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SAG strike puts its brash Jewish president, Fran Drescher, squarely in the spotlight

(JTA) — In the second season of “The Nanny,” the sitcom she wrote and starred in, Fran Drescher’s character, Fran Fine, refuses to enter a hotel where the busboys are striking.

“I’m sorry, but the Fines don’t cross picket lines,” she tells her companion, the father of the family she works for. “It’s against our religion.”

The laugh line was one of many moments when Drescher served her signature mashup of brashness, Jewishness and liberal politics throughout her early 1990s series and beyond.

Now, three decades later, Drescher is one of the most prominent advocates for organized labor — and it’s hardly a joke. The union she has led since 2021, the Screen Actors Guild, last week launched a strike over their treatment by studios in an age of digital streaming. Joining with the union representing writers, which is also on strike, the guild has effectively caused Hollywood to grind to a halt — and Drescher is leading the charge.

“What we ultimately received from them is what my mom would call ‘a leck and a schmeck,’” she said during a press conference last week, using the Yiddish for “a lick and a sniff” — meaning an amount so small one can barely smell or taste it — to refer to the offer from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Production.

In leading the 160,000-member union through the strike, Drescher joins a long list of Jewish women labor activists. In 1909, Clara Lemlich, a 23-year-old Jewish garment worker, gave an impassioned speech — also in Yiddish — that ignited a 20,000 person general strike consisting mostly of women, reshaping her industry and strengthening the power of unions.

The “Great Revolt,” referring to a separate 50,000-person, mostly male garment worker’s strike that followed, is seen as a watershed moment in labor history. “That’s really the critical thing: the women launch the Great Revolt,” said Pamela Nadell, director of the Jewish studies program at American University and author of “America’s Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today.”

Lemlich wasn’t alone. Around the same time, Rose Schneiderman, vice president of the New York chapter of the Women’s Trade Union League starting in 1908, was instrumental in the state’s passage of fire safety legislation in the wake of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911. Bessie Abramowitz became one of the founders of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union, launching a major strike against menswear store Hart Schaffner and Marx.

More recently, the American Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers union in the United States and one of the top-10 biggest unions overall, has twice been led by Jewish women, including its current president, Randi Weingarten.

“What you’re seeing is a pattern that Jewish women in the labor force, when they have seen injustice, have stood up for it,” Nadell said. “Stories about Jewish women’s social justice activism… it’s passed on from generation to generation.”

Drescher was born and raised in Queens, New York to Sylvia, a bridal consultant, and Mort Drescher, a naval systems analyst. (Her character’s parents on “The Nanny” had the same names.) She told an interviewer that her father taught her to “refine what exists, not accept what is.”

Drescher’s Jewish identity has long been central to her on-screen characters. Throughout the show, Fran Fine teaches the Sheffield family Yiddish terms and the basics about Jewish holidays. The show has drawn criticism for perpetuating stereotypes of Jewish women who are whiny, obsessed with marrying doctors and always looking for a sale — but it also has enduring Jewish fans, including writer and actor Ilana Glazer, who cast Drescher as her aunt on “Broad City.”

In the 1997 romantic comedy “The Beautician and the Beast,” Drescher’s character, New York City beautician Joy Miller, ends up in a fictional Eastern European country ruled by a dictator named Boris Pochenko. In one scene, she tours a factory with the dictator and chats with a worker who expresses dismay that he will have to stay late to work and will miss dinner. She tries to assuage his concern by reminding him that he could still get overtime.

When he says he is unfamiliar with the concept, she gets a dreamy look in her eyes. She is then shown speaking passionately to the workers.

When Pochenko and Miller reunite outside, he lambastes her for acting out of turn.

“You know,” she replies, “I might have said the word ‘strike.’ I say a lot of things! Who listens?”

Drescher has received criticism for her stance against vaccine mandates in the film and television industry during her time as SAG-AFTRA president, though she says she has received all doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Days before the contract with the AMPTP was set to expire, Drescher was the focus of more criticism as reality TV star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian — whose net worth is around $1.2 billion, according to Forbes — shared a photo of the two of them together in Puglia, Italy, in the middle of guild negotiations. Kardashian has more than 362 million Instagram followers.

Drescher later clarified that she was in Italy for a work event related to her position as a brand ambassador for Dolce and Gabbana (she says she had not met Kardashian before they took the photo) and that the negotiating committee was aware of her attendance.

The strike is not the first time she has faced down the studios. Speaking on a Los Angeles magazine podcast in 2020, she said a network had initially pressed her to make the “Nanny” character Italian instead of Jewish. At first, she said, she considered making the switch to facilitate her big break — but she decided against it.

“I do not like living with regret, and I don’t want to rush into doing something to get the job and then when it doesn’t go right or it fails, I kick myself because I thought, ‘Why didn’t we follow our instincts? Why did we listen to them?’” she said on the podcast. “I thought, ‘I can’t live with that regret. I know this character needs to be written very close to me and all the rich and wonderful characters that I grew up with.’”

