Canada has joined other Western nations, including the United States, and temporarily suspended its funding to the United Nations agency charged with aiding Palestinians after reports that employees were involved in the terrorist attacks against Israel on Oct. 7. Ahmed Hussen, Canada’s minister of international affairs, made the announcement late Friday afternoon. “Today, I spoke […]
Tovah Feldshuh, Debra Messing and more Jewish stars perform at first-ever ‘Shabbat on Broadway’ show
(New York Jewish Week) — Nine a.m. on a Saturday morning might be one of the few times during the week that Times Square isn’t brimming with tourists, theater-goers and commuters. But when you bring in a few dozen Jewish Broadway stars and ask them to perform a Shabbat service inside a Broadway theater, the crowds will come.
This past Saturday, the St. James Theater, which most days is home to the Monty Pythn musical “Spamalot,” hosted “Shabbat on Broadway,” described by producer Henry Tisch as a “a non-denominational Shabbat service with a real Broadway twist.”
Led by two cantors, and featuring songs and prayers sung by Julie Benko, Adam Pascal, Tovah Feldshuh, Shoshana Bean and others, the service drew a near-capacity crowd to the 1,700-seat theater.
“We had this feeling that, in this very dark time in the world and in the Jewish world, we wanted to put together something that really had light to it and would be this beacon and a place to celebrate and to gather together in community,” said Tisch, who produced the Shabbat on Broadway service alongside Amanda Lipitz, who also directed.
The service felt “inevitable,” Tisch said. “Of course, there should be a Shabbat on Broadway. Certainly, there have been other gatherings of Jews in the theater world, but as far as we know, this is the first Shabbat service in a Broadway theater.”
Tisch and Lipitz began putting together the show just five weeks ago, and the tickets for the service — which were free and open to the public — ran out in just a day, they said.
The Shabbat they chose, Jan. 27, happened to be the perfect day for such an occasion. The Torah portion read on the day, Parshah Beshalach, includes the Song of the Sea, which the Israelites sang as they crossed the Red Sea from Egypt, and is known as “Shabbat Shirah” or “Shabbat of Song.” Jan. 27 also happens to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Underneath a giant, golden Star of David that hung over the stage — a set piece normally used in the “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway” scene in “Spamalot” — celebrants interspersed traditional Shabbat prayers and straight musical numbers. Some prayers were sung to the tune of Broadway songs; the service opened with a pre-recorded video of a dozen New York City cantors singing “Hinei Matov” to the tune of “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin,’” from Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma.” It closed with a group of children singing “Adon Olam” to the tune of “You’ll Be Back,” from “Hamilton.”
Both prayers were arranged by Cantor Azi Schwartz from Park Avenue Synagogue, who is known for setting Shabbat prayers to modern tunes.
However, most of the prayers were sung with traditional melodies. Feldshuh, who most recently played Rosie Brice in “Funny Girl,” sang “Mi Sheberach.”
“I’ve spent over 50 years with you,” Feldshuh said on stage, addressing the crowd. “This is my life,” she added, calling the event an “extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Among other performances, Shoshana Bean, who most recently starred in “Mr. Saturday Night,” sang “Etz Chaim;” Talia Suskauer, who played Elphaba in “Wicked,” sang the Shema; Jackie Hoffman, recently seen in the anthology series “Feud,” read the Amidah, the core prayer of every Jewish worship service and Debra Messing read a “Prayer for Our Country.”
The 90-minute service was led by cantors Jenna Pearsall from Central Synagogue and Mo Glazman from Temple Emanu-El, two of the city’s most prominent Reform synagogues. It also included a sermon by Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR Synagogue in Los Angeles, from her new book “The Amen Effect: Ancient Wisdom to Mend Our Broken Hearts and World,” which was read by actress Camryn Manheim.
“Broadway, growing up, for me was spiritual. It was a huge part of my life. So to mesh my career with a Broadway stage was a full circle moment for me. It was incredible,” Pearsall told the New York Jewish Week after the show. “It’s hard to get clergy involved on a Saturday, but I would love to do something like this again. There seems to be a huge demand for it.”
Indeed, a plethora of other prominent New York City clergy, including Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove from Park Avenue Synagogue, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl from Central Synagogue and Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum from Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, had their own Shabbat services to lead, but appeared in pre-recorded video segments throughout the service.
