My lede should be that a national retailer apologized for featuring a Jewish woman in its catalog. That would not be totally correct though. Heidi Stevens in The Chicago Tribune lambasted apparel retailer LANDS’ END for dissing feminist icon, author, and leader Gloria Steinem. The cataloger featured an interview with Steinem on style in its Spring catalog. When an evangelical christian group criticized the retailer for highlighting the life and thoughts of Steinem, teh retailer issued an apology. It also removed a fund the promotes women’s equality from its list of philanthropies to which shoppers could donate. Lands’ End wrote: “We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem (pictured above) on her quest for women’s equality. We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize.”
Capital New York and other publications reported that discount electronics retailer B&H PHOTO – based in NYC – is ONCE AGAIN being sued by the U.S. government for discrimination. The catalog and storefront, known for its many Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish staffers, is accused of making non-whites use separate (and unequal) restrooms, and paying Hispanics less that other employees. It is also accused of discrimination against Hispanic, black, female, and Asian employees at its warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, not providing separate changing rooms for women, and using “racist remarks, degrading comments and harassment.” Earlier this week, workers at the West 34th Street location voted to unionize, just as their co-workers in the Brooklyn warehouse did three months ago. The workers alleged “verbal and physical abuse.” Warehouse workers also complained of safety violations, and the time the managers did not let workers leave quickly during a fire, fearing that the workers would steal items during the escape. If B&H loses the Depatrment of Labor case, it might need to forfeit its $46 million worth of U.S. federal contracts.
The New York Times reports that a female Israeli passenger is suing EL AL AIRLINES for discrimination after she had to move her business-class seat for a Jewish man, last December. Attorney Renee Rabinowitz, PhD, 81, cane in hand, was offered a better seat, but still she felt minimized and degraded due to her gender and the way the flight attendant handled the situation. This will be a test case for the Israel Religious Action Center, the public and legal advocacy arm of the Reform Movement in Israel, who is representing Rabinowitz, a widowed Rebbitzin. The article concludes:
Ms. Rabinowitz has since had time to ponder. She said her son told her that “this whole idea that you cannot sit next to a woman is bogus.” She cited an eminent Orthodox scholar, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who counseled that it was acceptable for a Jewish man to sit next to a woman on a subway or a bus so long as there was no intention to seek sexual pleasure from any incidental contact. “When did modesty become the sum and end all of being a Jewish woman?” Ms. Rabinowitz asked. Citing examples like the biblical warrior Deborah, the matriarch Sarah and Queen Esther, she noted: “Our heroes in history were not modest little women.”
Deborah Nussbaum Cohen, profiles Matt Nosanchuk, the White House’s liaison to the Jewish community. When not planning the annual Hanukkah parties, or promoting support for the recent Iran Deal, he helped support the President’s push for same-sex marriage. He told Haaretz that The Iran Deal was “the most tendentious issue” he had ever dealt with, and he shared his White House role with about 100 supporters of Keshet, an organization that advocates for full the inclusion of LGBT Jews in Jewish life. A graduate of Stanford and Stanford Law, he spent his junior year studying in Haifa. “Working with the American Jewish community is challenging,” he said. “But the great thing about the Jewish community is the tremendous breadth and depth of issues it’s involved with, from gun control to climate change. On issue after issue, the American Jewish community steps up and has a seat at the table.” He joked that Jews are “2% of the population but responsible for 90% of the asks [for favors] that come into the office.” Nosanchuk, 50, is the former son in law of Michigan Rep. Sander Levin. (Note: Nussbaum Cohen is the co-author of Celebrating Your New Jewish Daughter: Creating Jewish Ways to Welcome Baby Girls into the Covenant)
Brigit Katz for The Women in the World conference reports this week on Transgender Jews and their search for faith and community, profiling Abby Stein, Joy Ladin, and others.
Speaking of searching for community, The Philadelphia Exponent reports on anti-Jewish insults that were hurled at real estate developers in South Philly at Point Breeze. Members of Concerned Citizens of Point Breeze shouted “Go back to Israel!” to a developer of Jewish heritage making a presentation. City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who was not in attendance at the meeting, stated that he would make every effort to have the community group stripped of its certification by the City Planning Commission as a Registered Community Organization.
On the topic of stripped, The NY Jewish Week reports that New York City Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt has quit his post at his Riverdale synagogue after over three decades. Termed the ‘sauna rabbi’ by some Jewish tabloids who misunderstood shvitzing, the rabbi was criticized for having chats with teen boys and young men in a local sauna.
In London, they know how to sweat. Oliver Anisfeld has started his own Jewish TV channel using Youtube. It is called J-TV. The “J” is for Jewish. The University College, London History major’s (or reader) shows interview guests including MP Jonathan Djanogly, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, One Direction and James Corden producer, Ben Winston, and others of Biritish Jewish note.
Someone they will not be interviewing is a Satmar rabbi in Brooklyn who got off with just 60 days in jail for raping several boys in his now defunct yeshiva. Why did the Brooklyn DIstrict Attorney give him such a light sentence? I don’t know. Maybe because the Satmar community pressured the victims not to testify. On the other hand, the perps attorney said that 60 days in jail is a lot for someone charged with 28 criminal counts, who blamed the teens for seducing the rabbi… yeah right.
Regarding the Oscars and its voters, Rod Lurie, an Israeli-American film director in Hollywood told the Washington Post in a front page story this week that, “The truth is, those academy members will watch movies that deal with the heroism of the African-American community or the history of blacks, like ‘12 Years a Slave,’ because that interests them. What doesn’t interest them is the current black experience or black culture. A movie like ‘Straight Outta Compton’ doesn’t stand a chance.”
Finally, some people are asking, “How many time does Bernie Sanders have to say he is Jewish?,” for Jewish reporters and voters to stop asking him why he doesn’t discuss his heritage. Once again he was asked about his Jewish heritage at a televised MSNBC interview by a undergrad on Thursday evening, alleging that he was reticent. Sanders replied, “Obviously, being Jewish is very, very important to me. I am very proud of my heritage. And what comes to my mind so strongly as a kid growing up in Brooklyn and seeing people with numbers on their wrists — you probably have not seen that — but those were the people who came out of the concentration camps. And knowing that, my — a good part of my father’s family was killed by the Nazis. And that lesson that I learned as a very young person is politics is a serious business. And when you have a lunatic like Hitler gaining power — 50 million people died in World War 2…. So I am very, very proud to be Jewish and I’m proud of my heritage.”