A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:
Obama in israel
Although nobody is expecting the Presidet to make any sweeping changes during his short stay in israel this week, "if any progress is going to be made on the Mideast peace front (or the Iran situation) this trip will be the pivotal moment for anything he hopes to accomplish there in his second term," wrote Dashiell Bennett at The Atlantic Wire. During his stay, he's sure to do more than just tour the country, and his meetings will surely touch on all of the key issues. "If Obama improves his standings with the Israelis and patches things up with Netanyahu, he can call the trip a success. The raised expectations can come later," said a GoSanAngelo editorial.
A new pop took over last week and Jews around the world couldn't be more thrilled with the choice. Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, has a history of denouncing "injustice, corruption, social inequality, [and] human trafficking," according to JTA's Mordechai Levin, and he has a "commitment to building a better society." It's not just the Jews who are rejoicing, but other faiths, too. “When he told his colleagues in Rome that [the Islamic community here] would visit him at the diocese, he said they were surprised; that they couldn’t believe it,” an Islamic Center representative told the Miami Herald. “I think he’s going to be good for all of mankind, without exception.” Everyone is hopeful for a better future under the new pope. "Imagine a more peaceful world that respects religious difference. I believe it can happen. And I hope that, one day, respecting religious (and non-religious) differences will be what we remember, when we think of the legacy of Pope Francis," wrote Joyce S. Dubensky in The Huffington Post.
One group that will be protesting via a hunger strike upon Obama's landing in Israel are supporters of Jonathan Pollard, the American serving a life term for spying for Israel. They say it's time to send Pollard home. "No, he is not innocent of wrong-doing. No one ever said that. But he has served his time – and another 4 times as much as he should have served," said Paula R. Stern in The Jewish Press. Others vehemently disagree. "Nations are rightly judged by their choice of heroes. Israel has plenty of worthy heroes, yet today there's a square in Jerusalem named for Pollard," said Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. "So here's something else I'd like Mr. Obama to do while he's in Israel: Insist that the square be renamed. Maybe then, in a quieter hour and without regard to diplomacy or politics, can Jonathan Pollard's fate be reconsidered in a purely humanitarian light."
Outrage erupted after Hungary announced that a Jewish sociologist, Andreas Kovacs, and two people accused of making anti-Semitic statements were going to receive prestigious national awards called the Szechenyi Prize, according to reports. Among the winners is Ferenc Szaniszlo, a television personality for Echo TV, who has been accused of using the term “apes" and he's made several anti-Semitic comments, Some believe that the selections are part of the of government's efforts to win favor with the far right.
Passover is around the corner and the talk of food is in the air. "Thing is, I've got all year to drink good wine. Passover is the one night when I can ignore taste and can reach again and again (and again) for the Manischewitz," said Bon Appetit editor Adam Rapoport. "Unless you’re vegan or watching your cholesterol, Passover is about as eggy as Easter: Eggs are used in cakes, souffled vegetable side dishes and weeknight frittata," said Bonnie S. Benwick in The Washington Post. And think about others while you clean this weekend, advised Ariel Gros-Werter at The Huffington Post: "Too often in today's world, our willingness to give to those in need is inhibited by reluctance to part with items of financial value. Passover thus presents a special opportunity to give. The food is already paid for and has been deemed of no further use by its owners. Giving it away doesn't impose any cost upon the giver: it's an expense-free but valuable gift. What could be better than doing good at no additional cost?"