“The theater is a holy place,” Kleinbaum said in her recording.
That idea — that the Broadway stage is a temple, and one influenced largely by Jews — was a throughline in the service both implicitly and explicitly.
“There are such current ties and historic ties between the theater community and the Jewish community. The history of the American musical theater is so tied to the contributions of so many Jews, so it felt really important to acknowledge that,” Tisch said. “Also given just how Jewish the theater community is today, it felt important to really provide this space and the sanctuary and celebration.”
“What a convergence of temples,” said Broadway singer Adam Kantor (“Rent,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “The Band’s Visit”), before he sang a mashup of “Oseh Shalom” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which he said he arranged in the days following Oct. 7.
“For a lot of people in this room, a Broadway theater might also have given maybe an escape from certain religious institutions where they were supposed to experience a certain spiritual catharsis but might have instead experienced a certain feeling that they weren’t invited into that space,” he added. “Today you are all invited.”
Audience members were pleasantly surprised by how the show balanced the Broadway values of humor and showmanship with the Shabbat values of community and rest.
“It was incredible how they were able to balance it. I was wondering going in, ‘Is it going to be Broadway tunes? Is it going to be a service? What is that gonna look like?’” said Nadine, who declined to share her last name. “I felt like I got a little bit of both, which was incredible.”
Another attendee, Donna, said she often attends synagogue and also loves Broadway shows. “The convergence of all this as part of what it means to be Jewish in this city was really very beautiful,” she said.
Julie Benko, who is currently starring in Barry Manilow’s “Harmony” on Broadway, performed “Tomorrow” from Annie.
“This event today was so special,” she told the New York Jewish Week. “I feel like I’ve never been in a space like this where I just felt like our whole community came together in this way, where I felt totally safe and connected, celebrating our community and just being together in a way that wasn’t related to ‘showbiz’ — and yet it still celebrated everything that we love in showbiz.”
“It was my favorite Shabbat service I’ve been to,” she added.
J Street drops Jamaal Bowman endorsement, saying his rhetoric ‘crossed a line’
WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street pulled its endorsement of New York Democratic Rep. Jamaal Bowman, citing his “framing and approach,” a sign of how alliances on the Jewish left are shifting after Hamas’ Oct. 7 invasion of Israel.
Bowman was one of the earliest and most outspoken members of Congress to call for a ceasefire following Hamas’ invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 and the outbreak of the ensuing war in Gaza. He has also described Israel’s military campaign in Gaza as “genocide.”
J Street, while critical of Israel’s wartime conduct, has not called for a ceasefire in the conflict. The liberal Israel lobby also adamantly rejects the use of “genocide” to describe Israel’s counterstrikes after Oct. 7, and opposed South Africa’s bringing genocide charges against Israel in the International Court of Justice.
“We have been pleased to work with Congressman Bowman for over four years to promote a shared set of values and principles rooted in the pursuit of justice, equality and peace,” said J Street’s statement, which was issued on Friday. “The past few months have, however, highlighted significant differences between us in framing and approach.”
The announcement comes as Bowman faces a primary challenge in his district, which encompasses parts of Westchester County and a slice of the Bronx. His rival George Latimer, the Westchester County executive, has earned the endorsement of the PAC run by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.
Bowman is seen as the most vulnerable member of the “Squad,” the group of outspoken progressive Democrats that is uniformly critical of Israel and its conduct of the war.
Latimer spoke Saturday night at the Westchester Jewish Council gala, where he received an enthusiastic reception. “You are not alone,” he said, a message that has resonated with liberal Jewish New Yorkers, some of whom have felt alienated by progressive criticism of Israel.
Bowman’s campaign did not reply to requests for comment.
The announcement is also significant as J Street is vying to act as the voice of mainstream Democrats on Israel, as opposed to its rivals to the right, including AIPAC and a more centrist pro-Israel PAC, Democratic Majority for Israel.
J Street, along with other Jewish Democrats, has for years accommodated and at times endorsed even the toughest criticism of Israel, including from Bowman. In its announcement on Friday, J Street pointed to Bowman’s support for a two-state solution, a signature issue for J Street. But since Oct. 7, some Jewish progressives have felt rattled by the rhetoric they’ve heard on the left, including from those who have downplayed the Oct. 7 attack or accused Israel of genocide.
