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At Chosen Comedy Festival in Brooklyn, comics lean into nuances of identity

(New York Jewish Week) — When comedian Modi Rosenfeld took the stage as co-host of the second annual Chosen Comedy Festival in Brooklyn on Tuesday evening, he stuck to an approach that has brought him success with Orthodox audiences: leaning into specificity. 

“People want to hear us talk about antisemitism, they love to hear us make jokes and make fun of it,” he told the New York Jewish Week following the festival, which drew a lineup of Jewish comics to the Coney Island Amphitheater to perform for a crowd of thousands, many of them Orthodox Jews. 

“They love specific humor,” Rosenfeld said. “When you mention the Persians, the Syrians, the Ashkenazim, the Hasidim — they love to be called out. People love that kind of attention when it’s in a positive way.”

But when he did a set at the festival, he also joked about another part of his identity that hasn’t usually shown up when he performs at Orthodox venues: His marriage to a millennial man. 

“My husband’s younger — 10, 12 years younger — 22 years younger. Ten and 12…” he said in a shrinking voice that trailed off as the audience laughed.

Going there, in front of that audience, was a change for Rosenfeld, who discussed being gay in a “Variety” interview in January, but explained that he didn’t incorporate that part of his life into his act for Orthodox crowds. He said he tailors his comedy to meet his audience — recognizing what they will find funny and what subjects are appropriate for each room or club. 

On Tuesday, Rosenfeld felt that this audience was ripe for the jokes, which he said he had been working on for an upcoming standup special.

Related: Deeply Jewish comedy is having a moment, even as antisemitism rocks pop culture

“This is my audience. They came to see me,” Rosenfeld said. “It’s my festival. I’m a producer, I’m a performer, I’m the host. So whatever I do is okay, ’cause it’s my show. It’s not a show that somebody else brought me in.” 

He added, “And so I felt the room and they were amazing. They were there and they were ready.”

Rosenfeld’s 10-minute set came during the middle of the show, which he co-hosted with comic Elon Gold. It featured some of the lineup from last year’s festival, including Rosenfeld, Gold, Jeff Ross and Jessica Kirson, in addition to newcomers such as Eunji Kim, Eli Leonard, Rich Vos and Ari Shaffir — who self-released his standup special, titled “Jew,” last year

There was a surprise appearance from Dave Attell, the former Comedy Central personality and “Saturday Night Live” writer. The show also included musical performances from the band Emotional Intelligence and Hasidic folk group Zusha, and was DJed by Lady Blaga.

The acts ran the comedy gamut from Kirson’s raunchy impressions of elderly grandparents having sex to Kim reflecting on the nuances of being an Asian Jew. 

In one bit, Kim related that her young son was surprised that a classmate, named Silas, was Jewish. After all, he told her, “Silas doesn’t look Jewish!”

“I said, ‘What do you think a Jew looks like?’” Kim continued. “And my son looked at me and he said, ‘Asian.’”

Leonard’s act featured bottle dancing and an unusually timely joke about Jesus’ death — made just days after Oscar winner Jamie Foxx ignited a debate on social media with an Instagram post on the same topic.

“If we kill our only carpenter,” Leonard said, “who nails him to the cross?”

Since its founding in New York last year by Dani Zoldan, the owner of the Upper West Side comedy club Stand Up NY, the Chosen Comedy Festival has gone on tour in Miami and Los Angeles. This year, it grew to include nine shows in New York City — including a performance of comedian Alex Edelman’s Broadway show, “Just For Us” — and one show in the Catskills.

“Jews are so dying to show how proud they are of being Jewish,” Rosenfeld told the New York Jewish Week. “What an amazing outlet to do it through comedy.”


The post At Chosen Comedy Festival in Brooklyn, comics lean into nuances of identity appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Here’s What Has Happened on the Ground in Gaza Over the Past Month

Trucks stand at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Rafah, Egypt, April 25, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

The Israeli offensive in the Rafah area gradually took all the ground adjacent to the border between Gaza and Egypt. Over the past few days, there have been reports of Israeli forces now conducting attacks from the area taken northwards, both in the relatively open area between the city of Rafah and the coast and inside Rafah itself.

Many civilians in Gaza have moved to the safe havens allotted by the IDF. The resistance by the US government to the Rafah operation was based on the premise this would not happen. Just as in the previous IDF offensives in northern Gaza and the Khan Yunis area, the rate of evacuation is one of the factors determining the rate of advance of the IDF units.

