Posted USC Shoah Foundation
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November 11, 2013 | 1:49 pm
Posted by Julie Bien
During the British Academy of Film and Television Arts' (BAFTA) Britannia Awards in Los Angeles this Saturday, Sacha Baron Cohen appeared to shove an 87 year old wheelchair-bound actress off of the stage. Whoops!
The accident occurred right after the "oldest living actress to appear in a silent movie with Charlie Chaplin" presented Cohen with the Charlie Chaplin Award for Excellence in Comedy. The award 'statue' was a faulty cane which caused Cohen to slip, fall and shove the octogenarian off the stage. Womp womp.
After the actress goes flying into the front row, the audiences gasps and clutches at their collective pearls.
Before, this story drives you into too much of a tizzy, rest-assured, it was a prank. The woman in the wheelchair was a professional stuntwoman--not a fragile old lady.
As pranks go, this isn't particularly funny--but here, for your consideration, is the clip:
November 8, 2013 | 2:29 am
Posted by Rob Eshman
There are only three possible reasons why former President George W. Bush has agreed to be the keynote speaker at the annual fundraiser of Messianic Jewish Bible Institute.
1. He loves Jews so much he wants them to experience the joy of being Christian.
2. He really doesn’t like Jews, and what better way to show it than to do the one thing even his most ardent Jewish supporters find objectionable.
3. He really doesn’t pay attention to details. His people mentioned something about the Messiah and a big fat speaking fee, and he nodded without even looking up from his canvas
Since reporter Sarah Posner broke the story in Mother Jones, a small shitstorm has kicked up over the President’s decision. Why are Jews upset?
Because the sole purpose of the Irving, TX-based Messianic Jewish Bible Institute is to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. When Jews accept Jesus as the Messiah, they stop being Jews. This is something all Jews agree on—it may be the only thing all Jews agree on. You could argue with that, but it’s just one of those things Jews believe. It’s what makes Jews Jews.
"'Jews for Jesus,' writes Rabbi David Wolpe, “makes as much sense as saying ‘Christians for Muhammad.’”
Mr. Bush, therefore, is helping to raise money to a group whose reason for being is to stop there from being Jews.
It sounds alarmist, but there it is. Success for the group Mr. Bush supports would mean no more Jews.
Of course, the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute doesn’t see things this way. It tells those it proselytizes that they can believe that Jesus is the Messiah and still be Jewish. The thing is, they know that not a single Jewish scholar, or text, or tradition, or belief, supports that claim. So, in order to do away with Judaism, they have to lie, and engage in subterfuge and double-speak. Mr. Bush, a straight-shooter, is speaking to some of the greatest snake oil salesmen in the great state of Texas.
Keep in mind: Jews have no problem with Christians believing in Jesus. Some of our best friends are Christians. Many Jews, like me, even like and admire Jesus, that fiery Nazarite, for his radicalism, his truth-telling, and his courage. Don’t forget, as Reza Aslan, the author of Zealot, said, “Jesus was a Jew, first and foremost, and that everything he said and did has to be understood solely within a Jewish context, that his teachings were simply a form of Judaism that then became what we now call Christianity. He was a fervent, zealous, law-abiding Jew.”
But where we simply part ways, where we remain Jews, is that we don’t believe the man was the Messiah.
For the Bill Mahers and (may his memory be a blessing) Christopher Hitchens out there, this is just a foolish fight between two sets of what Louis C.K. calls, “believies.”
But for Jews, it’s an important, defining distinction. There are many theological reasons why Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah (you can read them here), but I believe the real reason goes deeper than theology, than text.
For Jews there is no Father and Son, there is no Trinity: there is only Unity. One. That is a mindset with vast implications for how Jews see the world and behave in it. God is ineffable, certainly not a man, and God’s power lies precisely in that mystery. We are good with the biggest piece of the puzzle left unsolved—that missing piece is the engine of our spiritual journey.
That’s why when we start believing in Jesus as God, we stop being Jewish-- not just in name, but deep down, in our souls.
According to its 2011 IRS filling, Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, the group Mr. Bush is supporting, spent $1.2 million convincing Jews around the world not to be Jews. Read through the filing and you’ll see how the group goes about doing this. It spent $69,000 in Ukraine, $79,000 in Russia, and a whopping $203,000 in Ethiopia (note to IRS—that seems like an awful lot of money in an inexpensive place where there aren't many Jews left anyway). The group spent only $20,000 in Israel, and no expenditures are listed for the United States or Western Europe.
The Jews of the former Soviet Union, cut off from practicing their religion first by the Holocaust, then by the Communists, are among the least educated about Jewish belief and practice. Ethiopian Jews suffered under the Communist regime there as well. Messianic Jewish Bible Institute is piggybacking on a century of persecution to reach the low-hanging fruit of Jewish identity.
And now, they have a former American President to give them a boost.
Rob Eshman is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Jewish Journal. You can find him at Twitter @foodaism.
