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How a master forger used his talents to save Jews from the Nazis: Adolfo Kaminsky, who died Monday at age 97, had an uncanny ability to counterfeit wartime passports, ration cards and other essential items. It was a skill he first honed while working at a dairy in France, where he learned that lactic acid dissolves a certain type of blue ink. Expanding his initial mission of rescuing Jews, Kaminsky forged documents for freedom fighters and rebels from across Latin America, Africa, Portugal, Spain, Greece and to other places where oppressive dictatorships had inspired resistance movements. Read an appreciation ➤
Rumors of a Conservative movement change on intermarriage distress some rabbis: Despite rumors to the contrary, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, head of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly, said Tuesday that there is no “immediate plan” to change its policy barring members from officiating at marriages between Jews and non-Jews. But the group’s announcement of a series of “listening sessions” on the issue in December and January has some of its 1,700 members spooked. Blumenthal said the focus now is on providing guidance on how to integrate interfaith couples into Conservative communities, not officiating at weddings. Read the story ➤
A few of the tweets in the running for 2022’s Frum Tweet of the Year. (Collage by Louis Keene)
What’s the funniest Jewish tweet? This Orthodox comedy troupe aims to find out: The group designed a March Madness-style bracket, with users voting to select a champion. (The grand prize? Twelve months of bragging rights.) The most successful tweets tie religious shibboleths to secular online discourse or employ trending joke formats. One bracket qualifier, for example, connected the Biblical story of Jacob impersonating Esau to Elon Musk’s ban on fake accounts with his name. Read the story ➤
New questions about Santos’ honesty and finances anger Jewish donors: Eric Levine, a member of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s board of directors, is livid. Levine gave Santos a $500 contribution on the assumption he was Jewish. Now, he’s written an email to his colleagues saying what “Santos did is disgusting” and that “he deserves to be humiliated and held in contempt.” A Santos aide is also accused of impersonating Kevin McCarthy’s chief of staff to help raise campaign cash and, in a newly uncovered interview, Santos falsely claimed that billionaire Jeffrey Epstein was murdered in jail. Read the story ➤
A view of Modica, a town in Sicily with a history of chocolate-making. (iStock)
From the travel desk: Our resident food columnist, Rob Eshman, went in search of a once-thriving Jewish community on a small Sicilian hilltop. “We drove to Modica for chocolate and Jews,” he writes. “The chocolate we found, but the Jews, not a trace.” In Jewish Sicily, Rob said, “you’re chasing ghosts.” And: “They whispered through the food.” Sample two recipes he brought home ➤
Relevant from our archive: Ben Platt, the Tony-winning actor, will return to Broadway next month to lead the cast in a revival of Parade, a musical about the early-20th-century lynching of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman in Georgia. The Forward’s founding editor, Ab Cahan, maintained correspondence with Frank while he was in prison, and was devastated by his death. “Wild racism,” Cahan wrote the day after Frank’s lynching. “Fanatical, raging hatred of everything ‘other.’” Read his editorial here ➤
But wait, there’s more…
- The U.S. team took home 18 medals at the first Maccabi Winter Games in more than 85 years. And now they hope to host the next one in Sun Valley, Idaho.
- No traces of the polio virus were found in recent wastewater samples in the New York county where the disease left a Jewish man paralyzed in July. More than 14,000 people in the area have been vaccinated since the case made headlines.
- Thanks to a new online database of 1.7 million immigration records, people can trace their family’s migration to Israel dating back to 1919.
‘Everybody sees me as a success story,’ Steven Spielberg said. ‘But nobody really knows who we are until we’re courageous enough to tell everyone.’ He won two Golden Globes for The Fabelmans, based on his childhood. (Getty)
Our PJ Grisar spotted these Jewish highlights at last night’s Golden Globe awards…
- Steven Spielberg won his third Globe for directing The Fabelmans, a semi-autobiographical film about his own mid-century upbringing. Busting out some Yiddish, he said his late mother, Leah Adler, was “up there kvelling right now.” The Fabelmans also won for best drama, Spielberg’s fourth in that category. (Read our interview with the film’s screenwriter, Tony Kushner.)
- Host Jerrod Carmichael told Spielberg he thought the film was incredible. “I saw it with Kanye and it changed everything for him,” Carmichael cracked. Spielberg seemed amused, appearing to pray his film about a very Jewish family could sway a hardened antisemite.
