Connect with us


Rabbi David Wolpe, stepping down from a top pulpit, wants you to stop arguing and start listening



(JTA) — David Wolpe has been called one of the most quoted rabbis in the United States, and not always to his advantage. As senior rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, one of the largest and most visible Conservative pulpits in the country, the decisions he makes and things he says are often treated as bellwethers of centrist American Jewry. When he questioned the historicity of the Exodus story or began performing same-sex marriages, for example, he made front-page news.

Wolpe has also led an unusually diverse synagogue, with pews filled both by largely liberal Jews of Ashkenazi descent and Persian Jews with roots in Iran who tend to be more politically conservative. Bridging these divides has been a signature of his rabbinate, and in recent years he has been writing and tweeting about civil discourse in increasingly polarized times. 

On Friday, Wolpe, 63, became emeritus rabbi of Sinai Temple, where he had been the senior rabbi since 1997. As he prepared to step aside – he’ll spend the next year as a fellow at Harvard Divinity School — he joined me in a public Zoom conversation Tuesday to talk about what he learned as a rabbi, the changes he has seen in American Judaism, and his hopes and fears for the future. But I especially wanted to talk about the polarized political climate and his views on moral and political discourse (with which I have occasionally disagreed). We also talked about rabbis who speak about politics from the pulpit, a topic which led to a fascinating back-and- forth among Wolpe and his colleagues in the pages of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles.

“We’re much more polarized than we were in 1997,” Wolpe, the author of eight books and a long-running column in the New York Jewish Week, told me. “Everybody knows that. And you can get into much more trouble by expressing an opinion on one or the other side of a controversial issue than you could back then.”

Our conversation was wide-ranging, and I encourage you to watch the whole thing here. Below is an excerpt, edited for length and clarity, focusing on our discussion of civil discourse. 

You have a famously diverse synagogue. What were some of the cultural and political divides that you had to bridge and how have they changed? 

There were political divides, first of all. I have right and left. I have some very ardent supporters of Trump and very ardent detractors. And there was a cultural divide because the patterns of language and so on of the Persian community and the Ashkenazi community were different. I wrote about this in a forthcoming New York Times editorial, about the two best ways to bridge [these divides]. I’ll take a step back to explain it more fully than I did there. We don’t have a common culture. Nobody reads the same books. Nobody watches the same movies. Nobody watches the same television shows. I mean, the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode [of “Dallas,” in 1980] drew tens of millions of views, but the finale of something like “Succession” draws a couple million. The one thing everyone has in common is politics. So when people talk, when they meet each other, they start with politics, which is guaranteed to cause division. 

Sinai Temple, where David Wolpe was senior rabbi starting in 1997, is known for the political and ethnic diversity of its large congregation. (Courtesy Sinai Temple)

One of the things I tried to encourage in the synagogue was to get people to know each other in different ways than opening the conversation about politics. Talk about your kids. Talk about school. Talk about what you’d like to do on vacation, talk about food. Talk about life so that you know the person as a person before they express their opinion so at the outset of the conversation you wouldn’t totally dismiss them. And the other thing I encourage, which is difficult, is just listening. Understand that growing up in Tehran gives you a different view of the world than growing up in Philadelphia. And I have to respect the fact that it’s a very different orientation. And in order to understand it, I can’t tell someone else what to think. I have to listen to what they think and ask questions about it. Which is not easy. Here’s a little Hebrew lesson: The word “savlanut,” which means patience in Hebrew, comes from the word “seivel,” which means to suffer. Because patience is suffering sometimes, but you have to go through it to understand others.

I want to talk a little bit more about how you bridge those gaps. But I want to go back to a famous moment in your rabbinate. This is in 2001, when in a series of sermons you cited archaeologists who said that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way it happened, if it happened at all. The L.A. Times picks up the story. And you were accused by some as being the rabbi who chose science and history over faith and Judaism. I want to ask not just about that, but also what you think a rabbi would have to say today to spark a similar furor.

