A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:
Romney in Israel
“Though his remarks Monday morning later threatened to prove otherwise, it appeared that Mitt Romney got in and out of Israel with what he’d hoped for: No gaffes, no real headlines — nothing so substantial as to risk a clear view of the image he had traveled halfway around the world to produce: footage of a U.S. presidential candidate and Israel’s Prime Minister standing side by side as if they actually liked each other,” reported TIME. So what was the takeaway from this stop on Romney’s world tour? “Purely in terms of preparing remarks, Israel is the sort of rhetorical space Romney takes to well. So many phrases come pre-coded, already ideologically inhabited; the list of requisite gestures is so well established,” said Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. Others weren’t as optimistic. “The good news, such as it is, is that both Romney and Obama are probably lying. No matter how many times each of them talks about the ‘unshakeable commitment’ to Israel, or even of their “love” for the country, they don’t really mean it,” said Stephen M. Walt at Foreign Policy. What’s clear is that the Jewish vote could be a gamechanger this fall.
Next up: Florida?
Almost as soon as Romney left Israel, the focus went to how the presidential candidate can win Florida. “It doesn’t necessarily presage a major drop-off in the Jewish vote for Obama, but it does suggest that GOP expectations in Florida can’t be as easily dismissed as in past years,” said a Politico blogger. “As progressives, Jews will be tempted to stick with Obama. As Zionists, they’ll be tempted to switch sides,” said Lawrence J. Hass at The Commentator. And Florida is a battleground state, said Ben Adler at The Nation. “There are more than 600,000 Jewish voters in Florida. It doesn’t matter to Romney if the millions of American Jews in blue states like New York, California, Illinois, Massachusetts and New Jersey vote for him. But a few voters switching sides in Florida can make all the difference in the world.”
Moment for Munich
After the Olympic committee refused to have a moment of silence during the opening ceremonies on Friday night, NBC commentator Bob Costas went ahead with his plan to do it anyway. “It’s that the IOC wanted to pick and choose which tragedies to remember. The fallen from world wars and the deceased relatives of people with opening ceremony tickets made the cut. The victims of a terrorist attack that occurred at the Olympics four decades ago did not,” said Slate’s Jeremy Stahl. Some went even further. “The Olympics is supposed to be about the spirit and the people. That moment of silence that didn’t happen rang louder than any cheer that will come out of the stadiums in the next 17 days,” said Paula M. Stern at the Jewish Press.
Siyum HaShas celebration
Tens of thousands of Jews gathered Wednesday night to celebrate the finishing of the Talmud, one page a day for over seven years. “The ability for Jews all over the world to study the same sections of Torah every day from the same tractates and traditional commentaries is a glorious way of preserving our heritage and building a Jewish future together,” said Rabbi Yona Reiss at YU.edu. “We applaud and honor those men and women who inspire us by their love of learning, and encourage each among us to find even a few minutes a day to do likewise, delving into the wisdom of our sages, past and present,” said a Jewish Week editorial. And even those who didn’t make it all the way through took home valuable lessons. “Although I open the Talmud less frequently these days, when I do it’s something I can get lost in, with no pressure to finish one page and move on to the next. I have time to ask all the questions I want,” said Miriam Krule at Slate.
Raisman rises up
Jewish Gymnast Aly Raisman won the hearts of her peers around the world by performing her Olympic routine to the traditional “Hava Nagila.” (It was actually Raisman’s parents who became the talk of the town.) “The sense of pride among Jews everywhere watching the performance was palpable, and a reminder that throughout history our people have found that survival and the pursuit of excellence are the best revenge against our enemies,” said a Jewish Week editorial. “It’d be one thing if Raisman had just shocked the entire gymnastics world by beating out her world champion teammate Jordyn Wieber, but to do it to a song that not only set off manic bouts of kvelling from Brookline to Needham to Sharon, but earned the attention of even newspapers in Israel, uch, Aly!” said Jason Schwartz in Boston Magazine.