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Are Nike’s Soulless Soccer Robots Jewish?

Some see troubling signs in the company’s new World Cup video

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Screengrab from Nike's World Cup video, "The Last Game." (YouTube)

Celebrating the upcoming world cup, Nike released a five-minute animated video earlier this week. Entitled “The Last Game,” it’s a dystopian tale of a future dominated by cloned soccer robots who play so mechanically and flawlessly that they drain all the suspense and the pleasure out of the beautiful game, androids who have black hair and large noses and a symbol on their shirt that looks like a soccer ball or maybe, if you squint at it just right, a star of David.

That, at least, is the opinion of Yaakov Hagoel, the head of the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Countering Antisemitism. “We would love to work with you at Nike to understand what’s the real meaning behind these symbols and solve the problem,” Hagoel wrote in a letter to the athletics giant’s chairman and co-founder Phil Knight. “We in the Department for Countering Antisemitism take very seriously the complaints we have received, and we will act resolutely to verify the facts in full.” (more…)

Popular 1950s Actress Mona Freeman Dies at 87

Was named New York City’s first ‘Miss Subways’ in 1941, when she was 14

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Mona Freeman with 'Streets of Laredo' co-star William Holden in 1948.(Paramount Pictures)

Mona Freeman, first ‘Miss Subways’ and Longtime Actress, Dies at 87
Freeman, whose screen career lasted from 1940s-1970s, died in her Beverly Hills home

Mona Freeman, a regular both in Hollywood and on the New York subway lines, died May 23 at the age of 87, the New York Times reports. Freeman, who was born in Baltimore and moved as a child to Pelham, N.Y., began modeling at age 14. She was selected to be the inaugural ‘Miss Subways’ in 1941, a competition organized by the New York Subways Advertising Company and the John Robert Powers modeling agency, which ran through 1976. Placards with the Miss Subways’ photos and biographies were placed in thousands of cars on the IRT, IND and BMT lines. (more…)

Eric Cantor Loses Republican Primary

Virginia Republican is first majority leader to lose since 1899

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on February 5, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In a stunning upset, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary this evening in Virginia’s 7th congressional district to Tea Party challenger David Brat. Nearly every observer, from the Washington Post to Cantor’s own internal polling, indicated he would win by a comfortable margin. While Cantor had raised over $5 million for his campaign, his challenger Brat collected only $207,000. Astonishingly, it was not enough.

With the loss, Cantor became the first sitting majority leader to fail to be renominated since the office was created in 1899, and the Republican party likely lost its only Jewish member of Congress. (Cantor’s only recourse at present is to launch a long shot write-in campaign for the general election.) He is the highest ranking elected Jewish official in American history.

Cantor originally joined Congress in 2000, and rose to Majority Leader in 2011 when Republicans retook the House. His dramatic defeat has prompted shock in many quarters, including among his Jewish allies like Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition: (more…)

Jewish Teens Targeted With Tear Gas in Paris

Two boys wearing yarmulkes sprayed by a group of teens on Saturday night

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(FCG / Shutterstock.com)

Yesterday we reported on the disturbing incident in the Paris suburb of Romainville in which two Jewish teenagers and their grandfather were chased by a man with an ax on their way to synagogue last week for Shavuot. Over the weekend, in an equally bizarre attack, two Jewish teens were sprayed with tear gas on Saturday night in Sarcelles, a Paris suburb about 16 km from Romainville, JTA reports. As in the previous incident, the boys were wearing yarmulkes.

The attack was caught on tape by a security camera. The National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, an organization that monitors attacks on Jews throughout France, said the attack was carried out by a group of teenage boys who appeared to be North African. (more…)

The Anti-Semitic Hungarian Politician’s Bris

Former right-winger gets ‘really serious’ about his unexpected Jewish heritage

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Csanád Szegedi. (Wikipedia)

What happens when a member of Parliament representing Hungary’s notorious far-right Jobbik Party, known for its members’ fascist and anti-Semitic sentiments and statements, finds out he’s Jewish? For Csanád Szegedi, who discovered his maternal grandparents were Jewish in 2012 and was promptly dropped by his political party, it’s meant embracing his unexpected heritage, the AP reports—visiting Israel, adopting a kosher diet, speaking to Hungarian students at Auschwitz, taking on the Hebrew name David—and getting circumcised.

Last year, he sought out a young rabbi in the local Orthodox Jewish community. After a period of intense religious instruction, Szegedi was circumcised last June, a year to the day after he broke with Jobbik. Today he takes Jewish religion classes with his wife, who is also converting to Judaism.