I’m going to start with the first part. My whole point in the sermon was that it didn’t matter — that actual faith transcends the facts of the case. And that I celebrate Passover the same way despite the fact that archaeologists rebut the historical record, and also that you can’t make historical claims and then tell archaeologists “what you say doesn’t matter.” But that is a separate controversy for another time. 

I think today it’s very audience-dependent. If you got up in a Reform congregation and said that, you wouldn’t cause a ruckus, but if you got up in an Orthodox congregation and said that — most, but not all — you would cause a furor. When I came out for same-sex marriage, it was on the front page of The New York Times and the L.A. Times because it caused such a furor in the congregation. When that happened, I said to my daughter, “I want you to know when you go to school tomorrow, people are going to be saying bad things about your father,” and she said to me, “Why?” And I said because I’m sending a letter that I’m going to be doing same-sex marriages. I remember her looking at me and saying, “What took you so long?” Because for her it was like I was saying, “I’m gonna marry brown-haired people to blonde-haired people.” She didn’t understand why that was an issue. The nature of controversies change a lot, but there will always be controversies.

So how did you weather it? What helps you keep congregants on board – or not, and decide it’s okay to let some congregants slip away?

If you believe what you’re saying matters and is true, it helps a lot. I also told my daughter what Churchill said, I think after the Boer War, which is “Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” In other words, the people who didn’t like me before didn’t like me after, and the people who loved me before loved me after. You realize that there is an immediate cost to being true to yourself, but there’s a long-range, huge benefit and that it’s worth it. So I was very fortunate. I didn’t lose my job. I didn’t lose my friends. You know, there are people who take stands and they lose much more than I did. And obviously, you know, if you’re in a different kind of country, you lose even more than that. So, I think if you’re given a pulpit, then to the extent that you believe something, it’s really important to enunciate from the pulpit, and that you can [create] change by doing it. You have a responsibility.

Still, there’s a big debate over whether rabbis should be talking politics from the pulpit. Where do you stand on that? What do you think are the limits of literally the bully pulpit?

I’m very, very opposed, actually, to rabbis talking politics from the pulpit, and I’ll tell you why I say that. First of all, it’s not like I know more about politics than my congregants. So if I talked about gun control, for example, about which I have strong feelings, I’m talking to people who know as much or more about it than I do, who see it differently. And it seems to me it is an illegitimate arrogation of my role as a rabbi to say that “because I see it this way, this is Judaism’s position,” which is generally how it’s framed. I actually gave a class years ago where I took a whole bunch of issues — immigration, abortion, women’s rights — and I gave all the Jewish sources on both sides, just so people should realize that Judaism speaks to both sides of these issues. 

I always ask rabbis who speak politically from the pulpit, “If you were not a rabbi, if you were not even Jewish, would your political position be different?” In other words, is your political position mandated by what you understand the Torah to be even though it’s not your personal position? Or is it just your personal position filtered through the Torah? And almost inevitably, it’s the personal position, filtered through the Torah. That to me is just basically preaching politics with a little Judaic twist. And I don’t think that’s what a rabbi should be doing. If there is one place that can be a refuge in a country that is saturated with politics all the time, so that you can actually elevate your soul and hear things about your life and about Jewish history and aspiration, it seems to me it would be the synagogue. I should say as a caveat, I exempt Israel from that: Being pro-Israel seems to me a fundamental Jewish tenet and not a political one.

But I want to push back a little bit. Historically, we look back with such pride on rabbis like Abraham Joshua Heschel or Joachim Prinz in Newark, who in a very polarized time in this country took a strong stand and threw their Jewishness, threw their pulpits, they threw their whole selves into the civil rights movement.

