As Hanukah approaches, there are so many illuminating Jewish news items to share. Here are some tidbits that I noticed while shopping for a new menorah.
Wednesday’s front page of The New York Times had a story about Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, one of the United States’ most celebrated synagogues. The story refers to the reaction of congregants to a letter its leadership sent to members that cheered the United Nation’s vote on Palestine. The story, which was posted online on Tuesday, generated over 500 reader comments within a few hours and was The Times most e-mailed articles. The enthusiastic support of the U.N. vote by the congregation’s rabbis and lay leaders exposed a rift in the congregation when it comes to issues regarding Israel. The article quotes Allan Ripp, a member and PR professional known for his low profile, saying that he and his wife were appalled by the synagogue’s email. (read the text of the e-mail here).
The NYT article also refers to a spat between rabbis, specifically the online exchange between Rabbis Sharon Brous and Daniel Gordis. Rabbi Sharon Brous, of IKAR in Los Angeles, sent a letter to her congregation that referred to the real and undeniable suffering of the residents of Gaza. (Read her e-mail message here) Rabbi Daniel Gordis, a friend and past teacher of Brous, and executive officer of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, took issue with (or attacked) her letter and its “radical universalism,” saying he wanted her to tell her community to love Israelis more than those in Gaza who support Hamas.
In other news, Ahmed Ferhani pleaded guilty for a crime related to his plot to bomb and destroy a Manhattan synagogue. In May 2011, Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh were arrested as they met with an undercover detective pretending to be a weapons merchant.
In another New York City courtroom, Emanuel Yegutkin, 33, a former principal of a the Elite High School in Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, NYwas convicted on 75 counts of sex-with-a-child-related crimes. Yegutkin began abusing three brothers after he met them at their shabbat dinners.
This trial should not be confused with the one for Nechemya Weberman, 54, a Satmar Hasid accused of abusing a teenaged girl over a period of three years. She had been sent to the respected counselor after, at the age of 12, she dressed differently and questioned her teachers.
On the lighter side of the news, The Washington Post reports on Colombians who are embracing what the believe is their Jewish past. Juan Forero traveled to Bello, Colombia, where he met Juan Carlos (Elad) Villegas, an evangelical minister with a congregation of 3,000 souls. After visiting Israel in 1998 and 2003, Villegas and some of his followers decided to convert to Judaism and felt that they must have soul or muscles memories and be descended from Jews who fled the Inquisition. Over a decade ago, at the University of Antioquia, geneticist Gabriel Bedoya found that 14% of the men in Antioqua were genetically related to Kohanim. The town now has a kosher bakery, which is one more than in my NYC neighborhood.
Speaking of latkas…Melissa Clark, writing in The NYT writes of celery root and parsnip latkas and the neo-hipster moves away from boring potatoes.
And just in time for the holiday season, Prime Minister Viktor Orban met the leader of the Federation of Jewish Communities (Mazsihisz) to discuss the situation of Jewish people in Hungary. Mazsihisz leader Peter Feldmajer thanked the PM for his assurance that Jewish people would be protected in Hungary. Earlier Minister of the Hungarian Parliament Marton Gyongyosi (Jobbik) called for the creation of a list of all Jewish lawmakers and government members since they were threats to the future of Hungary.
I will get back to making latkas, and will ignore the upcoming Op-Ed on Thursday, in thhe NYT/International Herald Tribune from Saree Makdisi, a professor of English and comparative literature at the UCLA, that states that building in “E1″ will terminate the prospect of a two-state solution and will lead to a single state solution. What say you, Rabbi Gordis?