Referring to her co-writer and then-husband Peter Marc Jacobson, she went on: “Peter and I have a brand of comedy that’s rich in specificity, and not only couldn’t we have written it that way — if the character were Italian — but I couldn’t have performed it that way. So we kind of mustered up our chutzpah and said, ‘No, Fran Fine must be Jewish.’”

Now, Drescher is hoping that the same chutzpah will translate into a better deal for actors who say they are not being fairly paid for work that streams online. Key issues in the contract negotiations include “economic fairness, residuals, regulating the use of artificial intelligence and alleviating the burdens of the industry-wide shift to self-taping,” according to the SAG-AFTRA website. The AI proposal from AMPTP in particular has been a disturbing development to guild members.

“They propose that our background performers should be able to be scanned, get paid for one day’s pay, and their company should own that scan of their image, their likeness, and should be able to use it for the rest of eternity,” said SAG-AFTRA chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland. “So if you think that’s a groundbreaking proposal, I suggest you think again.”

In June, nearly 98% of the guild’s members voted to authorize a strike, and the strike began on Friday. Not only are guild members prohibited from shooting, but they are also banned from promoting films and TV shows that have already been made, including through social media posts, participating in print and radio interviews, and making late night talk show appearances about their work. The actors’ strike is also occurring on the back of the Writers Guild strike, which began in May. Studios and the AMPTP estimate this strike will continue until October.

“The endgame is to allow things to drag on until union members start losing their apartments and losing their houses,” a studio executive told Deadline last week regarding the writers’ strike.

Drescher herself is also a member of the WGA, and in May she expressed solidarity between the two unions.

On moving forward with the actors’ strike, Drescher told the AP, “In earnest we extended, hoping that they would make deeper inroads, give us some meat on the bone so we can really have a meaningful conversation.”

“They locked themselves behind closed doors, they kept canceling our meetings and we thought, okay, maybe they’re really duking it out in there,” she added. “Maybe they’re gonna come back with something that we could really have a meaningful discussion. But we got bupkis,” she said, using the Yiddish word for zero. “And I think that we were duped.”


The post SAG strike puts its brash Jewish president, Fran Drescher, squarely in the spotlight appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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White House Calls Netanyahu’s Comments on US Weapons Deliveries ‘Perplexing,’ ‘Disappointing’

US White House National Security Communications Adviser John Kirby speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, US, June 17, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

The White House expressed “deep disappointment” over criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the United States on Thursday amid tensions between the two allies over Israel‘s war in Gaza.

“It was perplexing to say the least, certainly disappointing, especially given that no other country is doing more to help Israel defend itself against the threat by Hamas,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

The White House response came as national security adviser Jake Sullivan and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken planned meetings with Netanyahu’s two top aides to discuss the Gaza conflict.

Netanyahu on Tuesday issued an English-language video in which he said Blinken had assured him that the Biden administration was working to lift restrictions on arms deliveries to Israel, an exchange the top US diplomat declined to confirm.

In a rare account of normally private diplomatic conversations, Netanyahu also said he told Blinken that it was “inconceivable” that in the past few months Washington was withholding weapons and ammunition to Israel.

Kirby addressed the comments in a briefing with reporters, saying the US had directly expressed displeasure to Israel.

“I think we’ve made it abundantly clear to our Israeli counterparts through various vehicles our deep disappointment in the statements expressed in that video and our concerns over the accuracy in the statements made,” Kirby said.

“The idea that we had somehow stopped helping Israel with their self-defense needs is absolutely not accurate,” he said.

Israeli national security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi and Ron Dermer, Israel‘s minister for strategic affairs, will speak with Sullivan as a larger, more formal “strategic dialogue” meeting was being rescheduled, according to a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Blinken will meet with the Israelis at 3 pm, according to a senior State Department official.

Blinken said weapons shipments — with the exception of one with 2,000-pound bombs — were moving as usual given Israel faced security threats beyond Gaza, including from Hezbollah and Iran. He declined to comment on his private exchange with Netanyahu during a news conference on Tuesday.

The United States in May paused a shipment of 2,000-pound and 500-pound bombs due to concern over the impact they could have in densely populated areas but Israel was still due to get billions of dollars worth of US weaponry.

Scrutiny on Israel‘s conduct in its military operation in Gaza has increased as the Palestinian death toll from the war in the Hamas-run enclave has increased. Israeli officials argue they have gone to unprecedented lengths to try and avoid civilian casualties, noting Hamas terrorists embed themselves within the larger population and use civilian sites as military operation centers.

The war started when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists stormed across the border and attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 250 others hostage.