That is the example that people always point to: Heschel. And I say that’s exactly right, because it’s the exception, it’s not the rule. If there is a radical injustice being perpetrated — and I felt, for example, [the denial of] gay marriage was a radical injustice — then you speak up. But everything becomes a question of radical injustice now, everything, every political issue. Civil rights was a uniquely morally urgent issue, about which I really believe it was right to speak up, but those are few and far between. And instead what happens is everything gets thrown into the same pot. Minimum wage becomes just as urgent and people will invoke civil rights to argue one way or another on minimum wage and every other issue in the world, and whether you should be a Republican or a Democrat. And the way that they speak about the other part of the country, it’s like, “they’re obviously radically immoral and terrible.” And I don’t think the rabbi should contribute to that discourse, except in the most extreme circumstances, which obviously civil rights was.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (far right) marches with Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery on March 21, 1965. (Getty)

You’ve been writing frequently in the journal Sapir about the ethics of dialogue. And in one essay you ask, “How should we respond when someone promulgates a view with which we disagree, or one that we find offensive, repugnant, even dangerous?” So I’ll throw that question back to you. How do we respond?

The first way you respond is you ask the person, “Why do you believe that?” Because you’ll learn much more and you might discover interesting facts both about the person and about the belief that you didn’t know at first. I’ve had this discussion many, many times with people who have political beliefs that differ from my own and once you actually interrogate the belief, then you can respond to it. But we’ve become a culture in which the way you respond is by attacking the person. I also want to say that, in my experience, most of the political diatribes that we hear change nobody’s mind. Instead, they make your team feel good. And the other team doesn’t even listen to you. 

What also tends to happen is that if you reach out your own team gets upset, because you’re just supposed to be supporting them and you’re not supposed to be listening to the other side. But the Talmud is filled with argument and debate. And the reason you listen to the house of Hillel and not the house of Shammai [two famous antagonists in the Talmud] is because of the way they conducted themselves during the debate. They let Shammai express their opinion first. They listened. They were kind. They were understanding. So this is a multifaceted question. It’s not just a question of abstract opinion. It’s also a question of the way you bear yourself in the public square.

But I wonder if something’s changed. I don’t know if you’ll agree with me, but in terms of public debate I think there’s a different dialogue when one side is trying to muster facts and good-faith arguments, and the other side responds with straw man arguments and conspiracy theories. I’m wondering when trying to seek an argument for the sake of Heaven falls down because one side isn’t really willing to play by the rules.

First of all, I’ve seen both sides indulge in conspiracy theories and false facts. And while one side may be more egregiously guilty of this than the other, I’m always suspicious of someone who thinks their own side doesn’t do this. So if you’re willing to fess up and say “we do this” and then you turn to the other person and say “I see your side doing this,” that’s the beginning of a dialogue. Instead, what I hear is, “My side does facts. Your side does conspiracy.” That’s not going to start a dialogue. So if you’re willing to look at your own shortcomings, then you have the possibility of actually starting a dialogue. But that isn’t what I see. And I don’t want to make this all about the worst actors on [either] side. Because there’s a range and I see that in the people that I talk to.

You also recently tweeted, along the same lines, “Being right is increasingly favored over searching for truth. A healthy society like a thoughtful individual values discovery over justification.” That sounds like a summary of what you’ve been saying.

I had this proposal that I don’t know will ever be realized. I wanted everybody to have a politics dinner. And the idea was, you had to take the other person’s position. You could not express the opinion you believed in. You just had to take the other person’s position and see how well you could articulate what you think the other believes. Because when you start to do that, you start to realize that the other side actually has things that are worth hearing, and truth never resides entirely on one side of the argument. I want to be clear: That does not mean that I don’t favor certain sides over other sides and there aren’t people in the public sphere that I am not fans of, to say the least. But that alone doesn’t help advance the dialogue. To say that doesn’t move things forward. And I’m really interested in trying to move things forward.

What does “moving things forward” mean in this regard? 

