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What Happened: October 19, 2021

Tablet’s afternoon news digest: Chicago cop showdown; Burning Jews in Brooklyn; Baseball playoffs

The Scroll
October 19, 2021


The Big Story

On Monday, the city of Chicago began placing police officers on unpaid leave for refusing to report their COVID-19 vaccination status in accordance with a new mandate. By Monday afternoon, fewer than 66% of officers had provided the required information through the city’s vaccination portal. After tense standoffs with a number of unions, most are now approaching full compliance. The police union is the notable holdout in a city with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the country. At a press conference Monday afternoon, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that a “very small number” of officers had been disciplined for refusing to comply with the vaccine requirement. Fraternal Order of Police President John Catanzara put the number at close to 60 officers. But the police union boss, who once publicly urged members to defy the city mandate, warned that the number could eventually get up to 3,000—roughly a quarter of the department. The union already has a hostile relationship with the mayor and an incentive to upsell the number of officers who could potentially defy the order. But two of the police officers placed on leave spoke to a local NBC news affiliate on Monday and stressed that they saw this as an issue of union representation rather than a public health matter. “We have a process that needs to go through our union, and this is not being met,” one officer told the news outlet. The other offices said that while they had been vaccinated, they felt the requirement to report that status through the city portal violated their union contract.

Read it here:

Today’s Back Pages: Jewish Baseball Picks, Just in Time for the Playoffs

The Rest

-The 39-year-old Brooklyn woman who was arrested Sunday for setting fire to Yeshivah of Flatbush—possibly the most storied Jewish primary school in the United States—was caught on video last month parading down a busy street with a megaphone while proclaiming her intention to burn Jews. Sharee Jones was charged with a hate crime, reckless endangerment, and arson charges for the incident at the Jewish school in which she poured gasoline on the gate and lit it three days before her arrest. No one was injured by the fire, and it was put out by a security guard. It’s unknown at this time whether Jones had any other recent run-ins with the police, but one brave New Yorker who goes by the Twitter handle @tweetster516 risked her own safety last month to take a video of Jones threatening Jews and tried to bring it to the attention of local news and the police—efforts that appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

Got this bitch on camera threatening Jewish people and threatening me for recording. She literally says “It’s killing Jew Monday. I will set a Jew on fire” @CBSNewYork @NBCNewYork @abcnews @NYPDnews

— Riss (@tweetster516) September 13, 2021

-The British birth rate in 2020 fell to its lowest level since record keeping began in 1938. The Office for National Statistics reported the birth rate for England and Wales in 2020 was 1.58. Officials say the numbers may be even lower for 2021.

-India’s minister of external affairs, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, visited Jerusalem Monday, where he met with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid as part of a five-day trip to Israel to expand economic and strategic ties between the two countries. Jaishankar called Israel “in many ways … perhaps our most trusted and innovative partner” and urged Israeli business, including from the defense sector, to invest in India and take advantage of its business-friendly policies. Next year will mark the 30-year anniversary of bilateral relations between Israel and India. The alliance, based on shared security and cultural concerns, was strengthened by the close relationship between Israel’s former leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India’s chief strategic rival is Pakistan, a country that does not recognize Israel. India has also become the primary opponent of Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Read it here:

-Doctors across the United States who have seen a spike in cases of young women reporting involuntary physical tics are speculating that it may be a “mass psychogenic illness” caused by exposure to videos on the social media platform Tik Tok showing people with Tourette’s syndrome. The phenomenon is detailed in a Wall Street Journal article that draws from a spate of recent medical journal publications on the subject and interviews doctors and affected teens. The social media linkage is only a theory, but circumstantial evidence points to a connection between symptoms and exposure. One doctor who studied 3,000 videos “found that 19 of the 28 most-followed Tourette influencers on TikTok reported developing new tics as a result of watching other creators’ videos,” the journal reports.
Read it here:

-New York City mayoral favorite Eric Adams vowed to maintain the Gifted and Talented programs in the city’s public schools in statements last week that he reaffirmed Monday. The current Mayor de Blasio has pledged to shut the programs down but Adams has promised to reform and expand them, while providing few details of what that would look like in practice. Adams also reiterated his support for a bill that would allow noncitizens to vote in local elections, contra de Blasio’s assertions that such a move would be illegal. In a radio appearance last Friday, Adams said that he would mandate COVID-19 vaccination for public school children in New York, a move that de Blasio later said that he would support. 

-In what looks like a pivotal moment for the cryptocurrency industry, the first Bitcoin futures exchange-traded fund (ETF) opened on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday. The ProShares ETF will trade under the BITO ticker. The first applications for a Bitcoin ETF were submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2013, but it has taken eight years for one to get approved. News of the opening drove the price of Bitcoin up by more than 2% on Monday, bringing it close to its all-time high of $64,800.

-The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riots appears to be moving toward a contempt vote on Donald Trump’s former aide Steve Bannon, who is refusing to testify in the probe. Trump has advised Bannon and other associates to refuse to provide any information by citing the legal protections of executive privilege.

-​​Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki rebuked the European Union Tuesday for overstepping its boundaries. The conflict began earlier this month when Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal (the country’s top court) ruled that parts of EU treaties are “incompatible” with the country’s constitution. Appearing before the European Parliament, Morawiecki declared, “EU competencies have clear boundaries.We must not remain silent when those boundaries are breached. So we are saying yes to European universalism, but we say no to European centralism.”

-Another scientist resigns over censorship.

I am resigning as Director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Sciences Center (BASC) @BerkeleyAtmo. To reduce the odds of being mischaracterized, I want to explain my decision here.

