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Richard Lewis: A True Mensch

Richard Lewis (left) and Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Photo: HBO.

Jewish comedian Richard Lewis, who died at the age of 76 in Los Angeles, was known for his whirlwind of nervous energy. On a recent episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Lewis told Larry David he was putting him in his will, and Larry said it was not necessary. But it’s clear that Lewis will be remembered very fondly by the public, and by those who knew him best.

“He’s one of two comedians I paid to see,” comic Elon Gold told me in an interview.

Gold started comedy at 16 so he would get to see comedians for free; the other comic he paid to see was Gilbert Gottfried.

“[Lewis] was a hero to me,” Gold said. “He was always in my top five. Any time he was on [David] Letterman I dropped everything and watched it and went crazy laughing. He was a combination of Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce, two of the greatest comedians who ever lived. He took that mantle and that voice and coined the term neurotic. I think he was actually mad when other Jewish comedians would use that word. Like Larry [David] said [about Lewis], ‘sweetest guy, funniest guy, that’s a rare combo.’”

Gold guest starred on the show Anything But Love, and got to work with Lewis.

“He couldn’t have been kinder to me,” Gold said. “He was gracious, sweet, and always funny. He had troubles but used it to his advantage. He took torment and trauma that was his childhood and mined it for comedy gold. When you can do that, you’ve won at the game of life.”

Gold joined the cast of Curb in season 11 as a Hulu executive, and said while he didn’t get a chance to do any scenes with Lewis, that Lewis was extremely complimentary.

I interviewed Lewis in 2014. But at first, our wires got crossed about the correct time, and my phone was off. He left a hilarious message that I’ve saved. “What was that like a little Jewish soprano?” Lewis said. “Hey, it’s Alan over here, over there I’m not in. Leave your number. Hey, I’ve been a comedian and an actor and an author for 45 years. I call you exactly on time. I don’t give you any of this fake Jewish mob stuff. You know what I mean? Come on, grow up. Alan, it’s Richard Lewis … What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you there? What are you doing up there? You sending weather balloons up? There’s got to be an excuse that warrants you not being at the phone. I sold out Carnegie Hall in ’89. You know where you were in ’89? Nowhere. You weren’t born yet…”

He wanted to make it clear that he was joking, so he then asked me how his acting was. He was extremely kind in the interview, and said he was never sure that he would be a star.

“It doesn’t cost anything to be a mensch,” Lewis told me when I asked him how one stays grounded in Hollywood with fame and fortune.

He was one of my favorite comedians because he would say unexpected things, like when he said his mother had “major open guilt surgery” on The Johnny Carson Show.

In his 2013 documentary House of a Lifetime, Lewis showed a picture of his character from Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which Mel Brooks autographed to a “neurotic Jewish storm.”

Known for wearing black, Lewis was born in Brooklyn on June 29, 1947. He went to Hebrew school, and his father Bill was a co-owner of a catering company in Teaneck, New Jersey. He would graduate from Ohio State University, and was discovered by comedian David Brenner while he did standup in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. Lewis’ first big role was as Jewish comedian Billy Gondolstein in Diary of a Young Comic, a TV movie that aired on NBC. In 1985, he gained acclaim for his Showtime special I’m in Pain. He also appeared on the Howard Stern Show numerous times, including when he spoke about how he met Larry David when he was 12, hated him, and they had fistfights, but later became friends.

Lewis battled depression and alcoholism in his life.

Like so many others, I loved watching Lewis in Curb over the years. My favorite moment is when Lewis, after realizing he has called his girlfriend “honey” too early in the relationship, calls a waitress “honey” ten times, so it seems normal and his girlfriend doesn’t think he was trying to fast-track things.

Modi Rosenfeld, another comedian, said it was a pleasure to work with Lewis.

“We worked together at a few different events,” he said. “He’s one of the few comedians who is the same person both on and off stage. Always very friendly and supportive to younger comedians — which I was at the time.”

Comic Eli Lebowicz told me that Lewis stood out as someone with a neurotic nervous energy “and was proud of being a Jew.”

On Sunday night’s episode of Curb, people came up to Lewis to compliment him on his act, including a joke about “the bartender from hell.”

In his book, The Other Great Depression, Lewis wrote: “I figured out while writing my autobiography that I chose applause over tears and booze over fears.”

The author is a writer based in New York.

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Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction

Toronto Police have arrested and charged a man for assault over an incident May 9 near the protest encampment at the University of Toronto’s King’s College Circle on its downtown campus.  Toronto Police Services (TPS) say they responded at 3:45 p.m. that day to a call for assault in the area of the road around […]

The post Assault charge laid, arrest made related to incident near the University of Toronto encampment—while its president speaks in Ottawa on antisemitism, and the school seeks a removal injunction appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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‘Any Chance the Media Would Cover This?’ New Video Shows Terrorists in Gaza Using Humanitarian Aid to Help Prepare Rockets

Terrorists in Gaza using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets. Photo: Screenshot

Terrorists in Gaza have been using humanitarian aid bags to prop up rockets they were preparing to shoot at Israelis, new video circulating on social media reveals, underscoring the challenges of delivering aid to Palestinian civilians in the Hamas-ruled enclave without it being stolen.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade — which is the armed wing of Fatah, the political party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbasused bags from Turkey and UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for the Palestinians — to prop up the rockets, according to the video.

