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Ady Barkan, healthcare activist who fought Lou Gehrig’s disease, dies at 39

(JTA) — Ady Barkan, an Israeli-American lawyer and one of the country’s most visible progressive activists for single-payer health care, died Wednesday at a hospital in Santa Barbara, California. He was 39. The cause was ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which compromised his speech and movement but drove him to fight for patients’ rights. 

In 2017, as a new father given just years to live, he literally threw his body into action, protesting Republican initiatives at the U.S. Capitol, crisscrossing the country and raising millions of dollars for political campaigns.  

Barkan’s name was invoked in a Democratic presidential debate in 2019, when Sen. Elizabeth Warren, speaking in support of the universal, government-run healthcare proposal known as Medicare for All, cited Barkan’s personal story as an example of the shortfalls of private insurance.

Ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Barkan endorsed Joseph Biden and spoke at the Democratic National Convention that year, though he disagreed with the presidential nominee over health care policy. Biden opposes Medicare for All.

Warren also said she kept a picture of Barkan’s toddler, Carl, in her office.

Barkan was a longtime progressive activist before his diagnosis, inspired as a child by the Harper Lee novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” according to Politico magazine. He gained attention with efforts to democratize the Federal Reserve. As a senior organizer for the Center for Popular Democracy, he later led its Be A Hero project and affiliated PAC, which worked to defeat Republicans in the 2022 midterms.

He protested President Trump’s 2017 tax cut — even confronting then Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake about it on an airplane flight they shared — because he worried that it would cut funds for social services. He also gained attention for protesting the Supreme Court confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. After Maine Sen. Susan Collins voted to confirm Kavanaugh, Barkan raised $4 million for her eventual challenger’s unsuccessful campaign. 

“We are all profoundly grateful for you, @AdyBarkan,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi tweeted after Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in 2018. “Your passion for saving our health care and charting a new path for progressive change were an inspiration throughout the campaign.”

Ohad Barkan, known as Ady, was born in Boston in 1983 to parents who met in Israel: Diana Kormos Buchwald, an immigrant from Romania and a professor of the history of science at the California Institute of Technology, and Elazar Barkan, an Israeli professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. He grew up Cambridge, Massachusetts and California in what he described as a “secular Jewish household.”

He studied economics at Columbia College, and graduated from Yale Law School in 2010.

In 2019, he pushed Democrats and Republicans to focus more on the individual effects of health care policies. In a video posted to Twitter (now known as X), he invited people to join an initiative that would center people’s health care stories.

Healthcare is too important to too many people for 30-second sound bites shouted between ten different candidates on a stage, moderated by journalists who are not pissed off enough about the reality that so many Americans are facing in the richest nation in the history of human civilization,” he said. “We need a better health care debate and we need it now. We have to do something about this.”

His story was featured in the 2021 documentary “Not Going Quietly.”

His survivors include his parents, his wife, Rachael King, a professor of English literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara, ande their two children, Carl, 7, and Willow, 3.

The post Ady Barkan, healthcare activist who fought Lou Gehrig’s disease, dies at 39 appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Poland Bans Israeli Soccer Teams From Major City Due to ‘Safety’ Concerns

Stadion Widzewa is a multi-use stadium in Łódź, Poland. It is currently used mostly for football matches and serves as the home stadium of Widzew Łódź. Photo:

Two Israeli soccer teams — Maccabi Haifa and Hapoel Beer Sheva — that were set to play their European Championship matches in the Polish city of Łódź have been banned by the hosting country, after widespread outrage from Poles.

The Union of European Football Associations previously announced that Israel will not be allowed to host UEFA-sanctioned matches due to the ongoing war against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

As a result, the Israeli clubs announced on Sunday that their new “home stadiums” would be the Władysław Król Municipal Stadium and the Stadion Widzewa in Łódź. Soon afterward, two Polish clubs that play at the stadiums released statements distancing themselves from the decision, with many fans expressing antisemitic outrage on social media against Israel and support for the Palestinians.

The Polish city’s Cultural and Sport authority then released a statement saying that no Israeli teams would play at any facilities in Łódz because “the safety of Łódź residents and visitors is the highest priority for the city.”

Yacov Livne, the Israeli Ambassador to Poland, slammed the decision and lodged a complaint with the Polish city.

“One should not give in to such threats. Lodz needs to remain a place of tolerance, not fear,” Livne said in a statement on X/Twitter.

Maccabi Haifa took second place in the Israeli top league, giving it the opportunity to play in the qualifying rounds for the European Conference League, while Hapoen Beer Sheva came third in the Israeli premier league.

One of the Polish clubs based in Łódz has a history of antisemitism.

