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Congressional Hopeful Pushes Latino-Israel Ties

Democrat Ruben Gallego, an Iraq war veteran, eyes Arizona’s 7th District

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Ruben Gallego overlooks Israel's border with Syria (Courtesy)

In 2012, a poll commissioned by the Israel Project found that while American Latinos supported Israel by a 21 to 8 percent margin, a whopping 46 percent answered “don’t know” or that the United States should stay neutral on the Jewish state. Ruben Gallego, who is running for Congress in Arizona’s 7th District, is not one of those people. As someone raised in an immigrant family and who spent significant time in Mexico, Gallego finds much in common with the Israeli story. “It’s natural,” he told me, in large part because “the Latino experience is very similar to the immigrants who have made Israel.” An Iraq veteran and Harvard grad, the 34-year-old declared his candidacy on February 27, after longtime Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor announced his retirement.

Hailing from a Chicago Catholic family, Gallego was first introduced to Jewish life by his wife Kate, an Albuquerque native from a Reform home, who brought him to high holidays services at Harvard Hillel. It was an event “probably known best for Larry Summers, the president of Harvard, falling asleep during the services,” she recalled. “Nonetheless, it was a good start for Ruben.” (more…)

Kansas Shooting Suspect Is Former KKK Leader

Frazier Glenn Miller, a ‘raging anti-Semite,’ in custody for deadly JCC attack

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A police car is seen at the entrance of the Jewish Community Center after three were killed when a gunman opened fire on April 13, 2014 in Overland Park, Kansas. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The suspect in yesterday’s shooting at two Jewish institutions in Overland Park, Kansas, in which three people were killed, has been identified as Frazier Glenn Miller, who also goes by the name Frazier Glenn Cross, a 73-year-old “known white supremacist and former Ku Klux Klan leader who was once the subject of a nationwide manhunt.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Miller founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1980s, and was the former “grand dragon” of the group before forming another Klan group called the White Patriot Party. (more…)

FBI Burglars Break Their Silence in New Film

Activists behind 1971 break-in that exposed government surveillance tell all

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(Still image from 1971)

Earlier this year, we reported on the newly-uncovered story of eight antiwar activists who broke into a small FBI office outside of Philadelphia on March 8, 1971. Led by a soft-spoken Jewish physics professor at Haverford College named William Davidon, the conspirators stole hundreds of secret files that exposed the FBI’s illegal efforts to intimidate civil rights activists and Americans protesting the Vietnam War.

Now, in a new documentary called 1971, the members of the Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI—the name the activists gave themselves—are speaking out about their actions for the first time on film. (more…)

A Seder Plate for Every Personality

From hipster to eco-friendly to Palm Beach matriarch, we’ve got you covered

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Victor Seder Plate by Studio Vons. (The Jewish Museum)

Lena Dunham recently tweeted out to her 1.4 million Twitter followers the link to lifelong friend Isabel Halley’s stylish new ceramic seder plate ($424, The Jewish Museum), declaring it an item “NO ONE CAN PASSOVER.”

It’s true that Halley’s tasteful shimmering platter, with its pinched, gold-rimmed bowls, stands out from so many of its gaudy Passover cousins. But it’s not alone—there are now beautiful seder plates to suit every style and taste, from urban hipster to Palm Beach matriarch. (more…)

Kansas Jewish Center Shooting Suspect Appears to Yell ‘Heil Hitler’

Authorities investigating whether shootings were a hate crime

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Details are still sparse about the deadly shootings at two Jewish institutions this afternoon in Overland Park, Kansas. Authorities have confirmed that three people were killed after 73-year-old Frasier Glenn Cross Jr. opened fired in the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Kansas City, and then minutes later at the Village Shalom senior care facility. Cross Jr. was apprehended at a nearby elementary school.

At a press conference, the area police chief said that while it was reasonable to assume that the act was a hate crime, that determination was still being investigated. However, news cameras at the scene picked up the suspect ranting in the back of a police car and appearing to shout “Heil Hitler!” Watch the footage below: (more…)

Seder Held at Migrant Detention Center in Israel

Slideshow: Activists evoke Exodus narrative in story of African asylum seekers

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An African asylum seeker holding matzoh and an alternative Passover haggadah outside the Holot detention center. (Photo by the author)

Israeli activists and African asylum seekers living in Tel Aviv held an alternative Passover seder event Friday outside the Holot detention center in the Negev desert, where 1,800 African migrants are currently being held. Hundreds of African asylum seekers from the detention center attended the event, during which activists highlighted the connection between the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt and that of the asylum seekers, who fled Eritrea and Sudan through the Sinai desert to seek refuge in Israel.

The event was part of a campaign to close down the controversial detention center, which opened at the end of 2013. (more…)

Etgar Keret’s Advice For Writing (and Life)

The Israeli author gets real with Tavi Gevinson’s Rookie magazine

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Etgar Keret. (Moshe Shai)

Etgar Keret, the Israeli writer and Tablet contributor whose stories are small, marvelous gems that will delight and terrify you, shared some advice for writers with Rookie back in 2012 that’s actually helpful not just for writers (rare in those kinds of lists to begin with), but for everyone. It was a while ago, sure, but since Keret himself only shared it on Facebook this week, it’s worth revisiting. Keret’s Facebook page, I should mention, is full of entertaining bits, like the first short story he ever wrote (the pages of which his brother used as a pooper scooper). (more…)

No, Israel Isn’t About to Turn Into a Theocracy

A misleading New York Times op-ed distorts the entire Israeli political scene

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The Western Wall, Jerusalem. (Shutterstock)

Today, the New York Times published an op-ed that attempts to demonstrate that Israel is drifting towards an Orthodox Jewish theocracy. Unfortunately for the paper, the piece instead demonstrates its authors’ profound ignorance of both Israeli domestic politics and Orthodox Judaism. The entire argument of the op-ed, written by the otherwise excellent Iranian scholar Abbas Milani and University of Haifa’s Israel Waismel-Manor, hinges on one key point:

While the Orthodox Jewish parties are currently not part of the government, together with Mr. Bennett’s Jewish Home, a right-wing religious party, they hold about 25 percent of seats in the Knesset. The Orthodox parties aspire to transform Israel into a theocracy.