Genuine discussions with people who you really disagree with — that’s what I think of as moving things forward. Not ruling them out of court because they support this candidate or that candidate. This is not too crazy. You and I grew up in an America where people actually did this. Let me give you a statistic that I find really striking. When I was young, if you asked the average American, “How do you feel about your child marrying someone of another race?” The percentage was very small of Americans who felt good about that. If you said, “How do you feel about your child marrying someone of another political party?” Overwhelmingly, people were in favor of that. Now the numbers have exactly flipped. Now, that shows you that we can change for good and we can change for ill but the only way to change for good is by actually really engaging with the other. Otherwise, we’re going to dig deeper and deeper bunkers. And that can’t be good for America or for the world.

What are the limits of engagement? I’m thinking of when organizations are pressured to cancel a speaker because one side claims the other poses a threat or is somehow beyond the pale. Are there red lines that Jewish organizations shouldn’t be expected to cross?

I would not invite a Holocaust denier to speak to a Jewish organization. 

An anti-Zionist?

I wouldn’t invite an anti-Zionist, but if a Jewish organization did, I would not say that they should never have done that. But I would say that they have an obligation to have somebody speak to the other side of that question. Because anti-Zionism to me often shades into antisemitism — they’re not exactly identical, but they’re closer than second cousins. 

My general predisposition is that the way you combat bad ideas is with good ideas, not by saying those bad ideas can’t be heard, because we know this strategy doesn’t work. All it does is give fuel to the people who have bad ideas [to say] “Oh, you see, you don’t even want to engage with me. That’s because my idea is so dangerous that you can’t stand to hear it.”

I can give you other examples. I wouldn’t invite a Jew for Jesus to speak at a Jewish institution either. I have specific reasons. But it’s tricky, and there is no perfect distinction that you can make. I think we should try to err on the side of being a listener, as opposed to a censor.

Israelis and American Jews protest outside a Teaneck, New Jersey synagogue where Israeli politician Simcha Rothman, a leading figure in his government’s push to overhaul the judicial system, was giving a speech, June 1, 2023. (JTA)

I’ll throw out one more example and this is purely hypothetical: perhaps inviting an Israeli cabinet member who represents anti-democratic tendencies in the Jewish state

If I were in that [institution] I would ask them to have somebody cross-examine this person, as opposed to just have them speak, because I think those views are too important to pretend they don’t exist, but they’re also too toxic to not be challenged.

At the risk of making you repeat yourself, I want to refer to the chat that is accompanying this Zoom. I don’t know if you have been following it but what I’m seeing is people saying that there are political questions that are moral questions, and if we overdo the idea of trying to learn from the other side, we are conceding a moral, just stance.

I hear this all the time. But what you don’t understand is that you hear it from both sides.

But that doesn’t mean both sides are right.

My brother who’s an ethicist [Paul Root Wolpe, director of the Center for Ethics at Emory University] says ethical dilemmas are almost always a choice between two rights, not between a right and a wrong. And in every political question there are usually buried in it two things that are principles that everybody agrees with but just that we favor one principle over another. So for example, with immigration, the humane treatment of human beings, the right of a country to define its own borders and to decide who it is and who it isn’t. And we see this in multiple ways. And it’s not so easy to say this is clearly right and this is clearly wrong. And understand I’m not asking you to not take a stand. If someone wants to ask me my private opinion, I’m always happy to give it. I pull no punches when they ask me what I think of this person or that person in private. That’s not the question. The question is how do we conduct public dialogue so it’s not just two people shouting at each other? And believe me, as soon as you say to the other side, “I’m just right and moral and you’re just wrong” you have just closed down the possibility that you can talk. And if you want to do that, you can, but realize that that will just mean that everybody in your camp will agree with you, and everybody in our camp won’t listen to you, and nothing will get done. 

People always hear listening as giving up on your own moral position. But it’s not. It’s listening. It’s being able to hear that someone else also has a moral position, even if you disagree with it. And if you really understand, if you can express the other person’s opinion really well — if you can do that well, then I think you’re ready to say, “and this is why I disagree with it.” But if you’re going to caricature it as just, well, “you’re an immoral jerk,” then honestly, you don’t understand what you’re arguing against.

