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Artforum staff resign in protest after editor fired over publication of anti-Israel open letter

(JTA) —  Several staff members at a leading art magazine resigned in protest over the weekend after their editor-in-chief was fired following the publication of a letter that was sharply critical of Israel.

Pro-Israel figures in the art world had condemned Artforum and its editor in chief, David Velasco, since the magazine’s publication of a letter expressing support for “Palestinian liberation” without mentioning the 1,400 people murdered when Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.

The drama at Artforum follows similar sagas at other arts and culture institutions in the wake of Hamas’ attack and Israel’s military response in Gaza. At 92NY in New York City, for example, staff members resigned and a book-talk series was scrapped after the venerable Jewish cultural institution canceled a talk with an author who had signed a different open letter condemning Israel.

David Velasco, who had worked at Artforum since 2005, was let go Thursday, one week after he oversaw the publication of an open letter “from the art community to cultural organizations.”

Declaring, “We support Palestinian liberation,” the letter condemned what it called “the institutional silence” of the art world to “the crimes against humanity that the Palestinian people are facing.” It also endorsed a ceasefire in Gaza. In addition to being signed by Jewish art-world luminaries including Nan Goldin and Barbara Kruger, the letter was also signed by Velasco himself.

The letter’s initial wording made no mention of the Oct. 7 attack by the Palestinian terror group Hamas. A clause added Oct. 23, several days after publication, notes that the letter’s original, unnamed organizers “share revulsion at the horrific massacres of 1,400 people in Israel conducted by Hamas on October 7th” and “hope for the expeditious return of all hostages” along with a ceasefire. But it claimed that the new text could not be circulated to all 8,000 of the original letter’s signatories.

Days later, Velasco was reportedly summoned to a meeting with Jay Penske, CEO of the media conglomerate that owns Artforum. At the meeting, The Intercept reported, Velasco was fired. That same day, the magazine’s publishers posted a separate item noting that the letter “was not consistent with ‘Artforum’’s editorial process” and saying it had been “misinterpreted” as reflecting the position of the magazine.

“I have no regrets,” Velasco told the New York Times in an email. “I’m disappointed that a magazine that has always stood for freedom of speech and the voices of artists has bent to outside pressure.”

Following Velasco’s firing, according to ARTNews, at least four editors resigned from Artforum in protest and dozens more employees and contributors signed their own open letter demanding he be reinstated. They argued that his firing over the letter stifled the kind of “cultural debate” the magazine had staked its reputation on. In addition, several artists have declared their intention not to work with Artforum in the future, including Goldin and the Jewish painter Nicole Eisenman.

Some artists who removed their names from the letter after its initial publication said they had done so following what they characterized as a pressure campaign by pro-Israel art collectors. The Intercept reported that Bed Bath & Beyond heir Martin Eisenberg contacted at least four artist signatories of the letter whose work he owns to voice his objections.

The New York Times reported that Jewish museum fundraiser Sarah Lehat Blumenstein told a WhatsApp group she was prepared to launch a “deaccession plan” to “diminish the artists’ status”; Blumenstein told the Times that such a plan was not active.

The post Artforum staff resign in protest after editor fired over publication of anti-Israel open letter appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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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.”

The post Online Live Chat Service for Jews to Connect With Rabbis Sees 300% Increase Since Oct. 7 Attacks first appeared on

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Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’

Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of Netflix’s “Unfrosted” at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, California, US, April 30, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

Jewish comedian and actor Jerry Seinfeld roasted an anti-Israel protester who tried to disrupt his comedy show in Sydney, Australia, at the Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday night.

Videos from the scene showed a male heckler in the audience repeatedly shout, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” a slogan that has been widely used as a call for the destruction of Israel.

While the disruptive audience member continued to chant in support of Israel’s extermination, Seinfeld ridiculed him, sarcastically telling the audience:  “We have a genius, ladies and gentlemen! He’s solved the Middle East! He’s solved it: It’s the Jewish comedians, that’s who we have to get! They’re the ones doing everything.”

“Go ahead, keep going,” Seinfeld told the anti-Israel heckler as the audience laughed and cheered. “They’re gonna start punching you in about three second so I would try and get all of your genius out so we can all learn from you. It’s a comedy show you moron, get out of here.”

The heckler was eventually escorted out of the arena by security personnel and as he walked out of the venue, Seinfeld mocked him some more by sarcastically saying: “You’re really influencing everyone here. We’re all on your side because you have made your point so well and in the right venue. You’ve come to the right place for a political conversation. Tomorrow we will read in the paper: ‘Middle East, 100 percent solved thanks to man at the Qudos Arena stopping Jew comedian.’ They stop him and everyone in the Middle East went, ‘Oh my god, let’s just get along.’”

The “Seinfeld” creator then jokingly suggested that to solve issues with “indigenous Aboriginal people and the white people” maybe he should harass Australian comedian Jim Jefferies during a comedy show in New York because “if this works, that will work.”

“You have to go 20,000 miles from the problem and screw up a comedian. That is how you solve world issues,” Seinfeld quipped.

Seinfeld had a number of his comedy shows recently disrupted by anti-Israel activists because of his support for Israel since the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks. Seinfeld’s commencement speech at Duke University was also interrupted by similar protesters, who staged a walk-out shortly after he was introduced on stage.

During an interview last month, Seinfeld addressed protesters by saying: “It’s so dumb. In fact, when we get protesters occasionally, I love to say to the audience, ‘You know, I love that these young people, they’re trying to get engaged with politics … we just have to correct their aim a little bit.”

The post Jerry Seinfeld Ridicules Anti-Israel Heckler Interrupting His Show in Australia: ‘You Moron, Get Out of Here’ first appeared on

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Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews

As an expert (self-proclaimed) in the female heterosexual gaze, I took note of the trend of the “hot rodent man.” Does this mean you’re attracted to the friendly mascot from Orkin Exterminator Co.? Maybe you do, maybe he’s tremendous, but no, “hot rodent man” refers to what is essentially the male equivalent of jolie laide, […]

The post Ratted out: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the end of feeling a need to ask if every contrived pop-culture trend is good for the Jews appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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