves from the decision. Read the story ➤
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV (1931-2022)
President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at a White House ceremony in December, 1987. (Getty)
Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leader who ended the Cold War and won the Nobel Peace Prize, died at 91. Gorbachev was a hero in Israel, where he said he regretted the antisemitism that led to a mass exodus of Soviet Jews. “Three million Soviet Jews owe him their freedom,” said Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the former chief rabbi of Moscow.
His legacy: “Gorbachev surely merits praise as a leader who showed restraint and good intentions during times of crisis,” writes Benjamin Ivry in an appreciation posted this morning. “Yet the diminished population of Russian Jews along with Soviet-style governance made his glasnost and perestroika less effective than they might otherwise have been. The economist Ruslan Grinberg told a Russian media outlet that Gorbachev had given the people freedom, but they ‘don’t know what to do with it.’ Now that these freedoms have been rescinded by the latest autocracy, surviving remnants of Russian Jewry can scarcely feel confident about their future or that a new philosemitic ruler may appear anytime soon.” Read his essay ➤
Related: Natan Sharansky, the first political prisoner released by the Soviet leader, writes about Gorbachev’s complicated and unique role in world history. (Washington Post)
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WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
Google’s main campus in Mountain View, California. (Getty)
? A Jewish Google employee who helped lead a campaign to cancel the company’s contract with the Israeli government has quit, saying the company retaliated against her by forcing her to relocate to São Paulo. The employee, Ariel Koren, told the Forward in October that she helped form the anti-Zionist group at Google after the main Jewish employee group protested a donation to the Movement for Black Lives. (New York Times)
? Skeletal remains found in a well in England have been identified as Jewish victims of a medieval pogrom, according to scientists who conducted DNA analysis. The researchers also said their discovery offers new insights into when genetic diseases often found among Ashkenazi Jews first appeared. (The Guardian)
? A French antisemitism watchdog group said that a Muslim man killed his 34-year-old Jewish roommate, smashing his skull with an axe and burning his face. The group said the suspect confessed to the police and said he had killed the man both because he was Jewish and over a debt of 100 Euros. (Times of Israel)
? Novak Djokovic, the tennis star who was barred from participating at the U.S. Open this week because he’s not vaccinated, is set to headline a tournament in Tel Aviv in late September. (Jerusalem Post)
? In a new profile in The New Yorker, comedian Amy Schumer talked frankly about kids calling her Amy Jewmer and throwing pennies at her during her childhood on Long Island. She also said she suffered from trichotillomania, the irresistible urge to pull out her own hair, which left her with a bald spot that “a yarmulke would cover.” (New Yorker)
What we’re listening to ➤ The new episode of the “Appodlachia” podcast, featuring an interview with Rabbi Joe Blair of Temple Israel in Charleston, West Virginia, about the Jewish Appalachian experience. (The conversation begins at the 56-minute mark.)
Quotable ➤ “This is ours.” – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warning Russian troops to run for their lives as Ukraine began a counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory. Keep up with all of our Ukraine coverage ➤
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Alan Jay Lerner (inset) and the cast of ‘My Fair Lady’ on Broadway. (Wikimedia)
On this day in history (1918): Lyricist Alan Jay Lerner was born in New York City. While in college, Lerner lost sight in his left eye following a boxing accident, a disability that precluded him from serving in World War II. He instead spent the war years writing radio scripts — including “Your Hit Parade,” which aired for 24 years — before meeting the Austrian composer Frederick Loewe in 1942. The two became a formative force in American musical theater, producing hits like “Brigadoon” and “Gigi.” When their most famous show, “My Fair Lady,” premiered in 1956, Lerner described its opening night audience in a letter to Loewe as so large that it looked “like a Hadassah benefit.”
In honor of National South Carolina Day, check out 11 Jewish facts about the Palmetto State.
Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority
A 500,000-year-old elephant tusk was uncovered by archaeologists digging in the southern coastal plain of Israel in an intensive two-week excavation named “Operation Elephant.” The tusk is being transferred to the Israel Antiquities Authority Conservation Laboratory, and is eventually expected to be put on display for the public.
Play today’s Vertl puzzle, the Yiddish Wordle
Thanks to Mira Fox, PJ Grisar, Louis Keene, Adam Langer, Rina Shamilov and Talya Zax for contributing to today’s newsletter. You can reach the “Forwarding” team at [email protected].