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Poland and Germany have long taken opposing approaches to Holocaust remembrance. Touring both with the second gentleman, the difference was stark.
Our opinion editor, Laura E. Adkins, landed in D.C. just before midnight after six days traveling with Doug Emhoff on a pilgrimage through Holocaust memorials and Jewish heritage sites aimed at combating antisemitism.
Living history: Reflecting on the whirlwind trip, Laura said she “witnessed two dramatically different ways” to remember the Shoah. “German authorities have worked to be painstakingly honest about how their society arrived at a point at which the Holocaust was possible,” she wrote in a new essay. “This was no accidental genocide” and “in Germany, the horrors of the past are an inescapable part of the present.”
Mourning history: But if in Germany “you feel as if you’re standing in the clearly defined and omnipresent shadow of those who came before you,” Laura said, “in Poland, you’re constantly chased by ghosts.” Everywhere, she added, there are “markers of the country’s dark past — well-preserved concentration camp sites, Holocaust museums, buildings bearing Hebrew writing yet lacking any Jews.”
Berlin’s New Synagogue, originally built in 1866 was partially destroyed by Allied bombing, and has not been fully rebuilt. (Laura E. Adkins)
Perpetual ruin: Germany’s approach is perhaps best exemplified in Berlin’s New Synagogue, which Emhoff visited on Tuesday. The once-opulent sanctuary is a shell of its former self, Laura said, reminding visitors of the devastation of the Holocaust: “There are supposed to be so, so many more of us,” she wrote. “Seeing the shul, once a seat of vibrant Jewish culture and life, now preserved in a perpetual state of violent incompleteness, made me want to weep.”
Read the essay ➤
ICYMI: Read Laura’s interview with the second gentleman, who talked about that time he didn’t speak up when colleagues were telling antisemitic jokes, see Emhoff’s response to last week’s massacre at a synagogue in Jerusalem, and view photos from the Poland leg of the trip.
What does the Torah have to say about the Alec Baldwin case? The actor was charged on Tuesday with involuntary manslaughter for shooting a gun he did not know was loaded and killing a cinematographer on a movie set. What does Jewish law say about unintentional killings? The Book of Exodus introduces the concept of “sanctuary cities” for perpetrators of such crimes, but those haven’t existed for thousands of years. Our Louis Keene consulted the Talmud for more relevant details. Read the story ➤
Opinion | I have loved ones in Neve Yaakov. The synagogue attack is a reminder that the road to peace is long: Laura Ben-David, a photographer based in Israel, spent last Shabbat wondering whether her friends and family in Neve Yaakov — where a terrorist killed seven on Friday — were OK. They were, but the synagogue attack still felt like an intimate violation. “Israel is a small place, and something about an attack like this — on people in a sacred space — always feels so personal,” she wrote. Read her essay ➤
94% of Jews in George Santos’ district want him to resign: The freshman Republican congressman from New Y0rk is under fire for lying about his professional and personal background – including that his family fled the Nazis. On Tuesday, Santos said he would temporarily recuse himself from his committee assignments. Read the story ➤
Black History Month: In 2009, Alysa Stanton became the first Black woman ordained as a rabbi. A convert who was raised in the Church of God in Christ, Stanton, who is Reform, has said she was “born Jewish — just not to a Jewish womb.” She’s part of our “Forward 125” list of American Jews who have shaped headlines and history since our founding in 1897.
But wait, there’s more…
- Rep. Max Miller, a Jewish Republican from Ohio, introduced a resolution on Tuesday to remove Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Miller cited Omar’s repeated criticism of Israel and her past comments that were perceived as antisemitic.
- Every student in France will be given the opportunity to visit historical or memorial sites linked to antisemitism or racism as part of a new plan to combat hatred.
- The leader of an advocacy group for Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews is worried that a major change to how the United States gathers demographic data does not address concerns of Jews who don’t fit neatly into most categories.