— David Romps (@romps) October 18, 2021

-A wizard has been burned at the stake in New Zealand. Metaphorically. Ian Brackenbury Channell, 88, spent two decades drawing a $10,000 annual salary to be the official wizard of Christchurch, New Zealand, but the city decided it could no longer employ a pagan mascot schooled in the dark arts after he made tasteless jokes.

The Back Pages

Tablet writer and Scroll correspondent Armin Rosen delivers a “postseason guide for the ethnocentric or just merely philo-Semitic baseball fan.”

The climax of the baseball season arrives with the same suddenness as that of the Jewish holidays with which it often coincides. “The League Championship Series? Already?” we exclaim with the same sense of earnest surprise and vague existential foreboding that greets the autumn onslaught of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The athletic and Hebraic calendars will launch another sneak attack in the spring, jointly reminding us of how relentlessly time passes when every team’s record is reset to a reassuring zero and zero on Opening Day and the matzah has aged to its perfect staleness. Come Pesach, there will be hope again for the slugging New York Yankees and the feisty Tampa Bay Rays, two of the biggest disappointments of this ongoing postseason. A clean slate and the distant scent of matzah ball soup might prove redemptive for the Los Angeles Dodgers, at least if the defending champs and their quarter-billion-dollar payroll fail to dig themselves out of the two-games-to-none hole they’re in against Atlanta.

The Dodgers, Red Sox, Braves, and Astros are all popular teams from massive markets with a recent record of success—even better, they’re four of the teams that are funnest to root against, thanks to Red Sox fans being obnoxious brutes and the Astros being cheaters and the Dodgers being the sport’s epitome of soulless glitziness and the Braves being the Braves, the disgusting, irredeemable Braves. This is the rare postseason in which nearly every baseball fan probably has strong and potentially conflicted feelings about every remaining team. 

But why deal with any of that when you can simply root for the most Jewish of the final four? Here’s Tablet’s handy postseason guide for the ethnocentric or just merely philo-Semitic baseball fan:

The National League Championship Series: Atlanta Braves lead the Los Angeles Dodgers 2-0 in a best of seven. Next game: This afternoon in L.A. at 5:08 EST

Atlanta: If there were a World Series of Jewish baseball, the Braves would have their ticket punched already. Slugger Joc Pederson, who left L.A. as a free agent after being a key member of the Dodgers’ World Series-winning 2020 roster and arrived in Atlanta as part of the Chicago Cubs’ fire sale this past trade deadline, clubbed a two-run shot in last night’s win, a 452-foot slingshot that counts as the longest homer of the postseason so far. Ace Max Fried is legitimately the closest thing Jewish baseball has seen to the next Sandy Koufax, a treacherous lefty who pitched six innings in a close victory in the series opener. That’s legit Jewish baseball excellence on both sides of the ball.

Los Angeles: The Dodgers have no Jewish players and in fact let their one Hammering Hebrew decamp to Chicago—that’s the aforementioned Joc Pederson, whose two-run homer was the margin of victory last night. But the former team from Brooklyn, which boasts Sandy Koufax and hugely underrated Jewish slugger Shawn Green among its famous alumni, has some powerful legacy pull with Jewish baseball fans. (Everyone knows Koufax sat out games on Yom Kippur, but Green deserves credit for doing it too.) Losing Pederson may turn out to have been a blunder by Jewish GM Andrew Friedman—maybe try a little tribal loyalty next time. Then again, this franchise is responsible for maybe the most infamous and in fact archetypal act of disloyalty in the entire history of modern American sports, so what do you expect, right?

Pick: Braves

The American League Championship Series: The Boston Red Sox lead the Houston Astros two games to one in a best of seven. Next game: Tonight in Boston at 8:08 EST

Astros: If the Braves have a legitimate All Star pitcher in Max Fried, the Astros have the position player equivalent in third baseman Alex Bregman, the best Jewish hitter in the game today—certainly the best Jewish third baseman since 1950s Cleveland Indians slugger Al Rosen. There’s also kind of double redemption story at play for these Astros, with memories of their trash-can pitch-stealing caper still fresh in everyone’s minds—a Crime Against Baseball that’s probably unforgivable if you’re a Yankees fan or whatever. But let’s say you’re not a Yankees fan and are charmed by the idea of baseball lifer Dusty Baker, inventor of the high-five, dispelling the Astros’ cloud of scandal and winning his first World Series as a manager? The 72-year-old Baker’s quest for a much-deserved first managerial ring after 23 seasons in the dugout is related to Judaism only in the loosest sense of our maybe having a primal sentimental attachment to just about any underappreciated underdog type, but it’s still a factor here.

Boston: Tom Brady’s Patriots wouldn’t have been the same team without owner Robert Kraft, who built the Hillel at my college and the football stadium in Jerusalem, and Brady’s late-career magic might have faded without gutsy Jewish wide receiver Julian Edelman by his side. But the Patriots play football, Edelman is retired, and Tom Brady lives in Tampa Bay. Meanwhile, the Red Sox have historically been about as Jewish as the Plough and Stars bar in Central Square, or John Updike. On the other hand, how does a team assembled by a general manager named Chaim Bloom whose most outstanding player in these playoffs is Kike Hernández not qualify as Jewish? By the way, the Fenway Park organist is a Jewish Brandeis graduate who’s played at every home game since 2003. Even David Ortiz wasn’t around for the entirety of the greatest two-decade run in franchise history—but Josh Kantor is still up there near the press box, improvising inter-inning medlies based on song requests he gets through Twitter as what once looked like a mediocre Red Sox team streaks toward a possible fifth World Series title this century.

Pick: Astros

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