During the clearing operations in each area taken, IDF units have uncovered hundreds of tunnels, including dozens crossing the border into Egypt. These tunnels were used for smuggling weapons from Egypt into Gaza, as well as civilian traffic — both people and goods. Officially the Egyptians destroy all tunnels they discover on their side of the border, but apparently, over the past few years, they have reduced this effort considerably — these tunnels all have large openings on the Egyptian side of the border, they are not small or camouflaged, and the traffic through them was not a trickle.

Rocket launchers and stocks of rockets were also found adjacent to the Egyptian border. Additionally, more evidence has been found in Rafah of Hamas’ use of UN sites and mosques.

The IDF has also continued to conduct raids into northern Gaza and Khan Yunis whenever concentrations of returning Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists are discovered, as well as raids into the Nuseyrat area, between Gaza and Nuseyrat. The Nuseyrat area is the only one in which the IDF has not yet conducted a major offensive operation.

In a much publicized raid on June 8, which was conducted by a Police Force special unit supported by the IDF, four hostages held in two separate private homes (one belonging to a news photographer who had published in Al-Jazeera) were rescued. An Israeli officer was killed in this raid, and a few others were wounded. The Palestinians, as usual, claimed enormous casualties to civilians living in the area of the raid. Again as usual, there is no evidence that the published number was anywhere near the truth.

Given similar events in the past — when numbers claimed by the Palestinians of hundreds of civilians killed by the IDF were later found to be grossly exaggerated, to have included many terrorists, and to have included Palestinians killed or wounded by Palestinian fire — the reliability of these numbers must be regarded as suspect.

Also found over the past few weeks were the bodies of a number of hostages killed on October 7 whose bodies were taken to Gaza, as well as a few who were kidnapped alive and then killed while being held. One more body was discovered inside Israel.

After spending an estimated $320 million on building a floating pier to provide humanitarian supplies, it seems the US will permanently dismantle it. It was incapable of withstanding the buffeting of waves, and broke apart once. The pieces were then towed to an Israeli port for repair and to await a calming of the sea. Afterwards it was returned to the Gaza coast, but when the sea conditions worsened again, the Americans pulled it out again. Because the IDF captured the Gaza side of the Rafah border crossing, Egypt refused to continue sending humanitarian supplies through it. However, supplies increased through the other crossings between Israel and Gaza, thereby bypassing Hamas tax-collectors. According to posts published by Gazans on social media, this lowered the prices of commodities in Gaza.

On June 9, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNHCA) published a report stating that the claim that there is a famine in Gaza is not based on supporting evidence:

The FRC does not find the FEWS NET analysis plausible given the uncertainty and lack of convergence of the supporting evidence employed in the analysis. Therefore, the FRC is unable to make a determination as to whether or not famine thresholds have been passed during April.

They qualify that statement by claiming they are physically incapable of acquiring sufficient reliable evidence. However, photographs posted on social media by Gazans show that the real problem is less a matter of lack of foodstuffs and more an issue of inefficient distribution. The IDF spokesperson has reported that much of the supplies are simply being stored inside Gaza and awaiting distribution because the organizations in charge of distribution are incapable of meeting the rate of supplies flowing into Gaza. Furthermore, Gazans are complaining openly that Hamas is deliberately taking much of the supplies and hoarding them to sell at high prices to raise funds for its operations. They also complain of theft of supplies by criminal organizations for the same purpose.

Lebanon

In a speech given on June 19 by Hezbollah General Secretary Hassan Nasrallah, he claimed that:

Hezbollah has 100,000 troops all told and has therefore turned down requests by other organizations of the Iranian-led Shiite alliance to send contingents to Lebanon.

Hezbollah has the full panoply of weapons to conduct ground, air and sea combat, it manufactures weapons at home, and it is receiving weapons from Iran despite Israel’s attempts to prevent this.

He also claimed that Hezbollah has information that Cyprus has agreed to allow Israel to use its airports if Israeli airports are damaged by Hezbollah fire. He threatened that if Cyprus does this, it too will become a target of Hezbollah’s firepower.

This is not the first time Nasrallah has mentioned the 100,000 troops figure. This is considerably more than all previous reports, which ranged from a low of 45,000 to a high of 60,000. The previous occasion was in October 2021 when internal tensions in Lebanon threatened to boil over into a possible civil war. If he is speaking the truth, then Hezbollah has more men than the official Lebanese army (85,000). The Hezbollah forces are certainly better trained on average than the Lebanese army, and they are also better equipped in some areas.

The exchange of fire on the Israel-Lebanon border continues at a varying but fairly low intensity. Over the past few weeks Israeli attacks have escalated in the choice of targets, which are now no longer only near the border but also include Hezbollah installations in central and northern Lebanon. Hezbollah has responded by increasing the size of its rocket and exploding drone salvos into Israel. There are reports that to reduce casualties Hezbollah has withdrawn many of its personnel several kilometers north of the border and is conducting almost all its fire from a distance.

