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Josh Shapiro to be PA’s third Jewish governor + Ponzi scheme targeted Orthodox Jews

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Our senior political reporter, Jacob Kornbluh, is in Harrisburg to cover the inauguration of Josh Shapiro (above) as Pennsylvania’s third Jewish governor. Here’s what’s he’s watching this week …

 

Shapiro plans to visit the Alexander Grass Campus for Jewish Life in Harrisburg on Monday to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. He is scheduled to take the oath of office Tuesday using three Bibles, including one that was rescued from the deadly attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018. 

 

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators are traveling this week to Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, Arab countries that have recently normalized relations with Israel.

 

And in Washington, New York Democratic Reps. Daniel Goldman and Ritchie Torres sent a letter to Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy demanding that he cooperate with investigations into Rep. George Santos’s lies. A recent poll found that 72% of voters in Santos’ New York district are concerned about his false claim to be Jewish and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, and Rep. Max Miller of Ohio, one of two Jewish House Republicans, has joined calls for Santos to resign

 

Plus: Toby Gotesman, a painter whose work focuses on the Holocaust and who briefly helped raise money for Santos, spoke to our Mira Fox about her feelings of betrayal. Read the interview ➤

 

Speaking of Speaker McCarthy, he has sent at least 30 fundraising emails around his threat to remove Democrats from key committees, prompting Rep. Adam Schiff, a Jewish Democrat from California, to accuse him of using committee assignments “as a political plaything.” 

 

And Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who announced late last month that he has lymphoma, told CNN host Jake Tapper Sunday morning he is “hanging tough.” 

ALSO FROM THE FORWARD

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The 2021 wedding of Molly Kazin, who is Jewish, and Evan Marshall, who is not. (Courtesy Molly Kazin)

Opinion| Letting rabbis officiate interfaith weddings would alienate Conservative Jews. While many Jews within the Conservative movement do not strictly abide by Jewish law, says Roberta Rosenthal Kwall, a law professor and author, “a core group is serious” about it. “It is impossible to fathom how Conservative Judaism can maintain credibility as a movement if it allows its clergy to officiate intermarriages,” she argues. Read her essay ➤

 

On the other hand: Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom, who was expelled from the Conservative movement for performing an interfaith wedding in 2016, says that refusing to allow rabbis to officiate at such marriages poses a greater threat to the movement than the alternative. “I believe that history has demonstrated that a reality as big and undeniable as intermarriage cannot be ignored,” he wrote in a 2017 essay in the Forward. “And dealing with it in obsolete terms will lead to the very result that is feared, the dissipation of Conservative Judaism, and its irrelevance.” Read his essay ➤

 

But wait, there’s more …

 

• The Reform movement is calling on Elon Musk to do more to combat hate speech on Twitter, saying that its peddlers “are not entitled to a global megaphone.”

• In case you missed it: Our editor-in-chief, Jodi Rudoren, spoke with Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker on the anniversary of the hostage taking at his Texas synagogue about prayer, security, conversion, pizza and ice cream.

• How well have you been keeping up with the headlines? Take our Jewish news quiz.

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WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

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Thousands of Israelis protest the Israeli government in Tel Aviv on Saturday night. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

✊  Some 80,000 Israelis protested in Tel Aviv Saturday night against the right-wing government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary system despite a heavy rain. It was the second mass protest in as many weeks, and there were smaller rallies in Jerusalem and Haifa. Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak was among those at the protest, which followed the extraordinary statement on Thursday of the country’s chief justice that the plan was designed to “deal a mortal blow to the independence of the judiciary and silence it.” (JTA)

 

🙄  Sure, Prince Harry made big news in the world of misguided Nazi costumes last week. But he wasn’t alone. Scandal has also erupted around Dominic Perrottet, the premier of New South Wales — one of Australia’s six states — over the revelation that he wore a Nazi costume to his 21st birthday party in 2003. “Will Jewish leadership insist on his resignation? They should,” said one former premier. “The memory of 6 million demands it. He must go.” (7news.com.au)

 

