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August 23, 2012

This week in power: Zion Square, skinnydipping Congressmen, Austria cartoon, Western Wall women

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A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

Violence erupts
Recently, a 17- year-old Palestinian boy was beaten unconscious by a group of Jewish teenagers, prompting denouncements from the Israeli government and outcries from Palestinian groups. Reports indicate that the teenager was trying to speak to a Jewish girl. “Some commentators have suggested that the riot in Jerusalem may presage a new wave of terrorist acts carried out by Jews. I hope this prediction is wrong,” said Jill Jacobs in The Jewish Daily Forward. “That story would be troubling no matter the ethnicity or religion of the people involved—no matter what country it took place in,” added Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. In an already charged area like Jerusalem, this calls more attention to the attack.

Romney gears up
Florida’s 639,000 Jews are up for grabs in the upcoming election, and both candidates are trying their best to appeal to them, according to reports. “In addition to being older than the average American, Jewish voters are also well read and interested in ideas. That’s why Ryan, the intellectual leader of his party and the most able advocate for fundamental change in the way the government operates, may turn out to be more attractive to Jews than liberals think,” said Jonathan S. Tobin at JNS.org. In response, Obama has stepped it up by forming a new list of “Rabbis for Obama,” similar to an effort his campaign made in 2008.

Congress gone wild
The Sea of Galilee was the focus of an ever-so-brief political scandal over the weekend when Politico reported that dozens of Congressmen last year went for a latenight swim, with some of them disrobed. “The fact that this incident happened in August 2011, and is only just now coming to light probably points out how embarrassing the Republican leadership found the whole episode,” said a Courier Press editorial. “Good grief. These U.S. leaders were representing America, supposedly on serious government business in a foreign land—a situation requiring protocol and dignity—but they acted like rowdy conventioneers. It’s embarrassing for America,” said a Charleston Gazette editorial. Others had a sense of humor about the incident. Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic proposed “an annual Congressional skinny-dip in the Potomac. It could serve as an antidote to official self-importance, remind the public that these are just flawed humans governing us.”

Cartoon sparks outrage
A cartoon posted on Facebook by Austrian politician Heinz-Christian Strache has some in a frenzy as it promotes Jewish stereotypes akin to propaganda from the 1930s by Austrian Jewish leader Oskar Deutsch. Strache denied the cartoon is anti-Semitic. That didn’t stop Jewish organizations from lashing out at the Austrian leader for posting it. “Anti-Semetic in intention or not, Strache’s controversy isn’t helping the political right,” said Jordan Valinsky at The Daily Dot.

Women with tallits
Four women were arrested on Sunday for wearing prayer shawls at the Western Wall. They are all members of Women of the Wall, a group that holds special prayer services each month for Rosh Chodesh, or the beginning of new month. It wasn’t their first foray into controversy either, as several were arrested back in May. “This morning’s arrests serve as an escalation and continuation of the wave of women’s exclusion with in the public sphere, a struggle which started at the Western Wall and has spread all over Israel,” the group wrote on its website over the weekend.

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