In an interview with The Forward, which first broke the news of J Street dropping Bowman, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the lobby’s president, said Bowman’s rhetoric was a step too far.
“When the rhetoric, the framing and the approach go too far, that’s where we are going to hold our line,” Ben-Ami said. “And that’s when we felt that Bowman crossed the line here.”
Ben-Ami cited the use of the term “genocide”, which Bowman has used multiple times in the months since the war began, as a breaking point. “The rhetoric around genocide, the singling out of Israel, and at times Jewish people, that happens in some of these events — that needs to be called out in real time,” he said.
Policy was previously J Street’s only red line; before this, it has withdrawn an endorsement just once, in 2018, when Michigan Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib made clear late in the election cycle that she favored a single, binational state in place of Israel.
Another Jewish group, the New York-based Jewish Vote, which is affiliated with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, has endorsed Bowman. JFREJ has also called for a ceasefire and accused Israel of genocide.
“This is yet another in a series of poor decisions that J Street has made in recent months,” it said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
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Man arrested after brandishing knife at kosher supermarket in Golders Green, London
LONDON (JTA) — Workers and shoppers at a family-owned kosher supermarket in one of London’s most Jewish neighborhoods fended off a knife-wielding attacker who was demanding to know whether its owners supported “Israel or Palestine” on Monday.
Police arrested a 34-year-old man on suspicion of “racially-aggravated affray” after the man allegedly returned to the supermarket following a first confrontation with staff there.
The attack at Kay’s Local in the northwest London neighborhood of Golders Green took place on Monday afternoon. There were no injuries reported, despite a physical struggle outside the store.
“This guy came into the shop and started asking one of the cashiers: ‘Who do you support, is it Israel or Palestine,’” an employee called Moishe told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The 18-year-old declined to give his last name, citing security concerns.
“The cashier said: ‘We’re neutral, you can support who you want, I can support who I want,’” he added. “Eventually, he left the shop, but came back a minute later.”
The 34-year-old man, who was bearded and hooded, was ushered outside of the Hamilton Road store “where he started speaking about it again,” Moishe recounted.
The attacker then grabbed the neck of 18-year-old Yosef Chaim, who then tried to tackle the man. “I learned Krav Maga at school and other martial arts,” Yosef told the Jewish Chronicle.
Moishe said the assailant was clutching a blue knife behind his back. “He tried stabbing him, attacking him. [Yosef] took a trolley and pushed him over, and then he went into the shop again to try and protect himself.”
Those in the shop grabbed items including a broomstick and a children’s scooter as they tried to fight off the attacker. Yosef’s father, shopkeeper Eyvatar Reitman, 48, told the Jewish Chronicle, “I could see the hate in his eyes. He looked like he came in looking for a fight.”
The attacker was tackled by volunteers from Shomrim, a volunteer Jewish neighborhood watch group in London, and officers from the Metropolitan Police. Videos posted on social media showed him struggling with officers.
The incident comes as local Jews are on edge amid a spike in antisemitic incidents and sustained displays of anti-Israel sentiment in London since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Data from the Community Security Trust, a Jewish security group, indicated that antisemitic incidents in the United Kingdom rose to record levels since Oct. 7, with 2,093 incidents reported in the 68 days after the attack. In one notable incident last week that police are investigating as a hate crime, three Jews in London said they had been attacked by a large group because they were speaking Hebrew.
Nobody was injured in the fighting with the attacker, who crossed the road after being fought off. “He then went into his house and changed his clothes,” Moishe said. “He left his weapon in there.”
Kay’s Local is going to “try and get security,” Moishe said, adding, “London’s not safe.”
The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that officers were called to respond “to reports of a man with a knife in Hamilton Road” at 1:27 p.m. Just over 10 minutes later, it said, it took a man into custody. “A 34-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon, criminal damage and racially-aggravated affray,” the police said.
The statement added that the incident was not being treated as “terror-related.”
Inspector Scott Barden-Marshall added: “I know this incident will cause concern in the community. Officers responded quickly and made an arrest within 10 minutes. An investigation is now under way to establish the circumstances.”
The Community Security Trust urged “the community to remain vigilant and alert.”
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