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‘If anything, it’s deepened my faith in my faith’ says Tree of Life survivor
Today marks the four-year anniversary of the massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. I traveled to Squirrel Hill on Wednesday to visit with Barry Werber, who survived the attack, and others in the community as they recover and rebuild.
Personal PTSD: Werber watched as his friend Melvin Wax was gunned down in front of him on that fateful morning. “To this day, I can’t go into a room and sit with my back facing the door,” he told me, sitting at the head of his dining table, staring at his front door.
Pittsburgh strong: Squirrel Hill, home to Mr. Rogers, has walkable, tree-lined streets and synagogues of every denomination. “It’s like a mini-Jewish paradise,” said Dea Fern, who I met outside the kosher butcher. Down the block, a Chabad rabbi quoted the Lubavitcher Rebbe, who was famous for saying that “labels are for clothing, not for people.”
The Tree of Life synagogue, photographed on Wednesday. (Benyamin Cohen)
Communal PTSD: The 10.27 Healing Partnership hosts monthly meetings with survivors, organizes commemorative events and offers educational resources and post-traumatic support. Its director, Maggie Feinstein, said she does not expect her group to be around forever. “It’s ephemeral,” she said. “I have faith in that.”
Trial and error: The shooter’s trial is slated for the spring. Werber is on the witness list. “I’m hoping I can be there, but I’m not looking forward to it,” he said. “There’s no closure for us. It’s on and on and on.”
More Tree of Life coverage…
Israeli president visits D.C. days before Israeli election: “When President Joe Biden welcomed Israeli President Isaac Herzog to the Oval Office on Wednesday,” writes our political correspondent, Jacob Kornbluh, “former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was more than an ocean away — but his presence in Washington loomed.” Herzog, who took on the largely ceremonial role in July, will be tasked after Tuesday’s balloting with mediating the expected political deadlock by selecting which politician gets the first chance to try and form a coalition. Read the story ➤
The greatest Jewish Hollywood character you’ve never heard of: You hear the name Duke and you picture a mountain of a man in a weathered Stetson firing his Colt from a speedy horse. Well, this isn’t about him. It’s about another Duke — producer Maurice Duke, the king of B (or maybe C) movies. He managed the careers of Mickey Rooney, Zero Mostel and the dog Lassie. In 1961, he turned down an offer to manage an up-and-coming band. It was the Beatles. Read the story ➤
And one more: The New York Islanders hockey team named their press box for Stan Fischler, 90, the legendary hockey journalist, at Wednesday night’s game. Fischler is still writing about U.S. hockey, though he now lives in Israel.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek condemned Kanye West’s antisemitic comments as “awful,” but said the platform would not remove his music. Ek said that none of the rapper’s lyrics violate Spotify’s hateful conduct policy. Def Jam, the record label that owns the copyright to much of the music, could remove the songs if it wanted. (Reuters, Hollywood Reporter)
The Madame Tussauds museum in London has removed its wax figure of West from public view. Curators moved it to an archive room. This has led to “Mel Gibson” trending on Twitter this morning, with people asking why the wax figure of the actor and director, who himself was involved in antisemitic tirades over the years, is still on display. (Billboard, Twitter)
A day after Adidas severed ties with West, he showed up uninvited to Skechers headquarters in Southern California. Executives at the shoe brand escorted him off the campus. “Skechers is not considering and has no intention of working with West,” the company said in a statement Wednesday. “We condemn his recent divisive remarks and do not tolerate antisemitism or any other form of hate speech.” (CNN)
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WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
‘My job for the rest of my life is to open the doors for others who are in need,’ said Mandy Patinkin. (Getty)
🎙️ Mandy Patinkin is narrating a podcast about Jews in 1930s Germany. It’s called “Exile” and the first six episodes will drop next week. Patinkin is a spokesperson for the International Rescue Committee and has traveled to refugee camps, including in Uganda, Serbia and Jordan. “We were all refugees,” Patinkin told me when we spoke earlier this year. “And I thought: there but for the grace of God go I.” (Deadline)
🇷🇺 In an usual move, a chief rabbi of Russia has accused a senior defense official of antisemitic hate speech in connection with the war in Ukraine, and a spokesperson for the rabbi warned of the onset of “a new era in Russia’s relations with Jews.” (JTA)
🖼️ Nazis stole two paintings from a Jewish cabaret star. Now, his heirs are selling them. The pieces are collectively worth north of $2 million and will be sold at auction on Nov 17. Proceeds will go toward supporting underrepresented artists. (Smithsonian Magazine)
🚢 Israel and Lebanon signed the U.S.-mediated maritime border agreement this morning. It comes after more than a decade of U.S. diplomatic efforts, and several rounds of direct and indirect talks between Israel and Lebanon. (Haaretz)
🏈 The former high school football coach who the Supreme Court said has the right to pray on the field will be reinstated by next spring, according to court documents. The coach has spent the months since the court ruling on the conservative celebrity speaking circuit telling the story about “the prayer that got me fired.” (ABC News, Seattle Times)
Shiva call ➤ Halina Silber, a Holocaust survivor who was saved by Oskar Schindler, died at 93.
What else we’re reading, election edition ➤ Fifth time’s a charm? Your guide to the 39 parties vying for the Israeli vote next Tuesday … In Brazil’s presidential election, many Jews feel like they are choosing ‘between the cross and the sword’ … Faith groups weigh the impact of abortion on the midterms.
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On this day in history (2014): Taylor Swift released “1989,” her fifth studio album and first that she worked on with producer Jack Antonoff. He become one of Swift’s most frequent and productive collaborators — including on her new album, “Midnights.” And Antonoff’s romance with Lena Dunham inspired one of the “1989” bonus tracks: “You Are in Love,” which Vulture ranks as the 79th best song Swift has ever performed. (Rolling Stone has it at 101st.)
Last year on this day, we reported on the deaths of Mort Sahl, a legendary Jewish comedian, and Joyce Newmark, a rabbi who won on ‘Jeopardy!’.