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Every American Hanukkah special, movie and TV episode worth knowing about: Some of us think we can rattle off all the TV specials that feature the Festival of Lights in under a minute. A Rugrats Hanukkah? Check. That episode of Friends where Ross dresses up as a holiday armadillo? Check. But our culture reporter, PJ Grisar, has done God’s work in uncovering so much more. He came up with a rundown of the most significant cultural artifacts commemorating our little zealously armed resistance to Hellenic assimilation. Read the story ➤
Hallmark’s latest Hanukkah movie is weirdly good: Yes, Hanukkah on Rye sounds like it was manufactured at an overzealous marketing meeting, but our Irene Katz Connelly watched it and came back with two enthusiastic thumbs up. The story revolves around the scions of two competing Jewish delis who fall in love in much the same way Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did in Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail. “If you’re a rom-com fan,” Irene writes, “and always wondered why Ephron couldn’t squeeze more latkes into her characters’ lives, clear some space in your holiday calendar” for this film. Read her review ➤
We asked an artificial intelligence robot to write Hanukkah movies: We gave it ample suggestions – a romantic comedy featuring a time-traveling Maccabee who visits the future, a Hallmark movie set in 1940s Poland, you get the idea. Oh, and here’s one more: a Christian traveling salesman is coming to meet his Jewish wife’s parents one December and he finds himself in a snowstorm with only eight drops of gas left in his tank and a mysterious gas station attendant offering him help. See what the robot delivered ➤
It’s a miracle! More Hanukkah content…
A lack of electricity in Chernivtsi, Ukraine, means no heat, light, TV, and spotty internet service. (Getty)
In Ukraine, Hanukkah candles are a lifeline in the midst of power outages: Two Israeli nonprofits traveled to the warfront with a supply of needed items for a local Jewish community. The volunteers have blankets and sweatshirts for the cold, as well as menorahs and kippahs for religious purposes. The 300 boxes of Hanukkah candles will do double duty. Read the story ➤
We sent three intrepid reporters to the new Maccabee Bar in Manhattan. All in the name of investigative journalism, of course: PJ, Irene and Mira Fox sampled cocktails like the Whiskey Shamash (bourbon, fig, lemon, mint) and the Hot Bubbe, a “tzimmes toddy” made with raisin-infused scotch. Bargoers jostled for space with an inflatable dreidel and menorah. Hanukkah garlands and wrapping paper lined the walls and, according to eyewitness accounts, even the bathroom. “It was perhaps chillier than the Temple Mount where the miraculous oil once burned,” they wrote, “but we were warmed by the holiday spirit — the liquor helped too.” Read the story ➤
The Yeshiva University campus in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. (Getty)
NY appeals court agrees Yeshiva University must recognize LGBTQ club: The judges wrote that the Modern Orthodox school does not meet the definition of a religious corporation, and so is not exempt from a city law that prohibits against discrimination. The court added that “we find no violation of Yeshiva’s free exercise of religion” and that the school would have to recognize an LGBTQ student club. Next up? The university can appeal to a higher state court. Read the story ➤
Environmental group says Jewish institutions have $3 billion in fossil fuels — and a moral obligation to divest: A new report out Thursday analyzed tax filings and financial statements from dozens of large Jewish organizations and foundations, and estimated that about 3% of the community’s collective $100 billion in reserves is involved in the fossil fuel industry. “This is not intended to be a calling out moment, but a calling in,” said Dahlia Rockowitz of Dayenu, an environmental nonprofit that issued the report. “These numbers are to help people sort of metabolize what the impact is of the climate crisis and how their financials are tied up in that and how this represents an opportunity for action.” Read the story ➤
Meet the first Jew to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Argentina: Sunday will mark the one-year anniversary since Marc Stanley’s swearing-in and since that time he’s put a mezuzah on the door and hosted both a Passover Seder and an Iftar dinner during Ramadan. He opened up to us about a near-fatal accident he suffered in 2020 and that time he donated a kidney to an ailing Dallas rabbi in 2014. Read the story ➤
And one more: One half of the 1980s pop group Tears for Fears will be leading a Kabbalat Shabbat service tonight in Los Angeles, which you can stream online. Our former managing editor Dan Friedman, who wrote a book about the band, explains how it all came together.
WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
The entrance of the ice cream shop inside the Ben & Jerry’s factory in southern Israel. (Getty)
🍦 Unilever said on Thursday that its litigation with the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s has “been resolved.” The company had spent months embroiled in a legal battle over the ice cream brand’s decision to curtail sales in the occupied West Bank — and Unilever’s move to bypass that decision by selling the brand’s Hebrew and Arabic licenses to an Israeli company. The upshot? Cherry Garcia will stay on store shelves in West Bank settlements (JTA)
⛳ Former President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak today at a conference hosted by Torah Umesorah, an Orthodox educational group, at his National Doral golf club in Miami. This, despite ongoing controversy over his decision to dine with two prominent antisemites. (Politico)
🏫 The U.S. Department of Education opened an investigation into antisemitism and discrimination at the University of California-Berkeley’s law school, after complaints prompted by the decision this fall by pro-Palestinian students groups there not to invite pro-Israel speakers to campus. That decision led to outrage among pro-Israel groups and individuals, including an incendiary headline in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles suggesting Berkeley had established “Jew-free zones” that went viral. (JTA)
✡️ Speaking of antisemitism on university campuses … The Wall Street Journal has a major story about some Jewish students around the country who have begun shrouding their religious identity and political beliefs to avoid growing ostracism and harassment. “We have basically been shunned,” said a young woman who is active in Hillel at Rutgers. (WSJ)
👮 A man making antisemitic remarks assaulted a 63-year-old in Central Park, the New York City Police Department reported on Thursday. The victim “suffered lacerations and a chipped tooth,” the police said. (Twitter)
🛑 Eight Republican senators are demanding that the FBI stop its investigation into the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh during an Israeli Defense Forces operation in the occupied West Bank in May. The senators argue that the investigation is harming the United States’ relationship with Israel. (Haaretz)
🤔 Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is seeking to investigate the groups that he claims have assisted with “illegal border crossings” along the U.S.-Mexico border, raising religious liberty concerns among faith-based groups helping migrants with medical needs and shelter. (Religion News Service)
😲 A Holocaust memorial has gone missing. A statue commemorating the Kindertransport was removed from in front of a train station in Gdańsk, Poland, while the concourse was undergoing renovations. It was supposed to return two months later; it’s been gone for four years. (Jewish News)
Mazel tov ➤ To Jacob Kornbluh, our senior political correspondent, on becoming a first-time zayde. His daughter gave birth to a boy on Thursday. “Mom and baby are doing well,” he reported on Twitter.
Shiva calls ➤ Robert Toth, a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times who was arrested for writing about Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union, died at 93 … Alice Teirstein, a fixture of the New York dance scene for half a century who founded a free summer dance program open to all students, died at 93 … Bennett Millstone, former president of B’nai B’rith of West Virginia and state president of the West Virginia University Hillel House, died at 85.
In the new edition of our weekend magazine: With antisemitic incidents on the rise, putting Hanukkah decorations in windows and on front lawns may give some Jews pause this year. But several people who’ve faced attacks in the past told us that the vandalism had only steeled their resolve to celebrate more openly. “I refuse to go into hiding,” said one woman, “because that’s what these hateful people want.” Plus: stories about the Israeli towns where Hanukkah began, how Montana Jews are using the holiday as a teachable moment and much more. Download your copy ➤
Léon Blum, center, welcomed back by French socialist leaders on his return from Buchenwald in May, 1945. (Getty)
On this day in history (1946): Léon Blum began his third and final term as prime minister of France. Blum, a socialist Jew who got active in politics after the Dreyfus Affair, was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp when he spoke out in opposition to France’s Nazi-collaborating Vichy regime. After surviving the Holocaust, he helped inaugurate France’s Fourth Republic; today, an Israeli kibbutz called Kfar Blum bears his name.
Last year on this day, our colleagues at JTA reported on the death, at 98, of Henry Orenstein, inventor of the Transformers toys, poker star and Holocaust survivor.
In honor of Barbie and Barney Backlash Day … checks files … I got nothing.
In this classic edition of our Yiddish cooking show, we show you how to make the best homemade latkes, fried donuts and two Hanukkah cocktails. L’chaim!
Bonus: Four secrets for making great homemade latkes
Thanks to Samuel Breslow and Talya Zax for contributing to today’s newsletter.
You can reach the “Forwarding” team at [email protected].