Hezbollah has admitted that so far 349 of its personnel have been killed (another 50 since my last report). This does not include non-Shiite members of Hezbollah who probably add at least a few dozen to the list.

In addition to the numerical increase in Hezbollah casualties, there has also been an increase in their ranks and importance. The commander and some senior staff members of one of Hezbollah’s three divisions in south Lebanon were killed, as were some senior staff members of another division.

Israeli casualties

The total number of Israelis confirmed killed on and since October 7, 2023, is now 1,609, with another approximately 16,500 wounded.

There are still approximately 116 kidnapped Israelis and non-Israelis in Gaza. How many are alive and how many dead is not known. In the negotiations with Hamas, Israel demanded a list of those alive and those dead, but Hamas refused. Furthermore, Hamas claims not to know the whereabouts of more than a few dozen of the hostages. Some are in the hands of other groups or even “private” clans who joined the assault on Israel in the third wave of the Hamas attack on 7 October. Thus, for example, the four Israelis rescued since my last report were all held in the private homes of “civilians.”

In addition, 19 Israeli civilians have been killed in Hamas rocket attacks and seven by Hezbollah.

As of last month, a total of 662 IDF soldiers have been killed (42 more than my previous report) on all fronts since and including October 7.

Palestinian casualties

The Gaza Health Ministry, which is controlled by Hamas in its role as the government of Gaza, claims that approximately 37,500 Gazans have been killed so far, and approximately 85,000 wounded. They do not differentiate between personnel of Hamas and other terrorist organizations and civilians, but according to the IDF, at least 15,000 Hamas and other terrorists have been killed. The IDF has also captured many terrorists, though the exact number has not been divulged. From anecdotal information it can be estimated at 3,000-3,500 (there have been no reports of major surrenders over the past month).

Given that Hamas and the other groups had 40,000-50,000 personnel between them (different sources provide different numbers, and there is a problem counting part-timers as opposed to regulars or official “reserves”), these numbers represent a sizeable chunk of their manpower. However, we have no information on the recruitment rate of new personnel, who are perhaps less trained but still add to the numbers. Hamas youth movements (equivalent to Boys Scout movements) conduct basic firearms training from an early age, so they have a recruitment pool of teenagers available to join the fighting.

Until early May, the UN claimed (quoting Hamas numbers) that of the nearly 35,000 Gazans killed in the war till then, 9,500 were women and 14,500 were children; i.e., approximately 68.5% of the killed. Suddenly, two days later, the UN approximately halved the numbers to nearly 5,000 women and 7,800 children; i.e., approximately 36.5% of the killed.

It should be noted that Israel has been consistently claiming its combatant/non-combatant ratio is one of the best and perhaps the best ever achieved by any army fighting in urban areas. These new numbers prove it. In fact, given that the term “children” includes anyone under 18 and that Hamas and the other organizations employ teenagers younger than that as combatants (15-18 year-olds), the ratio is in fact even better than these numbers show. Any civilian deaths are regrettable, but they are unfortunately inevitable whenever combat occurs where civilians are present. When one side deliberately uses them as human shields, this of course happens even more.

Dr. Eado Hecht, a senior research fellow at the BESA Center, is a military analyst focusing mainly on the relationship between military theory, military doctrine, and military practice. He teaches courses on military theory and military history at Bar-Ilan University, Haifa University, and Reichman University and in a variety of courses in the Israel Defense Forces. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

The post Here’s What Has Happened on the Ground in Gaza Over the Past Month first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Omnicausus belli: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the merging of all left-wing campaigns into something that’s been christened ‘The Omnicause’

When I saw that there was an opinion piece in The Forward, making the case that it’s yeah maybe not the best idea to ban mask-wearing on the New York City subways in the name of fighting antisemitism, I thought, yes, thank you. It’s an absurd proposal, not least because once you allow for medical […]

The post Omnicausus belli: Phoebe Maltz Bovy on the merging of all left-wing campaigns into something that’s been christened ‘The Omnicause’ appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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Stanford University Committee Releases Report on ‘Widespread and Pervasive’ Campus Antisemitism

Students are seen at an anti-Israel protest encampment at Stanford University during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Stanford, California, US, April 26, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Stanford University in California has found itself embroiled in controversy after a university-commissioned task force revealed widespread antisemitism on campus following Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel. 

The Subcommittee on Antisemitism and Anti-Israeli Bias published a 148-page report on Thursday detailing a toxic environment for Jewish and Israeli students at the elite university. The 12-member committee argued that Jewish and Israeli students at Stanford have endured exclusion and harassment on the Palo Alto campus since October. 

