A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:
Naftali Bennett is making a name for himself as well as his party among Israel's national religious bloc. Bennett's Jewish Home partyis reportedly making a run at seats that would otherwise go to Likud or other political factions. No matter, he's recharged the party. "Bennett is different. He doesn’t play by the rules that have characterized the ruthless political game. His elbows are not sharp, and his tongue lacks the bitter taste of fury unleashed at anyone who differs. He is simply there. He is not in the race in pursuit of power for its own sake, or doped to the eyeballs with self-importance," said Moshe Dann in The Jerusalem Post. Others have qualms about him. "My main problem with Bennett is that regarding political issues I am convinced that if he were prime minister he would lead Israel straight into a brick wall," said Susan Hattis Rolef, also in The Jerusalem Post.
Hitler at Warsaw?
A statue of a Adolf Hitler kneeling in prayer in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw, Poland, has caused an uproar. Artist-provocateur Maurizio Cattelan made the statue as part of an exhibit at the Center for Contemporary Art. Viewers can see the statue's back through a hole in the fence's gate. As far as the Jews were concerned, Hitler's only 'prayer' was that they be wiped off the face of the earth," said one Jewish leader. Others disagreed: "The meaning of art, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder. The praying- Hitler statue could be seen as representing his punishment. Condemned to pray at a major scene of his satanic crimes for all eternity," said a letter writer to the Toronto Star.
Rumors surfaced last week that Ron Dermer, an adviser to Bejamin Netanyahu, would be the pick to replace Michael Oren as Israel’s ambassador to the United States. The Israeli Embassy denied the report days later. Still, it was enough to get people talking about Dermer's qualifications for the job. “He understands how Americans view Israelis and how Israelis view Americans,” an Israeli pollster told JTA. “He knows how to work [in Washington] and has personal relations.” Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo added that "it’s generally seen as a bad step to appoint to an ambassador who is seen as being openly hostile to the head of state in the home country. It sounds like another case of the profound damage Netanyahu is doing to Israel by his stance toward the country’s primary and perhaps soon only major ally."
Jews have a long tradition on Broadway and that was celebrated this week with a special on public television in a special called "Great Performances -- Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy." It got rave reviews. "We don't need to know the direct line from the Gershwins' 'Ain't Necessarily So' to Torah liturgy to appreciate the work. But it will be hard to hear it again without appreciating the connections," said Newsday's Linda Winer. "Jews and blacks shared a sense of being outsiders, and the reason their musical idioms form the basis of what we consider quintessential American music is that, chronic political xenophobia notwithstanding, we are a nation of outsiders, founded by Europeans and over the centuries, serving as a melting pot of people from other countries and cultures," wrote David Wiegand in The Houston Chronicle.
We marked the start of 2013 this week, so what's in store this year? "In 2013, look for continued growth in sales of Jewish books and ritual objects, a continued burst of new Jewish literature and art, and continued tussling among rival Jewish factions over their diverse visions," said J.J. Goldberg at The Jewish Daily Forward. "Also rumored for the Cabinet: Jack Lew, Obama’s Jewish chief of staff, who is believed to be a frontrunner to succeed Timothy Geithner as the Treasury Deptartment secretary," said JTA. Others have specific goals, and wishes: "Where are we headed? What will young Zionist and Jewish leaders look like in 2013? Will the two sides of the same coin move in different or even opposite directions? Will they converge? It’s hard to tell at this point. But there’s room for optimism," said Avi Zimmerman at Times of Israel.