NewsBits: Mishna In Mississippi Court, Ben-Hur de-Judaized, a Prayer for a Gold Medal, and More

This week marks 25 years since the riots between Hasidic (Lubavitch) Jews and black residents in Crown Heights in Brooklyn – an event that former NYC Mayor Ed Koch called a pogrom. Community leaders will hold a street fair and party titled OneCrownHeights, this weekend. Like anything, it has its supporters and enemies.

Speaking of Crown Heights, The NY Jewish Week’s Amy Sara Clark takes a look at Crown Heights, 25 years later, and portrays it as a place where there are more types of Jews (not just Chabad, which is now ONLY 90% of the Jewish population), more choices for prayer (including an LGBT Grindr service, and Mishkan Minyan), and more young hipsters. All in all though, the entire neighborhood is 70% African-American and Caribbean-American.

Speaking of Brooklyn, two Jewish men in Williamsburg, Brooklyn were sentenced to 4 weeks (150 hours) of community service for the December 2013 beating and blinding of a gay black man who dared to walk through the heavily Satmar Jewish enclave. Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Danny Chun sentenced Pinchas Braver and Abraham Winkler, but the lawyer for one of the Jewish attackers asked that his community service be for a Jewish group, so he did not have to interact with a “culturally diverse” group. The judge also gave the men an extension on the $1,400 in restitution that they owe the man the blinded. Taj Patterson of Fort Greene, the victim of the Jewish attackers is suing the City of New York for misconduct in pursing his case and the attackers, especially in light of recent police resignations for accepting bribes from Satmar-neighborhood leaders for special consideration with legal issues.

My question is… why would Chai Lifeline, a charity for children with severe medical issues, want two men convicted of beating and blinding a man to volunteer with them?

Speaking of judges, U.S. District Judge Carlton W. Reeves (5th Circuit, Jackson, Mississippi) quoted the Jewish mishna in his decision to block a Mississippi law that would allow private citizens and some public officials from professing a “sincere religious belief” to deny services to gays and lesbians. Judge Reeves declared, “the Equal Protection Clause is violates House Bill 1523’s authorization of arbitrary discrimination.” Previously, Reeves struck down the law allowing circuit clerks from denying marriage licenses to same-sex based on the clerks “religious belief.” A hilarious exchange between a rabbi (witness) and the “court” how to spell mishna is HERE.

Speaking of bias, The Jewish Journal in Los Angeles asks whether Israel is exporting a bias toward Orthodoxy by funding Chabad and Aish HaTorah affiliates for its campus outreach efforts. Also in the Jewish Journal, IKAR’s Rabbi Sharon Brous, who stands with feet in both the Jewish World and in the world of human rights and Black Lives, confronts the issue of the Black Lives Matter’s anti-Israel platform and says she is doubling down rather than walking away from supporting these movements

With all the press looking for stories in Rio and Brazil, the Guardian ventures to the Amazon River area in Peru to find a story about the swindling Jewish community in Amazon towns. @RyanSchuessler1 reports on a modern exodus from Iquitos to Israel has seen the Jewish population fall by 80%. “The community may die,” said Jorge Abramovitz, the owner of the shop that houses the city’s only synagogue. “Because the majority left Iquitos. And they are not returning.”

In Arutz Sheva magazine, Dean of Yeshivat Har Bracha and Rabbi of the community of Har Bracha Rabbi Eliezer Melamed published an article suggesting that when a Jew sees any good-looking and successful person – such as an Olympic athlete in Rio – he or she should say a blessing. Tractate Brachot 58a teaches: “If one sees beautiful creatures and beautiful trees, he says: Blessed is He who has such in His world (Barukh sh’kakha lo b’olamo).”

Maybe U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D, NY) will say the prayer. He is pushing for a law that doesn’t tax Olympic athletes for their gold medal wins. REALLY? IS THAT SO URGENT?? Those poor athletes who get a bonus payment from the Olympic committee for winning a medal. Maybe we should not tax soldiers, USAID workers and other people who work toward burnishing the image of the United States?

The Sofia Globe in Bulgaria reports on the Jewish community’s aid to those in need of recovery from deadly storms in Macedonia

Speaking of aid… after reading about a medical missionary in Africa in The New York Times, a rabbi and her husband helped co-found a $500,000 prize to be given to a medical missionary in Africa. The Rabbi Erica and Mark Gerson L’Chaim Prize will be an annual award for Outstanding Christian Medical Missionary Service. New York entrepreneur Mark Gerson and Dr. Jon Fielder, a Christian missionary living in Kenya, are former college roommates.

$500,000 is a nice prize. $100 million is nicer. $100 million is the amount that some Jewish female victims of Rabbi Barry Freundel are suing for in Washington DC. Nine women are bring a class action suit against Georgetown’s Kesher Israel synagogue and other Jewish institutions. The rabbi was sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for taping dozens of women using a ritual bath/mikva.

The New York Times and The Telegraph write that some British Jews are considering applying for German citizenship to obtain EU work permits after Brexit

While they might have to learn German or a European language, some teachers in Brooklyn yeshivas might need to learn English. The Wall Street Journal this week reported on classes at Beis Ruchel in Williamsburg Brooklyn that helped to promote ideas for more secular studies in Brooklyn yeshivot These classes are genuinely trying to help with secular studies or maybe they are for show to try to avoid legal cases and state legislation that criticize the lack of secular studies classes in some schools. The failure to teach may lead to a lack of job opportunities for graduates, a lack of sufficient incomes, and the potential need for city/state/federal expenses to subsidize these households.

The fifth version of the film, BEN-HUR, opens in America this weekend. Director Timur Bekmambetov and the producers (including Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, but also MOT’s Sean Daniel and Gary Barber) have chosen to de-Juda-ize the Judah Ben-Hur character more than in the 1959 version that starred Charlton Heston. This 2016 version was filmed in Materna, Italy. Which stands in for Jerusalem. The film is based on an 1880 post-Civil War / Reconstruction novel that is set in Jerusalem and is a story of Romans, Jews, and the Christ. While the 1959 version focused on revenge, this version plays up forgiveness and Jesus more. Sad? Not really. As a writer in The LA Times opined, “modern films are susceptible to what you might call the reboot trap. Deviate from an original and people say you messed with the good. Make it too similar and people ask why you bothered in the first place. Ben-Hur faces this same problem, only somehow larger. Filmmakers have to diverge from a classic without disrespecting it. What Bekmambetov and his team did was try to carve out some middle ground. In putting their spin on a 20th century staple, they’ve created a story that’s not as iconic as you remember but not as sacrilegious as you fear.”

As you can see in the trailer… it plays up more of the battle than the religion:

Another film that opens in WAR DOGS the story of Miami Jewish pot heads who rip off the U.S. government in a crazy arms deal The film stars Jonah Hill and Miles Teller

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