- Composer Justin Hurwitz won his fourth Globe, for the score of Babylon, about the final days of the silent era of film. He thanked his parents, Gail Halabe Hurwitz and Ken Hurwitz, and the public schools he attended for offering music classes.
- On the red carpet, Henry Winkler attempted the viral dance from Wednesday, the hit Netflix series about the Addams family.
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Talia Avrahami, a trans woman, has been ousted from a Modern Orthodox shul where she was involved in hiring a rabbi who promised to handle sensitive topics with concern for all involved. (Courtesy)
♀️ A transgender woman who was asked to leave her teaching position at a Jewish day school in New York late last year after an uproar over her identity said she has also been ejected from a synagogue affiliated with Yeshiva University due to the ongoing controversy. (JTA)
😲 Nazi memorabilia and an album of 500 photos from inside concentration camps were sold for $116,820 at an Australian auction on Sunday. The Sydney Jewish Museum is urging the winning bidders to donate what it called “despicable items” to the museum for educational purposes. (Guardian)
🇵🇸 What does Israel’s new far-right government mean for Palestinians? Raja Shehadeh, a Palestinian lawyer who co-founded a human-rights organization, says “the chances are almost nil now” to “have relations, human being to human being.” (New Yorker)
🧑🦽 An estimated 76% of synagogues, churches, mosques and other religious congregations in the U.S. have wheelchair access to their buildings, a new study found, and 30% offer hearing assistive devices. “That’s not terrible,” said the director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research. But, he said, there are still plenty of people with disabilities who feel left out of worship services. (AP)
📚 Philip Roth’s hometown of Newark, New Jersey, is planning a weekend of events to honor him. It is set to include a reading of Roth’s dystopian bestseller The Plot Against America, a preview of a stage adaptation of Sabbath’s Theater and debates on censorship and other issues Roth, who died in 2018, often contended with. (AP)
📸 An exhibit opened Tuesday at the United Nations featuring artifacts from and about the 250,000 Jews who passed through displaced persons camps after the Holocaust. The display highlighting these vibrant communities includes newspapers published by residents and photographs of weddings, theatrical performances and sporting events. (NY Jewish Week)
Shiva call ➤ Rabbi Shimon Baadani, one of the founders of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Shas party, died at 94.
What else we’re reading ➤ Netanyahu’s far-right government could damage Israel’s credit rating … The nun and the monk who fell in love and married … In Turkey, a festival revives a jewel of the Sephardic world and aims to break stereotypes.
Victor Noir’s tomb has become a fertility symbol. (Flickr)
On this day in history (1970): Victor Noir, a French journalist, was assassinated. Born Yvan Salmon, the son of a Jewish cobbler who converted to Catholicism, he took his mother’s original surname as his pen name. He was shot dead during a quarrel with Prince Pierre Bonaparte, cousin of Emperor Napoleon III. After his body was moved to Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, his grave was marked by a life-sized bronze statue, depicting Noir as he had fallen in the street. A lifelike bulge sculpted into Noir’s trousers turned the statue into a pilgrimage site for women seeking fertility, a husband, or a better sex life. The statue’s lips and groin area are shiny from being touched and rubbed by visitors, a custom that endures to this day.
Also on his day (1927): Louis B. Mayer, head of the Hollywood studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, formally proposed the idea for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to a group of 36 movie insiders. Mayer got his start in Massachusetts, where he opened a movie theater in his early 20s. While Mayer remains known as one of the formative figures in Hollywood’s history, his legacy was marred by allegations of sexual harassment, including by Judy Garland.
In honor of National Arkansas Day, check out this story from our archives about the Jewish community of Bentonville, aka “the Walmart Jews.”
I finished watching Fleishman is in Trouble on Hulu and instantly started Googling who sang that Hebrew cover version of the pop hit “Fight Song.” Turns out it’s by a Jerusalem-born musician named Yuval Ben-Ami. The tune plays in the background of a pivotal scene in the Fleishman finale (don’t worry, no spoilers) in which a teenage girl decides not to have a bat mitzvah. “It’s a feminist rallying cry,” writes Lior Zaltzman in Kveller, “in a show that’s all about the way the lives and purpose and humanity of women get subsumed into the stories of men.”
Thanks to Rob Eshman, PJ Grisar, Chana Pollack and Talya Zax for contributing to today’s newsletter. You can reach the “Forwarding” team at [email protected].