“I am just as Hungarian as until now, but I have expanded my own identity with the Jewish identity,” Szegedi, 31, told The Associated Press. “I have two tasks ahead of me — to teach and to learn. I want to be a bridge.”

Szegedi, admittedly, had a lot of work to do to embrace his growing identity. (more…)

The Limits of Students’ Love for Israel

Study finds personal attachment comes at the cost of nuanced engagement

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(Shutterstock)

Although Israel has been at the heart of day-school curricula for decades, we have known little about how schools teach and students learn about Israel—at least until last month, when the AviChai Foundation released its study of Israel Education in Jewish day schools and high schools across America. The report explored the following questions: What do schools hope to impart to students about Israel? What do schools actually communicate to their students? and What do students take away from their educational experiences?

To answer these questions, the authors surveyed 95 day schools and high schools about their practices in Israel education. They surveyed some 350 teachers identified by their schools as involved in Israel education about what they do and how they perceive the efficacy of their work. Finally, the authors surveyed over 4,000 students at the schools to find out what aspects of Israel resonate the most and the least with them and how Israel fits into their larger world view. The researchers visited over a dozen of the participating schools and conducted observations and interviews in order to fill out the picture of Israel education that emerged from the surveys.

The report found that schools focus almost exclusively on helping students feel good about Israel. (more…)

License Plates Now Show Your Support for Israel

‘South Carolina Stands With Israel,’ reads new vanity plate option

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(Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock.com)

There are a lot of different ways to show your support for various causes. One way that has become improbably popular in the United States is through the messaging on the back of one’s car. With everything from cartoon decals depicting each member of one’s family (plus pets), bumper stickers expressing one’s political views, and vanity license plates displaying one’s ability to quirkily describe oneself in seven characters, our cars have become veritable roving advertisements of our ideals.

Now, South Carolina residents have an additional option when it comes to making a statement with their official state license plates: showing their support for Israel. The Jewish Press reports that the Palmetto State has approved a brand new vanity license plate template with a message signaling a driver’s support for the Jewish state. (more…)

Amar’e Stoudemire’s Shabbat Short Rib Recipe

The NBA star and Hapoel Jerusalem part-owner has a new cookbook out

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Amar'e Stoudemir of the New York Knicks during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns on March 28, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Who is 6-foot-11, worth an estimated $100 million, and loves cholent?

If you guessed New York Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, you’d be right. The 31-year-old NBA star, whose interest in his recently discovered Jewish roots has been well documented, published his first cookbook today. Co-written with his personal chef Maxcel Hardy, Cooking with Amar’e reflects Stoudemire’s self-described mostly kosher eating habits—the cookbook contains no pork, lobster, shrimp, or crab dishes, though there is a recipe pan-seared scallops. A handful of recipes call for both meat and dairy ingredients, though most could be adapted for kosher audiences. (more…)

World’s Oldest Man, Alexander Imich, Dies at 111

Imich, a Holocaust survivor born in Poland in 1903, lived in New York City

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Alexander Imich in May, 2014, at 111 years old. (Guinness Book of World Records)

One month after receiving the title, the world’s oldest man has died. Alexander Imich, the oldest male supercentarian—a person over 110—died yesterday on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at the age of 111, the New York Times reports.

In an interview with the Times in May, Imich attributed his longevity to his genes, not having any children, and a lifetime of exercise (plus chicken soup). Imich willed his body to Mount Sinai Medical Center for study. (more…)

Man With Ax Chases Jewish Teens in Paris

No injuries to boys, grandfather on their way to synagogue on Shavuot

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(Shutterstock)

Two French teenagers walking to synagogue with their grandfather last week to take part in the Shavuot tradition of staying up all night studying Hebrew texts were chased by an axe-wielding man and three accomplices, JTA reports. No one was injured in the incident, which took place in the French suburb of Romainville. The three were wearing yarmulkes, making this the latest in a series of assaults on visibly identifiable Jews across Paris.

The teens, aged 14 and 15, said they were walking to the Lilac Synagogue with their grandfather to attend Tikkun Leil Shavuot, a custom in which Jews study scripture all night. While crossing the town’s Market Square, the two boys and their grandfather, all wearing kippahs, said they were followed by a tall man in his 20s wearing a long beard. They described the man as having an athletic figure and an Arab appearance.

Producing a hatchet, the man began to chase the two boys, according to the BNVCA report, then whistled to three other men who joined the chase. The boys and their grandfather filed complaints with police, BNVCA President Sammy Ghozlan wrote.