😑  The SEC unveiled details of a Ponzi scheme they say targeted Orthodox Jews in L.A. and New Jersey. The scheme’s reported mastermind, 35-year-old Yossi Engel, has been charged with defrauding investors of $47 million — and has fled to Israel. (Jerusalem Post)

 

💰  Alas for the residents of the Dutch town of Ommeren, who just want the hordes of treasure hunters searching for Nazi gold to go away. Since a declassified WWII-era map suggested that Ommeren might be bursting with hidden Reich lucre, residents have been plagued by unsightly signs of (fruitless) efforts to find it. “I moved here for the peace and tranquility,” said one resident. “Now the whole world knows about us.” (BBC)

 

😑  Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, a French comedian infamous for denying the Holocaust, issued an apology in a right-wing Jewish paper. The comic said his intent was “to make everyone laugh, and the Jewish community is part of my world,” but French Jews met the statement with skepticism — and pointed out that he’s previously said he uses fake apologies to make fun of the Jewish community. (Haaretz)

 

😌  Alas for the residents of Whidbey Island, Washington, who last week suffered the theft of the enormous, beloved sign of a local pickle shop. But God is real and loves fermented foods: The culprit, who took the sign on a scenic tour of the island, has been arrested, and his briny bounty returned. (Whidbey News-Times)

 

😮  An investigation determined that Britain’s National Union of Students systematically failed to address concerns of antisemitism. Jewish students involved with the group faced “assumptions made about them because they were Jewish,” the investigation concluded. Allegations of rampant antisemitism prompted the British government to pause its activities with the NUS last year. (Haaretz)

⚱️ A former Greek Orthodox patriarch who accused his successor of jailing him in Jerusalem has died at age 83. The patriarch, Irineos I, was ousted in 2005 following allegations that he had sold church property in East Jerusalem to Israeli settlers, the first person to be removed from the position in more than two centuries. (Times of Israel)

 

What else we’re reading ➤  At 102, a top prosecutor of Nazis says “the world has still not learned the lessons of Nuremberg” … In Brooklyn, a Jewish nonprofit furnishes refugees’ new residences … The inside story of how an Edvard Munch masterpiece evaded Nazi clutches.

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ON THE CALENDAR

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Men discarding wine during Prohibition. (Chicago Sun-Times/Chicago Daily News collection/Chicago History Museum/Getty Images)

On this day in history (1919): The 18th Amendment was ratified, marking the onset of Prohibition. The movement that led to the ban on alcohol sales was marked by antisemitism, according to a 2011 Forward article, as Jews held a significant stake in the liquor trade. “‘I am not attacking an American institution. I am attacking mainly a foreign enterprise,’” said John Newton Tillman, a “dry” politician, listing as examples distillers named Steinberg, Hirschbaum and Schaumberg. But because of the significance of wine in Jewish ritual, American Jews were allowed unusual leeway during Prohibition, which gave them an easy in to the lucrative alcohol-smuggling trade. 

 

Last year on this day, we were busy publishing stories about the aftermath of a hostage taking at a Texas synagogue the day before. 

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, check out this 2015 essay by Susannah Heschel, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, about her father’s friendship with Dr. King. 

VIDEO OF THE DAY

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In case you missed it: A horror movie about a Hasidic funeral director debuted in theaters this weekend. The Offering, set in Borough Park, was inspired by screenwriter Hank Hoffman’s sleepless nights as a member of a Jewish burial society in Toronto.

 

In an interview, Hoffman said he was moved to instill a Jewish philosophy into a genre dominated by Christian imagery and stories of exorcisms. “The notion of evil in Christianity versus the notion of evil and Judaism is uniquely different,” Hoffman said, “which allows you to have uniquely different horror tales.”

 

Read more about the movie

 

Thanks to Benyamin Cohen and Jacob Kornbluh for contributing to today’s newsletter.

You can reach the “Forwarding” team at editorial@forward.com.

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The post Josh Shapiro to be PA’s third Jewish governor + Ponzi scheme targeted Orthodox Jews appeared first on The Forward.


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