Biden in April warned Israel that the US would stop supplying it weapons if Israeli forces launch a large-scale offensive in Rafah, a city in southern Gaza that is considered the last major bastion of Hamas.

The post White House Calls Netanyahu’s Comments on US Weapons Deliveries ‘Perplexing,’ ‘Disappointing’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Israeli Actress Shira Haas Wins Award for Role in Upcoming TV Series ‘Night Therapy’

Shira Haas on the set of “Night Therapy.” Photo: Nati Levi

Israeli actress Shira Haas was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Monte Carlo Television Festival on Tuesday night for her role in an upcoming Israeli television series titled “Night Therapy” that will premiere later this month.

Haas stars in the 10-part psychological drama alongside Yousef Sweid (“Munich Games,” “Game of Thrones”), as well as Lucy Ayoub, Yaakov Zada Daniel, and Firas Nassar, all of whom have starred in the popular Israeli series “Fauda.”

Haas, who accepted her award from the Monte Carlo Television Festival via video because she was in the United States filming, took to Instagram to thank the festival for her award.

“This is such a special project for me, a personal and genuinely (ongoing) healing one, and I can’t wait for you all to meet Yasmin very soon,” she wrote, referencing her character’s name in the show.

Written and created by Raanan Caspi, “Night Therapy” is about an Arab-Israeli psychologist named Louie (Sweid) who struggles to raise his two children after his Jewish-Israeli wife commits suicide. To be more present for his children during the day and to better balance his work and home life, Louie decides to shift his practice so he sees patients at night. Haas plays one of his patients — a computer genius named Yasmin who rarely leaves her home and prefers to spend her time in the virtual world instead of the real one.

“Through the gateway and magic of the late clinic hours, and flashback scenes where Louie acts as an unseen observer to their problems, the series depicts refreshing points of view on life, which often require unusual treatments,” according to a synopsis provided by Yes Studios, which is distributing the show. “Combining absorbing therapy sessions — written with the input of practicing psychologists — with storylines and characters from Louie’s personal life, ‘Night Therapy’ is a touching, emotional and sexy new drama series.”

The show premieres on Yes TV in Israel on June 30 and is being sold internationally by Yes Studios. The series is directed by Gabriel Bibliowicz and produced by Dafna Danenberg, Aviram Avraham, and Benny Menache at Eight Productions.

Haas previously had starring roles in the hit Israeli television series “Shtisel” as well as the film “Unorthodox,” for which she won an award. She also became the first Israeli television actress nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in “Unorthodox.” Haas Tribeca Film Festival for starring in “Asia,” in which she played a terminally ill character, and additionally won two best supporting actress awards at the Israeli Academy Awards. She is reportedly scheduled to appear in Marvel’s upcoming film “Captain America: Brave New World” as an Israeli superhero named Sabra.

The post Israeli Actress Shira Haas Wins Award for Role in Upcoming TV Series ‘Night Therapy’ first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Swiss Museum Sells Monet Painting in Settlement With Heirs of Former Jewish Owner Forced to Sell Artwork During WWII

A partial view of Monet’s “L’Homme à l’ombrelle.” Photo: Kunsthaus Zürich via Wikimedia Commons

The largest art museum in Switzerland announced on Wednesday that it is selling a painting by Claude Monet as part of an agreement with heirs of the artwork’s original Jewish owner, who was forced to sell it during World War II when he fled Nazi Germany.

The Kunsthaus Zürich said it reached a “fair and just solution” and “amicable settlement” with the heirs of Jewish entrepreneur Carl Sachs regarding the painting “L’Homme à l’ombrelle” (“Man with a Parasol”) from the late 19th century. Proceeds from the sale will be allocated between the museum and Sachs’ family.

Sachs and his wife fled Nazi persecution in Germany and moved to Switzerland in 1939. He was forced to sell “L’Homme à l’ombrelle,” and several other pieces from his art collection, to the Kunsthaus Zürich in order to make a living. “The sale of Monet’s ‘L’Homme à l’ombrelle’ to the Kunsthaus Zürich was the first work that Sachs had to sell due to the acute financial emergency just a few weeks after fleeing Nazi Germany to Switzerland,” the museum explained.

“A swift sale was needed to provide the couple with money to live on, and he was therefore acting under duress,” the Kunsthaus Zürich said. Sachs died shortly afterward in December 1943 and by that point he had sold 13 artworks from his collection.

Philipp Hildebrand, the chair of Zürcher Kunstgesellschaft, said: “Of course we regret that this wonderful painting will leave the Kunsthaus. At the same time, this step underpins the seriousness of our provenance strategy and our fundamental attitude towards a transparent and solution-oriented approach to works in our collection in which there are substantiated references to Nazis [or] there is a situation of a persecution-related predicament.”

The post Swiss Museum Sells Monet Painting in Settlement With Heirs of Former Jewish Owner Forced to Sell Artwork During WWII first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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