Mazal Tov to Washington, DC’s most celebrated Norwegian-speaking, Latina, Jewish woman – Raffi Freedman-Gurspan – who was appointed as POTUS Barack Obama’s primary LGBT White House liaison. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. said “Raffi’s skills and personality make her the exact right person for this important job” as the Outreach & Recruitment Director for Presidential Personnel and Associate Director for Public Engagement. She was born in Central America and adopted by a Jewish family in Massachusetts. Discovering she had a love of things Nordic, she studied in Norway and even went to school in the homeland of The Prairie Home Companion — Minnesota.
This weekend, is the kickoff of AIPAC’s annual Policy Conference in Washington. DC. It will begin with a Shabbaton for hundreds, which will be followed by over 15,000 pro-Israel attendees coming together to hear from like-minded leaders and pundits, politicians, and academicians. More than 3,600 students from 630 campuses, including ones that support BDS, and more than 66% of members of Congress will attend. VPOTUS Joe Biden will speak to attendees, as will Paul Ryan, Steny Hoyer, Robert Menendez, Kevin McCarthy, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Donald Trump. Donald Trump? After he lambasted Jewish attendees at the RJC conference last December? I agree with the Reform Jewish Movement (Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of Amer Rabbis) which wrote lucidly that they understand that AIPAC must invite everyone – especially the GOP front runner – to better understand everyone’s position on US/Israel relations. They and others plan to “engage with Mr. Trump at the AIPAC Policy Conference in a way that affirms” democracy and Jewish values. Donald Trump will reportedly MISS THE FINAL GOP PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE to address AIPAC on Monday night
Another Mazal Tov – I suppose – to Hanan al-Hroub, a teacher in the Bethlehem area who received $1 million from the Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize during a ceremony in Dubai. Luckily she had time off to accept the prize, since up until this week, teachers were striking against the Palestinian Authority. She received greetings from American and British leaders, as well as from the Pope. She was selected for her work in developing a method to educate students exposed to violence to embrace dialogue and non-violent methods, and for her book on the same topic.”We Play and Learn.” She plans to use the prize to fund students who want to become teachers. In accepting her award, she discussed her “No To Violence” campaign. She also said, according to a Palestinian News Agency, that “every day we see the suffering in the eyes of our students and teachers caused by the Israeli occupation’s military checkpoints.” Some of her supporters chanted “With our souls, our blood, we sacrifice for you, Palestine.” But that is sort of non violent, I suppose.
Speaking of non violence… SXSW – The South by Southwest festival – in Austin was filled with events, music, film, and commercialization last week. Actor/writer/producer Seth Rogen screened a”first R-rated CG animated movie,” a work-in-process feature “Sausage Party” that featured perhaps a food orgy and various raunchy supermarket foodstuffs and their fears about what happened after being taken home from the store. Rogen, and his co-writers Evan Goldberg, Kyle Hunter and Ariel Shaffir rep Jews in high stereotypical fashion: as a bagel. The bagel – voiced by Ed Norton – argues it out with some Arabic flatbread, voice by David Krumholtz, about aisle territory. Lots of rudeness, sexism, racism, crudeness, sausage size jokes, and a douche. Sounds like a GOP debate. If it doesn’t expire this Summer, it will be in theaters in August.
Speaking of theaters, actor Dustin Hoffman did a stint on “Finding Your Roots” a PBS show on genealogy. Hoffman learns that he is Jewish. Sort of. Dustin Hoffman never knew his actual family history, or even the names of his paternal grandparents. But he learns that both his Jewish grandfather, Frank, and great-grandfather Sam Hoffman, died at the hands of Soviet secret police. His great-grandmother spent five years in a Russian concentration camp before arriving in the United States. His late father never told him any of these family stories.