At the Atlantic Monthly, Jeffrey Goldberg wondered whether he or we should pray for his cancer stricken colleague, Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens is a pugnacious Athiest who lectures on why the belief in a God or gods is harmful. Goldberg reached out to Rabbi David Wolpe of LA’s Sinai Temple for an advice. Wolpe replied that, “I would say it is appropriate and even mandatory to do what one can for another who is sick; and if you believe that praying helps, to pray. It is in any case an expression of one’s deep hopes. So yes, I will pray for him, but I will not insult him by asking or implying that he should be grateful for my prayers.”
The New York Times published a large story and online photo spread this week on how U.S. donors to West Bank settlers and settlements result in tax deductions on the U.S. tax returns. The story with the nifty title of Taking A Stand, Then a Deduction, identified 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. They wrote, “The money goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like, legitimate expenditures under the tax law. But it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.”
Beach Reads: Rina Franks’ novel Every House Needs a Balcony.
Nicholas Kristof, an award winning Op-Ed columnist at The Times, wrote a glowing column this week about an American born rabbi in Israel. Kristof profiles Rabbi Arik Ascherman, 50, executive director of Rabbis for Human Rights, who manages a staff of twenty. Some see him as a sanctuary for nobility, and others see him as a naive traitor.
Beach Reads: Rabbi Avi Weiss and Professor Alan Dershowitz’s Spiritual Activism.Focusing on films for a moment, July is the time for the Jerusalem Film Fest and the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. One highlight of the Jerusalem Fest is the visit by French actor, Jean Reno, who is in Israel for the film “The Round Up” (La Rafle.) which was projected on a huge screen in Sultan’s Pool overlooking the walls of the Old City. Two other highlights are Israeli Animation programs, and the screening of Sundance’s winning documentary, RESTREPO, about a group of American soldiers in Afghanistan (a must see; please note that two of the combat soldier are MOT’s) Some highlights in the City by the Bay are that Israel’s leading satirist, Sayed Kashua, will receive the festival’s Freedom of Expression Award following the international premiere of Season 2 of the wickedly funny Israeli comedy series “ARAB LABOR;” and screenings of “NINE YEARS LATER,” an Israeli documentary that follows an Israeli Jewish woman back to Morocco in her attempt to get custody of a son she left behind; “MY PERESTROIKA;” and a free outdoor screening of “DIRTY DANCING” in Union Square on July 10.
Beach Reads: Sebastian Junger’s WAR, the detailed backstory on RESTREPO.
Lisa Miller writes in Newsweek on the high cost of being Jewish in America and how the “middle” might be squeezed out. She wants greater inclusion for intermarried families, such as hers, and quotes Arnold Eisen of JTS, who says that Jewish institutions and synagogues need to reduce fixed costs by sharing staff, buildings and rabbis across the denominations. (Umm… so are you saying that it is okay for a Conservative affiliated synagogue to employ a non Conservative rabbi?)
Speaking of affiliations, did you hear the one about the Young Israel movement? A Young Israel affiliated Orthodox shul elected a female rabbi, which enraged the Young Israel leadership. The shul in upstate NY said they would resign from the YI movement, but it wasn;t that easy. Young Israel threatened to sue the synagogue for its assets and building. But I am sure it will all work out.
Speaking of working things out, The Toronto Star reports that a GTA man who blogs hate filled messages calling for genocide against Jewish people will be charged by Ontario with hate crimes. Salman An-Noor Hossain, 25, a former student at York University, is believed to have fled Canada.
Another hater died this past week. Mohammed Oudeh Abu Daoud, a mastermind, murderer, and planner of the 1972 terrorist attack against Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics died. Although Israel allegedly killed most of those responsible for the Munich massacre and Abu Daoud was shot in 1981 in a Warsaw hotel, he was, in 1996, allowed to visit Gaza in order to vote with other Palestinian delegates to remove from the Palestinian national charter the call for an armed struggle to destroy the Jewish state.
Someone who was not a hater was Rabbi Yehuda Amital, who passed away late this week and was eulogized and laid to rest on Friday.
Also, a charter jet from North America arrived with 224 new Olim via Nefesh B’Nefesh. Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky met the new immigrants at the airport and called on them to strive for social justice, small government, and political accountability. Oh, and welcome to Israel, too.