The post Rabbi David Wolpe, stepping down from a top pulpit, wants you to stop arguing and start listening appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A Jewish-owned hot dog empire began on this Coney Island street corner




(New York Jewish Week) — For many generations of New Yorkers, eating a Nathan’s Famous hot dog from their Coney Island flagship location is a staple of summer. The iconic hot dog stand just celebrated its 107th season at the city’s iconic beachside destination. 

Nathan’s Famous — which started as a nickel hot dog stand and grew to a franchised business that today has over 350 locations in 12 countries — may be most famous today for its annual Fourth of July hot dog eating contest. It is named for its founder, Nathan Handwerker, a Polish Jewish immigrant who, along with his wife, Ida, opened Nathan’s Famous in 1916, when he was 19.

“It was his life,” Handwerker’s grandson, Lloyd Handwerker, who made a 2014 documentary and wrote an accompanying book about his family history, both titled “Famous Nathan,” told the New York Jewish Week

“He had brilliant instincts about running a business — basic ideas which seem simple, but they work well,” Lloyd said. “Which is keeping the price low, having the quality be great, being a stickler, paying people well and caring about the customer.”

On Sept. 24, 2016, the 100th anniversary of the founding of Nathan’s Famous, New York City co-named the corner of the Surf and Stillwell Avenues Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way. 

“Nathan and Ida Handwerker worked together for over 50 years and were part of the few generations who formed the rich Coney Island culture that is now renowned throughout the nation and all over the world,” Lloyd Handwerker’s cousin, William, said at the unveiling event. “It is an honor to celebrate their legacy by memorializing their names on the street corner that houses the original Nathan’s.”

(Lloyd was supposed to give a speech alongside his family, but his father, Sol, died just days before the ceremony.) 

Also present that day was Eric Adams, who at the time was Brooklyn Borough President, and Mark Treyger, the Jewish city council member for District 47, which includes Coney Island. “The corner of Surf and Stillwell Avenues in Coney Island is now known as Nathan and Ida Handwerker Way, after the husband and wife team who grew a hot dog food cart into a brand that is known worldwide,” Treyger said at the ceremony. 

“The inspiring story of these two immigrants, who came to this country facing an uncertain future, working hard to create a product that means so much to so many, is what the American Dream is all about,” he added.

Handwerker arrived in the United States from Poland in 1912 and took a job as a delivery boy during the week. On the weekends, he sliced rolls at Feltman’s German Gardens, a restaurant in Coney Island — where he met a waitress who would become his wife. 

By 1916, the couple had saved $300, enough to open their own, competing hot dog restaurant. They used Ida’s secret spice recipe to make their hot dogs, for which they charged 5 cents — half the price of a dog at Feltman’s. 

Considering the low price of the product, customers were skeptical at first, so Handwerker allegedly hired men to wear white coats while eating his hot dogs. The image would lend his business credibility, as customers figured that if doctors were eating the hot dogs, they could, too. 

The business grew steadily over the next half century, with Handwerker working 18-20 hours a day cooking food, selling it and running the business. When the company went public in 1968, Handwerker was elected chairman of the board.

“As a grandfather, he was a very sweet, soft guy. I had no idea what kind of boss he was,” said Lloyd. “It’s different for different people, but I found out he was pretty tough. He was a stickler, and he was clearly a perfectionist about everything — about the quality, about the workers.”

As for Ida Handwerker, in addition to creating the recipe for the hot dogs, she was often in the back kitchen, peeling and chopping onions, garlic and potatoes, Lloyd said. “My grandmother, too, my dad said, was also pretty tough in her own way,” he said. “She worked in the business for many, many years alongside [Nathan], especially in the early days. She was a great grandmother, warm and wonderful. But I guess they both came up hard and tough.”

By the time Nathan Handwerker died in 1974 at 81, Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs was a household name. Over the years, the hot dog stand became a favorite for celebrities like Barbra Streisand and Regis Philbin. In 1936, the hot dogs were served at a lawn party hosted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in honor of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. 