The recent report that a whopping 75 percent of French Jews have considered emigrating is contextualized by recent incidents such as this one. (more…)

Klezmer Band Golem to Appear on ‘Louie’

The group will perform on tonight’s episode of comedian Louis C.K.’s show

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Golem. (Pascal Perich)

With a recurring role for David Lynch in the final episodes of last season’s Louie, it was hard to imagine how the show could top the cult-level star-studdedness it has come, among other things, to be known and loved for. But that’s partly why we adore Louie C.K., the genius behind the program—he’s able to corral the talent necessary to execute the compelling narrative twists that keep us addicted.

This season has maintained the high level of off-beat excellence, thanks in part to the likes of Charles Grodin, Ellen Burstyn and Eszter Balint. But C.K. doesn’t just doff his cap at members of Actors Equity, as viewers who are also Vox Tablet listeners will learn tonight, when the klezmer punk band Golem makes an appearance as itself. (more…)

Israel Approves 1,500 New Settlement Homes

In response to new Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government

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Palestinian houses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, backdropped by a view of Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the eastern sector of Jerusalem, on June 5, 2014. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel has approved the construction of nearly 1,500 new homes in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Associated Press reports. The move, Israeli officials say, is in response to the Palestinian unity government reached between Fatah and Hamas leadership, which was sworn in last week, and which has garnered widespread international support.

Netanyahu’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, said Thursday that tenders had been issued to build about 900 homes in the West Bank and about 560 more in east Jerusalem, territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war and which the Palestinians seek as parts of a future state.

In a statement, Ariel said the construction was a “fitting Zionist response to the formation of a Palestinian terror government.

Israel’s announced settlement construction has been condemned by political factions within Israel, and foreign allies like the United States, Britain, and France have expressed disappointment in the move. (more…)

Holocaust Survivor’s $40 Million Estate Lingers

Two years after Roman Blum’s death, a woman in Poland claims to be his heir

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(Shutterstock.com)

Holocaust survivor and real estate magnate Roman Blum left behind an enormous fortune when he died in 2012—and an even bigger mystery. Tho 97-year-old Staten Island real estate developer had amassed a $40 million estate, but had no will and no surviving relatives. An 18-month international search for heirs to Blum’s fortune, the largest unclaimed estate in New York history, was conducted without success, the New York Post reports.

That’s not for lack of trying. Gary Gotlin, the Staten Island public administrator who led the search, said he received more than 400 emails from people around the world making claims to Blum’s estate. Only two individuals, however, have officially submitted claims in Staten Island Surrogate’s Court since then. One will, submitted by Anthony J. Allegrino II in October 2013, is still being processed. A second will, submitted last week, offers a captivating story of epic love that managed to survive World War II and decades of separation. Whether it’s true, however, is up to the court to determine. (more…)

Rabbi Wolpe’s Picks: Considering Conversion

Pledges of Allegiance, by David Ellenson and Daniel Gordis

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(Shutterstock)

Rabbi David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and the author, most recently, of Why Faith Matters. In this Scroll series, Wolpe examines a work of Jewish scholarship, either contemporary or classic, which has relevance for modern Jewish life.

“When the proselyte emerges from a mikveh, he is an Israelite in all respects,” we are told in the Talmud. Yet the Talmud and later literature also record negative views of a proselyte. People who convert are at times considered a blessing, at other times a curse.

Some sources consider why one chooses to convert to be important and even decisive. At other times the simple decision to become Jewish seems to be enough. In a famous anecdote, Hillel appears prepared to convert a man (or begin the process?) while standing on one foot without questioning his motivation at all. When it comes to conversion, Talmudic sources differ and as a result so do the attitudes of rabbis throughout the centuries. (more…)

Israeli Curling Aims For The Big Leagues

American and Canadian curlers face off for a spot on Israel’s growing team

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The Israel Curling Federation's first national team training camp in Blaine, Minnesota. (Sharon Cohen)

“Hello, I’m Terry Braunstein. I’m a curler. And I’m Jewish.”

And so kicked off the Israel Curling Federation’s first national team training camp, held last weekend at the Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine, Minnesota. The event drew 20 Jewish curlers—15 men and 5 women—from the United States and Canada, all vying to represent Israel at the European Group C championships in October in the Netherlands.

Braunstein, widely regarded as the most accomplished Jewish curler of all time, is serving as an advisor to the ICF as it works to build winning men’s and women’s teams ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Braunstein’s accolades include being, at 18, the youngest skip to ever lead a team at the Canadian nationals, in 1958, and the only Jewish skip to ever go to the world championships, in 1965. (more…)

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