November 2, 2013 | 9:28 pm
Posted by Tom Tugend
Theodore Meir Bikel and his parents peeked through the drawn curtains of their Vienna apartment as in the street below Adolf Hitler, standing in his limousine, slowly rolled by, cheered on by frenzied crowds.
It was March 15, 1938, when Nazi Germany officially annexed Austria, changing forever the life of 14-year old “Theo” and of the country’s Jews.
On Thursday evening (Nov. 7), Bikel will stand on the rostrum of Austria’s Parliament Building before an audience of the country’s highest government and cultural leaders to mark the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night that synagogues throughout Germany and Austria were put to the torch.
Historians generally mark this event as the forerunner, if not the beginning, of the Holocaust.
Bikel will accept Austria’s highest honor in the arts and then give an hour-long concert of mainly Yiddish songs, interspersed with a few numbers in English and German.
For the finale, Bikel will present the Song of the Partisans, in Yiddish. He will ask the distinguished audience to rise as he renders the powerful words and notes of the anti-Nazi resistance during World War II.
The irony and meaning of the occasion is not lost on Bikel. “The Nazi criminals are gone, I am still here,” he said during an interview in his West Los Angeles home.
“I think I was created for this occasion,” Bikel added, referring to the Vienna commemoration.
That is saying a lot for a man who, during a 70-year career, has distinguished himself as an actor and folksinger on stage, screen and television, author, raconteur, union leader, advocate for the arts, and champion of Soviet Jews and human rights.
Of his many roles, Bikel cherishes that of folksinger the most, presenting “the songs of my people, songs of pain and songs of hope,” he said.
Bikel grew up in a strongly Zionist home, which named its only child in honor of Theodor Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism. By coincidence, the two men share the same birth date, though in different years. After leaving Vienna, the Bikel family settled in Tel Aviv, while Theo spent two years at an agricultural school, aspiring to the Zionist ideal of working the land. He then joined the Kfar HaMaccabi kibbutz, “but it soon became obvious that my talents lay elsewhere,” he observed wryly.
The kibbutz management came to the same conclusion and sent him to a three-week course for training actors in Tel Aviv. After his first taste of the limelight, “there was no turning back,” Bikel said, and he was admitted to the Habimah Theatre school. The man who was to gain international fame as Tevye in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” got his first paid role in the stage play of “Tevye and his Daughters.” He had the role of the Russian constable who warns the shtetl’s Jews that they better get out before the next pogrom. For his 29-word dialogue, Bikel received the equivalent of five dollars per show.
Bikel’s trip to Vienna was praised by the White House through its Jewish liaison, Mathew S. Nosanchuk. “I cannot think of a better emissary to carry a message of hope, perserverance and survival – on behalf of the Jewish people – to Austria, as the world marks these dark days,” Nosanchuk wrote. “You are the living embodiment of Jewish art and culture.” Interviewed two days before flying to Vienna with his companion Aimee Ginsburg, it was obvious that Bikel, at 89, has no thought of retirement. For one, he is now in the midst of producing and starring in the documentary film, “Theodore Bikel in the Shoes of Sholom Aleichem.”
As for his general health, while he hasn’t escaped the aches and pains of advancing age, he firmly proclaims, “I still retain the same mental vigor, the same energy, and the same curiosity.”
But just in case, for his tombstone, he plans the inscription, “He Was the Singer of His People” – in Yiddish.
October 23, 2013 | 2:32 pm
Posted by Julie Bien
Rarely do I find myself on the verge of tears when I read a story. As a journalist, I've developed an emotional teflon coating to shield me from even the most emotional anecdotes of love and loss--because frankly, otherwise the world just seems too bleak.
Today, I was forwarded a story by my publisher that would tug at even the taughtest of heart strings. I'm shaking as I write this, feeling my chest tighten up and trying not to cry at the office (never a flattering look), because lordy, does it hit close to home.
I'll preface the story with this: it is a story of hope, courage and strength when faced with the toughest of enemies--a body that has gone rogue.
Olivia Wise is a 17 year old from Toronto, and she's battling brain cancer.
What most people don't understand about brain cancer is that it can be the cruelest of thieves, robbing you of every part of your body and mind--but it's often impossible to know what part will go rogue and when.
Despite being unable to stand or walk (or easily breath, for that matter) Wise recently went into a recording studio for the first time and did a heartwrenchingly sincere cover of Katy Perry's hit single, 'Roar.' Her talent is undeniable and her spirit is obviously nearly-unshakable.
The emotional strength she must have is awe-inspiring. Having watched a good friend succumb to a brain tumor, and another continue to battle--now for nearly a decade--I've seen first-hand how brain cancer ravages the body.
According to the YouTube account that's hosting this video:
She couldn't walk or stand, she didn't have her full breath or the energy she used to, and she was managing her new pains and new limitations. While her physical condition was rapidly fading, her spirit remained untouched.
Olivia is a fighter and has gone through the fire, in fact, she was going through the fire while she recorded this song, but you wouldn't know it, because she was dancing right through it. She is an inspiration, a champion, and my hero. This is her Roar.