The Coney Island location was also an essential stop for politicians from City Council members to the president of the United States. “No one can hope to be elected to public office in New York without having his picture taken eating a hot dog at Nathan’s,” former New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller once told Handwerker during a campaign visit to Coney Island, according to the New York Times. 

Handwerker retired to Florida in 1972, with his son Murray taking over and expanding the business. Nathan’s first hot dog eating contest was that same year.

Lloyd Handwerker, grandson of Nathan Handwerker, founder of ‘Nathan’s’, standing in front of ‘Nathan’s’ restaurant in Coney Island, New York, NY, June 29, 2016. (Johannes Schmitt-Tegge/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Lloyd Handwerker, who was 17 when his grandfather died, began working on his film in the 1980s, and over the course of 30 years he interviewed some 75 friends, family members and associates of Nathan’s Famous. “My grandfather was always telling stories around the dining room table at the holidays and dinners,” he said. “By the time I took a video class and had access to a camera, my grandfather and my grandmother had passed away, but I still thought ‘we should be preserving this history.’”

Though he never worked at Nathan’s Famous, Lloyd, who grew up in a Reform Jewish household in Long Island, said that he has fond memories of visiting his grandparents’ office in Coney Island, as well as celebrating Jewish holidays at their house in Florida. “My grandmother cooked amazingly, so I have a lot of great memories of Passover in particular,” he recalled. Lloyd said that though his grandfather grew up traditionally religious in Poland, he didn’t keep many traditional customs by the time he came to the United States. 

And yet, some tenets of Judaism were deeply ingrained in the entrepreneur: Though he didn’t hire a rabbi to certify the kitchen, Handwerker coined the term “kosher-style” for his restaurant, because his hot dogs were made with 100% beef and therefore could be kosher. 

Plus, “the one day that the restaurant was closed out of the whole year was Yom Kippur, so it still obviously meant something to him,” Lloyd said of his grandfather. 

Nathan’s Famous is now owned by Smithfield, a subsidiary of the Chinese meat and food processing company WH Group. However, the family still owns the original Coney Island building and is the landlord for Nathan’s Famous there.  

“As far as his legacy, he was obviously very proud of what he created,” Lloyd said of Nathan. “He was a pretty humble guy, but look at what he did: He came from starvation in Poland, without an education. He didn’t know how to read or write, he was basically illiterate and he built this institution that  everyone has a story about. It’s amazing.”

The post A Jewish-owned hot dog empire began on this Coney Island street corner appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading


​​Biden’s new book ban czar is a longtime progressive Jewish leader




(JTA) – The Biden Administration’s new point person for combating book bans at school districts and public libraries across the country is a gay, Jewish progressive activist who has served as a government liaison to the Jewish and LGBTQ communities.

The appointment of Matt Nosanchuk comes as the thousands of book challenges nationwide have focused on books with LGBTQ as well as Jewish themes, in addition to works about race. Nosanchuk was named a deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Education’s civil rights office earlier this month. In that role, he will lead training sessions for schools and libraries on how to deal with book bans — and warn districts that the department believes book bans can violate civil rights laws.

An Education Department official recently told the 74, an education news site, that the bans “are a threat to students’ rights and freedoms.”

“I am excited to return to public service to work on behalf of the American people,” Nosanchuk posted to LinkedIn earlier this month. “There is a lot of important work to do!”

The Education Department declined to make Nosanchuk available for an interview. He has already taken heat from conservative outlets, which have pushed the narrative that the books being removed from schools and libraries are too sexually explicit for children. Kayleigh McEnany, the Fox News host who served as Donald Trump’s press secretary, called him a “porn enforcer” on-air.

But his appointment has been celebrated by librarians and book access activists. “This is a step forward for the Biden Administration, who has heard the concerns of parents and taken action, but it is just the beginning,” the National Parents Union, a progressive parental education activist group, said in a statement.