In 2016, a group of ŁKS Łódz hooligans set fire to “Jewish” effigies and paraded a banner calling for the burning of Jews. Years earlier in 2013, fans of the same team invited visitors to an indoor tournament to play a game in which they could throw objects at “Jews,” models dressed in uniforms of the club’s rival, Widzew Łódź. A sign next to the game informed players that for a meager price they would be given “three throws at the Jews.”

Antisemitism is increasingly creeping into Polish politics as well.

Last week a virulently antisemitic member of the Polish parliament who extinguished the candles of a lit Hanukkah menorah with a fire extinguisher won a seat in the European Parliament elections, riding a wave of far-right success across the continent.

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Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino Harassed in NYC by Anti-Israel Media Personality For Being a ‘Zionist’

Quentin Tarantino being harassed by anti-Israel media personality “Crackhead Barney.” Photo: YouTube screenshot

A notorious anti-Israel social media personality accosted filmmaker Quentin Tarantino at a New York City restaurant and called him a “Zionist piece of s–t.”

A woman known online as “Crackhead Barney” shared a video on Saturday of her confrontation with the “Django Unchained” director, 61, as he was eating alone inside a restaurant on St. Marks Place. She approached his table and shouted, “Quentin Tarantino, say ‘Free Palestine!’ Why are you a Zionist piece of s__t?!” Tarantino remained silent as Barney repeated herself and then asked him, “Going to Israel?” as workers from the establishment tried to make her leave the restaurant.

When Tarantino left the eatery, a rowdy crowd awaited him outside including Barney, who confronted him again. She repeatedly shouted “Free Palestine” and asked the director to “say ni–er” multiple times while also exposing herself to the “Pulp Fiction” director. The crowd of people outside the restaurant also chanted “Toes! Toes!” which is seemingly a nod to the director’s fixation with showcasing feet in his movies.

Tarantino is married to Israeli singer Daniella Pick, who is the daughter of legendary Israeli pop musician Svika Pick. The couple live in Tel Aviv with their two children and Tarantino spoke in 2021 about learning Hebrew. In 2022, he received an honorary degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, Tarantino visited an army base in southern Israel and met with Israel Defense Force (IDF) troops.

Earlier this year, Barney harassed actor Alec Baldwin inside a coffee shop in New York City and recorded their confrontation on her cellphone. She told the actor, “Free Palestine … F–k Israel, F–k Zionism.” She repeatedly asked Baldwin to also say “Free Palestine” and when she would not back down, Baldwin eventually knocked Barney’s phone from her hands.

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Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks

A protester wrapped in an Israeli flag at a rally against antisemitism at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo: Reuters/Lisi Niesner

A live web service provided by that allows users to speak directly with one of the Jewish organization’s leading rabbis has seen a 300 percent increase in usage since the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel.

More than 5,000 chat responses (over 225 per day) are received each month, according to Aish, which added in a press release that many of the chats turn into extended conversations, sometimes on WhatsApp, in which rabbis help unaffiliated or disconnected Jewish users reconnect with their Jewish identities and form bonds with other Jews.

The Jewish organization said it believes the increase in usage of its live web chat service is due to the global rise in antisemitism and a newfound curiosity about Israel following Oct. 7, as well as a “yearning for meaning and community in the face of life’s uncertainties, and a desire for deeper meaning and spirituality in the face of a fast-paced modern culture where spiritual needs have been put on a backburner for too long.”

“We’re hearing from so many Jews who feel profoundly disconnected, whether due to living in areas with little Jewish community or lack of affiliation growing up,” said Rabbi Tzvi Broker, who oversees‘s Live Chat. “The personal nature of these interactions, coupled with their anonymity, creates a safe space to ask questions and begin exploring. Having a live rabbi to connect and share with, has been a draw for many, and we’re seeing lives transformed as a result.”

Among their efforts, Broker and his team have helped people on the chat slowly incorporate Jewish rituals and traditions into their lives, and have connected them with peers through the organization’s new online community Aish+ so they can continue learning and engaging with other Jews.

“It’s amazing to witness lives being transformed in such profound ways,” said Broker. “Jews around the world are finding threads of connection to their heritage, and tapping into the depth and wisdom of our tradition to find meaning, community, and resilience in these challenging times.”

Bob Diener, the founder of and the seed funder of’s live chat, added in a statement: “The chat has been a powerful way for people to connect one-on-one with a spiritual leader and have their unique questions answered in a non-threatening and non-intimidating way. The chat’s rabbis are connecting so many people to their roots who otherwise don’t know where to go for guidance.”

“The chats have had a deep impact on many disconnected from the Jewish community,” said Aish CEO Rabbi Steven Burg. “Each of the people we connect with demonstrates a broad yearning to explore Jewish spirituality, peoplehood, and identity and that is why they have been turning to Aish for connection and guidance. We are happy to provide both while connecting them with local Jewish communities in their area, if there is one, to continue their journey.”

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