As will be apparent to anyone with a passing familiarity with Israeli politics or Orthodox Judaism, this claim is demonstrably false. (more…)

Rabbi Wolpe’s Picks: Radical Revisions

‘Subversive Sequels in the Bible,’ by Judy Klitsner

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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.

Much as it is unwise to judge a person after only one meeting, it’s best not to draw conclusions about a book after only having read it quickly. Even when it comes to Torah, students will at times draw unwarranted conclusions based on an isolated story. In the Torah, each story interweaves with and comments on the other. As the scholar Michael Fishbane has taught us, the entire Tanakh is full of elaborations on and appraisals of itself. (more…)

Passover Cocktails For Each of the Ten Plagues

Kosher for Passover concoctions to pair with pestilence, blood, and boils

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(Shutterstock)

There’s no reason the prohibition against consuming chametz means having to spend another Passover restricted to Manischewitz Concord, Golan Heights Cabernets, or the one-off slivovitz. A holiday that requires adults to down at least four cups of wine at the start ought to pack at least as much punch as St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, or Cinco de Mayo.

Any beverage produced from one of the five grains—barley, oats, rye, spelt, or wheat—is off the table for Passover. In practical terms, that means no beer, Bourbon, Scotch, Irish or rye whiskeys, most vodkas and gins, or any other drinks made with grain neutral sprits can be consumed during the 192 hours of Passover. Ashkenazi Jews add another layer of self-deprivation by foregoing legumes, corn, rice, and various spices.

The good news is there’s plenty of decent alcohol available for drinking over Passover. (more…)

What We Can’t Learn From the Passover Story

The incompatibility of Manichean moralizing and the modern Middle East

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(Shutterstock)

There are many distinctive colors which Jews encounter at the Passover seder. There is red for wine and blood, green for the plague of frogs, and black for that of darkness. But there are no shades of grey. Nuance is a scarce commodity in the Passover account. In fact, the story of the Exodus is the prototypical black-and-white moral narrative. There are the innocent and enslaved Israelites, and then there are the cruel and literally baby-killing Egyptians.

There are not two sides to this story. There is no “Egyptian narrative.” Though Jews do briefly note the tragedy of the loss of human life during the seder, pouring out drops of wine for each plague inflicted on their tormenters, this commemoration in no way excuses or sympathizes with the biblical Egyptians themselves. We are presented with an oppressed and an oppressor—a right and a wrong. (more…)

Swastikas Drawn on Odessa Holocaust Memorial

Ukraine’s far-right political party implicated, but its leaders condemn the act

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Chief Rabbi of Odessa Abraham Wolff and Right Sector representative erase Nazi symbols in Odessa. (Kapulkin Bolesla/forumdaily.com)

Earlier this week, a Holocaust memorial, the wall of a Jewish cemetery, and the fence of a synagogue in Odessa were defaced with swastikas, SS symbols, and the words “Death the Jews”—and with tags indicating the graffiti was the work of members of the far-right Pravyi Sektor, or Right Sector, party.

Some were quick to seize on the graffiti—on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Odessa’s liberation from the Nazis, in 1944—as further evidence of a dangerous anti-Semitic strain emerging alongside anti-Russian politics in Ukraine since the ouster in February of Viktor Yanokovych. “Undoubtedly, the pro-Jewish atmosphere currently is much more credible in Russia than in Ukraine,” Osias Wurman, an honorary consul for Israel based in Rio, told the Voice of Russia network. (more…)

Student Holocaust Poster Pulled After Complaint

Collage of swastikas and crossed out Israeli flags was a sixth grade assignment

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Photograph of the poster, which was removed from the school's hallway. (NJ.com)

A Jewish teacher at Lincoln School in Fairview, N.J. recently came across a strange sight in the hallway: a poster filled with swastikas, Israeli flags drawn on, and pictures of Jewish children with their faces crossed out.

The poster, it turns out, was part of a sixth-grade assignment for students after reading Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, a work of historical fiction commonly used to introduce young readers to the Holocaust. The collage, however, apparently lacked any sort of context about the assignment or explanation about what the students intended to convey. After the teacher complained, the superintendent ordered the poster be taken down, NJ.com reports. (more…)

Tablet Gives Moses Award to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

After Brandeis president disgracefully revokes her honorary degree

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Paris on February 10, 2008. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Brandeis University’s decision to withdraw an honorary degree from the activist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali is yet another shameful reminder of how limp the commitment of Jewish institutions to open discourse has grown, and how threatened we’ve all become by a public conversation that permits the expression of nuanced, complicated, even at times offensive ideas—meaning, any ideas at all worth their salt. (more…)

Soviet Jewry Activist Jacob Birnbaum Dies at 87

Mobilized student involvement in the campaign to free Soviet Jews

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Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry sign at a rally. (YouTube)

Yesterday, we lost a genuine Jewish hero. Jacob Birnbaum, who passed away at the age of 87, emerged during the 1960s when he founded an organization called the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, or SSSJ, as it was known. He was not a communal grandee, or a remote figure at the head of a polished organization that supported good work. He was a grass-roots activist who made a real difference.

The timing, in some way, couldn’t be more poignant. (more…)

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