Nosanchuk’s career has largely focused on working with the LGBTQ and Jewish communities. In 2009, after serving in a number of roles in Washington, D.C., Nosanchuk was appointed as the Department of Justice’s liaison to the LGBTQ community — a position he held while Obama was still publicly opposed to same-sex marriage. He later worked on the Obama administration’s opposition to a law barring same-sex couples from receiving federal benefits.

He subsequently served as the White House liaison to the Jewish community during Obama’s second term, and in 2020 was the Democratic National Committee’s political organizer for Jewish outreach and LGBTQ engagement. That same year, he cofounded the New York Jewish Agenda, a progressive policy group that he led until earlier this year.

Nosanchuk’s first webinar in his new role was held Tuesday in partnership with the American Library Association, an organization with which a number of Republican-led states have recently cut ties. He begins his work after a year that has seen several school districts take aim at books focused on Jewish experiences or the Holocaust.

Two weeks ago, a Texas school district fired a middle school teacher reportedly for reading a passage from an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary to eighth-grade students. Other schools’ removals of “The Fixer,” a Jodi Picoult novel about the Holocaust and other texts have been likened to Nazi and Stalinist book burnings —  comparisons that proponents of the book restrictions reject.

Democratic politicians, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, have accused Republicans of wanting “to ban books on the Holocaust.” A recent Senate hearing on book bans included testimony from Cameron Samuels, a Jewish advocate for access to books, along with numerous references to “Maus,” a graphic novel by Art Spiegelman about the Holocaust that was pulled from a Tennessee middle school curriculum last year.

PEN America, a literary free-speech advocacy group, welcomed Nosanchuk’s appointment.

“Book removals and restrictions continue apace across the country, as the tactics to silence certain voices and identities are sharpened,” the group said in a statement. “Empowering the coordinator to address this ongoing movement is critical.”

The post ​​Biden’s new book ban czar is a longtime progressive Jewish leader appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading


Ohio high school football coach resigns after players use ‘Nazi’ in play calls




(JTA) — A high school football coach in suburban Cleveland has resigned after his team used the word “Nazi” in addition to racial slurs in its play calling during a game on Friday against a team in a heavily Jewish town.

Tim McFarland, the coach of Brooklyn High School in Brooklyn, Ohio, submitted his resignation Monday and apologized via a statement written by the district, the Cleveland Jewish News reported. Local Jewish groups have also reached out to district officials, who have indicated a willingness to work with them.

Brooklyn was playing the team from Beachwood, a suburb with the second-highest rate of Jewish residents in the country.

The offensive play calls were first flagged by Beachwood’s head coach, Scott Fischer, at halftime, the school’s athletic director told parents in an email after the game.

“During my discussion with Coach Fischer at halftime, we agreed that if these actions continued we would pull our team off the field,” wrote the school’s athletic director, Ryan Peters, as reported by the Cleveland Jewish News. Peters said that McFarland admitted to using the “Nazi” play and agreed to change the name of the play for the game’s second half. The mother of a Beachwood cheerleader told the Cleveland Jewish News they couldn’t hear the offensive language in the stands.

The language was also condemned by the mayor and city council of Beachwood.

It was not the first time in recent memory a high school football team employed antisemitic language in its play calling. In 2021 a Boston-area school was found to have used terms including “Auschwitz,” “yarmulke” and “rabbi” in its own plays for at least a decade, part of what an investigation revealed was a long history of antisemitic and homophobic behavior. That school’s football coach was also fired, and the state of Massachusetts soon passed new laws to require genocide education in high schools in response to that and other antisemitic school sports incidents in the state.

In recent months, Jewish high school sporting events in Miami and Los Angeles were home to alleged antisemitic taunts. Both were alleged to have come in response to antagonistic or even racist behavior by Jewish students, according to local reports. Another high school in the Sacramento area is investigating reports that four students made Nazi salutes on social media earlier this month.

The post Ohio high school football coach resigns after players use ‘Nazi’ in play calls appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News