At least three of the bags say they contain “wheat flour,” and the bag from Turkey specifically says it is supposed to go “to the Palestinian people.” It is unclear whether the bags had previously been opened to extract the food and then refilled with sand, for example, or if it still contained the food that was intended to feed Palestinian civilians.

“Any chance the media would cover this, yet another violation of international humanitarian law?” pro-Israel commentator Hen Mazzig wrote on X/Twitter while sharing the video.

Rafah, Gaza: Hamas is using UN humanitarian aid bags as rocket launchers today.

Any chance the media would cover this, yet another, violation of International Humanitarian Law?

— Hen Mazzig (@HenMazzig) May 29, 2024

Almost every day for the past seven months, Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorist organizations have been shooting rockets into Israel from civilian areas, which is a war crime. Tens of thousands of Israelis are internally displaced and unable to return to their homes as a result.

There is mounting evidence that Hamas has also operated in civilian clothing and in civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. However, these violations of international law are rarely noted by much of the media.

The latest video of terrorists using humanitarian aid for military purposes underscores the issue of making sure such aid gets to Palestinian civilians. 

The US built a pier to deliver 2,000,000 meals daily to Palestinian civilians, but after a few weeks of operation, the Pentagon said none of the aid unloaded from the pier had made it to those who needed it. On one occasion, about 70 percent of the aid has been stolen while en route to a UN warehouse. In other cases, it just never showed up.

Israeli estimates suggest approximately 60 percent of the aid that has gone into Gaza has been stolen — either by Hamas or other groups and individuals. Oftentimes, that aid is then sold to the population at high prices, making it difficult to impossible for most Gazans to gain access to it. 

According to Ehud Yaari, an expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Hamas has made more than $500 million in profit from selling humanitarian aid since Oct. 7.

The terror group began the war last October by massacring 1,200 people in Israel and taking more than 250 people hostage, about half of whom have still not been released.

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Columbia University Anti-Zionist Group Endorses Hamas

Demonstrators take part in an anti-Israel demonstration at the Columbia University campus, in New York City, US, Feb. 2, 2024. REUTERS/David Dee Delgado

Columbia University’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) has endorsed Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization, the latest sign of its growing extremism and willingness to embrace antisemitic violence.

“The Palestinian resistance is the only force materially fighting back against isr*el [sic],” the group said in a series of posts shared by Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus, a social media account which exposes antisemitism on college campuses. “There is no way to eliminate the resistance without ending the occupation. When you see a video of a young palestinian [sic] boy traumatized in a hospital talking about how iof [the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF] shot his pregnant mother in cold blood in front of his own eyes, do not question how he chooses to resist years later.”

.@Columbia and @BarnardCollege, @ColumbiaSJP is actively promoting terrorism and anti-Israel rhetoric on their social media channels. They are sounding more and more like Hamas spokespeople every day. When is the university going to permanently ban this “student group”?

— Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus (@CampusJewHate) May 26, 2024

Campus Reform, a higher education watchdog which first reported Documenting Jew Hatred on Campus’ posts, noted that Columbia SJP has added an “inverted red triangle” to its social media biography, further indicating its support for Hamas. The Palestinian terrorist group has used an inverted red triangle in its propaganda videos to indicate an Israeli target about to be attacked, and anti-Israel protesters on university campuses have been using the symbol in their demonstrations.

Columbia SJP, a group that has reformed under multiple organizations since being suspended by school administrators during the fall semester, has been central in staging a slew of riotous demonstrations in which anti-Zionist activists verbally assaulted Jewish students with antisemitic epithets, clamorously expressed support for terrorism and Hamas, and caused thousands of dollars in damages to school property.

The group’s behavior after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Center for League Justice (SCLJ).

The complaint alleges that after bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on their people, the pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence. They beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library, according to the lawsuit. Another attacked a Jewish students with a stick, lacerating his head and breaking his finger, after being asked to return missing persons posters she had stolen.

Following the incidents, pleas for help allegedly went unanswered and administrators told Jewish students they could not guarantee their safety while SJP held its demonstrations. The school’s apparent powerlessness to prevent anti-Jewish violence was cited as the reason why Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a recognized school club, was denied permission to hold an event on self-defense. Events with “buzzwords” such as “Israel” and “Palestine” were forbidden, administrators allegedly said, but SJP continued to host events while no one explained the inconsistency.

The explosion of end-of-year protests held by the group forced Columbia officials to shutter the campus in April and institute virtual learning. Later, the group occupied Hamilton Hall, forcing President Minouche Shafik to call on the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for help, a decision she hesitated to make. According to The Columbia Spectator, over 108 arrests were made.

“Yes, we’re all Hamas, pig!” one protester was filmed screaming during the fracas, which saw some verbal skirmishes between pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist partisans. “Long live Hamas!” said others who filmed themselves dancing and praising the al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Hamas terrorist organization. “Kill another solider!”

Amid the chaos, a prominent rabbi at the school urged Jewish students to leave the campus for the sake of their safety. Ultimately, the university cancelled its main commencement ceremony.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

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