Some of this bias is expressed in overt and occasionally shocking ways,” the report read, “but often it is wrapped in layers of subtlety and implication, one or two steps away from blatant hate speech.”

In several instances, the degree of antisemitism was so overwhelming that Jewish students decided to leave their residence halls. The report found that some Stanford Jews had their mezuzahs — small parchment scrolls containing Hebrew verses from the Torah that members of the Jewish community fix to their doorposts — ripped down from their doors. Others claimed to find swastikas scribbled on their doors.

Jewish students also reported having their residences vandalized with the phrases “Free Palestine” or “F—k Zionism.” In some cases, residential assistants (RAs) posted virulently antisemitic and anti-Israel content on their social media pages, fostering a “culture of fear and suppression” for Jewish students, according to the report. Some RAs have gone as far as to encourage students to participate in anti-Israel protests and encampments on campus. 

Stanford faculty and staff have sounded alarms over the allegedly rampant and unchecked antisemitic rhetoric and behaviors on campus. Though Stanford faculty have overwhelmingly expressed support for the free speech rights of anti-Israel protesters, many have lamented the ease with which some Stanford community members spew viciously antisemitic rhetoric on campus. One faculty member alleged in the report that a Stanford professor uses the word “Zionist” as a euphemism for Israelis, an act he claims should constitute “hate speech.”

Israeli and Jewish faculty also reported a sense of “alienation” at the university in the months following Oct. 7. An unnamed Israeli professor stated that none of his colleagues reached out to share condolences after the Hamas terrorist attacks, in which 1,200 people were murdered and over 250 taken hostage during the Palestinian terrorist group’s rampage through southern Israel. The same professor said that the unchecked pro-Hamas demonstrations on campus have left Jews and Israelis feeling rattled and unsafe. 

I was happy living here before Oct. 7. I knew there were antisemites and there were people who hated Israel, but it was striking how there were banners celebrating Oct. 7 on campus,” an unnamed faculty member stated. 

For several weeks beginning in April, anti-Israel activists erected a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on campus, refusing to leave unless the school condemned and boycotted the Jewish state. While the school declined to negotiate terms with the demonstrators, Jewish Stanford faculty assert that the university’s administration has been “cowardly” in its response to the antisemitic campus climate. 

“The university’s silence suggests that Jews don’t count; the university leadership is cowardly,” an unnamed Stanford faculty member explained. “The university should take a stand, articulate its values, and enforce them in a consistent manner regardless of who it’s about”

The report detailed many complaints about the structure of Stanford’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. University affiliates lamented that Jews have been mostly excluded from these initiatives, arguing that Jewish and Israeli students and faculty are among the most marginalized on campus. The committee suggested that Stanford consider removing DEI programs, insisting that they “tend to propagate oversimplified histories and promulgate ideologies about social justice without subjecting them to the critical inquiry that is a core aspect of a university education.”

Matthew Wigler, co-president of the Stanford Jewish Law Students Association, said that antisemitism was “already a deeply rooted problem” on campus for years prior to Oct. 7. 

“I will never forget how during my first year at Stanford in Spring 2016, when a coalition of Jewish student groups tried to address the toxic antisemitism of the time with a student government resolution, a student senator dismissed the issue and suggested Jews control the media, government, and economy,” Wigler told The Algemeiner

Wigler explained that antisemitism has become much more “widespread and pervasive” on campus following the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

“Now, eight years later, in 2024, when Stanford Jewish students gathered to address antisemitism at a town hall in the same place, we had other students yelling at us outside the event to ‘Go back to Brooklyn!’ while simultaneously shouting that antisemitism isn’t real and we need to stop ‘playing the victim,’” Wigler added. 

Stanford President Richard Saller assembled the Subcommittee on Antisemitism and Anti-Israeli Bias in November amid backlash over widespread anti-Jewish incidents on campus. Less than a week removed from the Oct. 7 attacks, a Stanford teacher reportedly forced Jewish students to stand in a corner and told them the action was analogical to the Palestinian experience. Stanford sophomore Theo Baker published a long-form piece in The Atlantic alleging that several campus parties forced students to say “F—k Israel” or “Free Palestine” to gain entry. 

However, Stanford has recently taken more forceful action to quell antisemitism on campus. Several anti-Zionist protesters were handed felony burglary charges earlier this month for occupying Saller’s office and refusing to leave. Stanford announced that the demonstrators would be  immediately suspended and, if any were seniors, barred from graduating and receiving their degrees.

The post Stanford University Committee Releases Report on ‘Widespread and Pervasive’ Campus Antisemitism first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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