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WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
🇮🇱 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on CNN Tuesday that he is ready to “hear counter offers” to his contentious plan to radically overhaul Israel’s independent judiciary, while still defending the proposed legal shake-up. Meanwhile, more than 70 law professors at American universities – including former deans of Harvard and Yale law schools – signed onto a statement urging the Israeli government to rethink these very plans. (Times of Israel, Haaretz)
🤝 U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up a two-day trip to Israel and the occupied West Bank after a Tuesday meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Blinken said members of his team would stay on in the region to promote “practical steps” toward peace. (Haaretz)
✈️ Yoel Levy escaped a fringe Jewish sect accused of child abuse when he was 16. Five years later, he’s working with a team of lawyers and former Israeli intelligence officers to rescue his family, break up the group and bring its leaders to justice. (Los Angeles Times)
👩❤️👨 Hebrew College will begin admitting and ordaining rabbinical students in interfaith relationships, according to new admissions standards revealed on Tuesday. The decision makes the pluralistic seminary outside of Boston the second major rabbinical school in the U.S. to do away with rules barring their students from relationships with non-Jews. The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Seminary was the first, in 2015. (JTA)
🏫 An anti-Israel display at at a Missouri elementary school’s International Night sparked outrage. The display included a poster with a picture of a spray bottle labeled “ethnic cleansing” and another saying: “The only peace Israel wants is another piece of Palestine.” The school principal said the material was created by an adult, so no student would be punished. (St. Louis Jewish Light)
👮 A British teenager was sentenced to 11-and-a-half years in jail for creating racist content that inspired the neo-Nazi who live-streamed himself murdering 10 Black people in a Buffalo grocery store in 2022. (Vice)
⛪ A retired clergyman who once claimed Jews and Israel were behind 9/11 was banned from the Church of England through 2030. The president of the board of deputies of British Jews said he had “caused grievous offense to the Jewish community” and proclaimed it, “ the correct decision.” (JTA)
🏀 Meyers Leonard, the NBA player who was caught using an antisemitic slur on a video game platform, said he contemplated suicide in the aftermath of the incident in a new interview with Jewish ESPN reporter Jeremy Schaap. (JTA)
Mazel tov ➤ To Lily Ebert, a 99-year-old Holocaust survivor, who became on Tuesday a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (that’s three rungs below a knight or a dame) at a ceremony officiated by King Charles. “I was in hell, Auschwitz,” she said. “How special it is to be here today, with the king, in the palace.”
Shiva call ➤ Bob Born, known as the “Father of Peeps” for mechanizing the process to produce the popular Easter candy, died at 98. Read the secret Jewish history of Peeps ➤
Lincoln wrote the word ‘Approved’ and added his signature to the joint resolution on Feb. 1, 1865. (Wikimedia)
On this day in history (1865): President Abraham Lincoln signed the 13th Amendment, which outlawed slavery in the United States. In a 2015 article on the amendment’s 150th anniversary, Forward contributor Richard Kreiter remembered the Jewish abolitionists who helped pave the way. “Nobody can argue that the balance of the Jewish record on the question of American slavery and the Civil War is anything but regrettable,” he wrote, noting “the overwhelming complacency of the antebellum Jewish community, even in the North.” But there were Jews “who risked everything to fight the South’s ‘peculiar institution,’” he added. “Familiar with the story of Exodus, they knew it was not actually all that peculiar.”
Last year on this day, we were reporting on Whoopi Goldberg’s apology over her comments on The View that “the Holocaust isn’t about race.”
It’s the 21st anniversary of the death of Daniel Pearl, a Jewish journalist who was murdered in Pakistan. Pearl’s father, Judea, penned this poem in his memory.
In honor of National Texas Day, read about the kippah-wearing running back on the Texas A&M football team.
Today at 3 p.m. ET: Our editor-at-large, Robin Washington, will be on a panel hosted by the Jewish Federations of North America to kick off Black History Month. Register for the virtual event ➤
How’s this for a premise for a TV sitcom: An Orthodox 20-something from Brooklyn moves to Jerusalem to flee a fiance she barely knows. Questioning her decision and a life of repressed sexuality, she decides to sow her wild oats with swarthy Israeli men. Henry Winkler plays her black-hatted dad and Caroline Aaron from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel her mom. The series, Chanshi, screened at Sundance last week. It’s now airing in Israel and being shopped to U.S. networks and streamers. Watch the trailer ➤ and read more about the show ➤
Thanks to Laura E. Adkins, Beth Harpaz, Sarah Nachimson and Talya Zax for contributing to today’s newsletter. You can reach the “Forwarding” team at [email protected].