And in the email sent to us about this story, the sender notes:
[Olivia] used every last bit of her strength to make this video. We are trying to make sure that her voice is now heard around the world.
I have no doubt that this used all her strength, her deepest reserves and then some. When simply having a conversation is enough to wear you out, I honestly don't know how she did this.
And the lyrics, when sung by Wise, slowed down and accompanied by a simple piano, have taken on a whole new meaning. If I was Katy Perry, I'd be honored to have this rendition of my song recorded by someone like Wise.
In the end, it's the fragility of her voice that gets to me--that makes me think of my dear friend, Edd, who had an equally robust spirit despite his failing body.
Her strength reminded me of his strength, and in turn, of him, the friend I often talk to, even though I know he can't hear me anymore.
Olivia, thank you for being you. Thank you for making me think of my friend.
Your strength, your voice and your story are touching more people than you'd ever think possible.
May everything be easier for you from here on out. May your voice be heard around the world.
October 19, 2013 | 6:53 pm
Posted by Susan Freudenheim
One day in early March 1954, Uri Herscher, just 12 at the time, ran away from his parents. His father, Joseph, a cabinetmaker, and mother, Lucy, a laundress, were having trouble making ends meet living in Israel. Together with Uri and his younger brother, Eli, they were meant to leave from Haifa the next morning to travel to the United States. There, the family would find a new home in San Jose, Calif., a thriving middle-class community with very few Jews, where Joseph’s sister had already set down roots.
But young Uri didn’t want to leave. In his short life, he had watched the creation of the Jewish state realize a long-held dream for the Jewish people, and especially those who had escaped the Shoah like his German-refugee parents. He felt tied to the land, and because of the loss in the Holocaust of all his grandparents and many other family members, he looked forward to joining the Israel Defense Forces and ensuring his country’s future.
America meant nothing to the young sabra.
Eventually, however, the boy was found, and he dutifully boarded the cargo ship and set out on 19 days of traveling rough seas to the United States. Young Uri even celebrated his bar mitzvah onboard the rocking vessel — immediately feeding his celebratory chocolate cake to the fishes. It was only when the boat arrived in New York’s harbor at dawn on March 24, 1954, that the waters finally calmed, and with that calm came a new beginning and a vision that has defined Uri Herscher’s life: The captain woke everyone aboard to see the welcoming figure of the Statue of Liberty.
October 17, 2013 | 1:20 pm
Posted by Jana Banin, JTA
Good news “Girls” fans! The show’s return date has been announced, and it’s January 12.
“Girls” creator/star/promoter/mascot Lena Dunham virtually spread the word about season three yesterday, via an adorable Instagram selfie.
So mark your calenders. Or scrawl on a mirror with lipstick. Or you could tattoo it somewhere on your body. Whatever — the point is, save the date.
October 14, 2013 | 12:20 pm
Posted by Jewish Journal
Steve Greenberg is a political cartoonist. This week, he chose to lampoon the Tea Party with an editorial entitled "Tea-Hadist," and we, The Jewish Journal, chose to print it.
The purpose of political cartoons is to comment on both deep and topical political and social issues via satire. Political correctness has about as much place in an editorial cartoons as a bacon-cheeseburger has in a kosher market.
As Jewish Journal Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Rob Eshman put it:
"Steve is a satirist. His point was that in pursuing their ideology, the Tea Party conservatives in the House are actually destroying government for others, as well as for the Republican Party, and ultimately their own movement. It's a point many Republicans have made: John McCain, Peter King and many others. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2013/10/07/republicans-fighting-back-against-the-tea-party/).
"Greenberg makes his point via a medium that doesn't reward subtlety.
"We love Greenberg because over the years his sharpest, angriest cartoons go after extremists of all stripes, those who would sacrifice others for their own beliefs. You'll find he reserves a special venom for radical Islamists.
"At the same time, we are especially sensitive to the impression many have that the cartoon somehow trivializes the horrific, real suffering wrought by Islamic terrorists. That is clearly not Greenberg's intention-- and I offer my apology to anyone who sees the cartoon exclusively in that light. I agree that even in the context of a political cartoon, this one was insensitive, and I apologize to those we have offended.
"The Jewish Journal, meanwhile, is committed to presenting a multiplicity of thoughtful voices on issues that matter to all Americans. We are guided not by what are perceived as narrow 'Jewish' interests, but by the larger Jewish value of vigorous debate leading to mutual understanding. Satire is part of that debate.
"You'll note on the same page of the print edition of the Jewish Journal as the Greenberg cartoon is the lead op-ed about Danny Lewin, a hero of 9/11, written by a contributor to the David Horowitz Freedom Center. (http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/the_legacy_of_9_11_hero_danny_lewin).The Center also has ties to the Web site that excoriated us for the Greenberg cartoon. The Jewish Journal happily embraces differing points of view ON THE SAME PAGE-- whereas so many sites and media outlets these days are just a uni-dimensional, sterilized echo-chamber of like-mindedness."
As a newspaper, our job is to foster discussion within the community. Readers, If you're interested in joining the discussion, please let us know what you think in the comments section below.