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What to watch on Christmas? Your Jewish guide to this winter’s biggest movies

(JTA) — The Jewish tradition of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas is so thoroughly established that it has taken on an aura of ritual. And this year, several of the season’s biggest movies have Jewish themes or backstories of note.

Here’s your Jewish guide to the new theatrical and streaming options available this Christmas.


There’s nothing Jewish about the story in this new musical film about the central character in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” the beloved novel by Roald Dahl. And Dahl himself was so avowedly antisemitic that his own family has apologized for “the lasting and understandable hurt” he caused. But the movie is a(nother) breakout role for Timothee Chalamet, a megastar who is Jewish — he has said he got the acting bug from his mother, the Jewish actress-turned-New York City real estate agent Nicole Flender. Chalamet is reviving a role first played by the Jewish actor Gene Wilder in 1971.

“The Color Purple”

Again, there’s nothing Jewish to the movie itself — except that it’s based on the classic novel by Alice Walker, who was once married to a Jewish man and more lately has become known for her virulently anti-Israel and antisemitic views. The story of a young Black woman’s self-empowerment and discovery of her own sexuality amid the horrific, abusive conditions of her life in the early-1900s rural South first appeared as a book in 1982, then was made into a movie by Jewish director Steven Spielberg in 1985. Spielberg is involved as a producer with the musical remake, which adapts a stage version of the story, but hasn’t has made any public comments about Walker or the new “Color Purple” this year.

“Zone of Interest”

Filmed in Auschwitz, where the Nazis murdered more than 1 million Jews, this movie adapts the 2014 novel by Martin Amis that dissects the mentality of Nazi officers and their families as they attempt to construct compartmentalized personal lives while committing atrocities against Jews. In the movie version, directed by the acclaimed British Jewish filmmaker Jonathan Glazer, the protagonist is explicitly Auschwitz death camp commandant Rudolph Hoess. Glazer has said that he hopes the film adaptation would “talk to the capacity within each of us for violence, wherever you’re from.” It was important, he said, to depict Nazis not as “monsters,” but rather to show that “the great crime and tragedy is that human beings did this to other human beings.”


You can see this Leonard Bernstein biopic in some theaters, but you can also watch it from the comfort of your own home on Netflix. The movie drew significant interest before its release because of controversy over the prosthetic nose worn by the non-Jewish star and producer Bradley Cooper to play Bernstein, which some said smacked of antisemitic stereotypes. But since its release, the film is drawing mostly plaudits from Jewish viewers — some of whom have been tickled to see Bernstein wearing a sweater with the word “Harvard” in Hebrew.

“Iron Claw”

This new movie tells the tragic story of the Von Erichs, the first family of professional wrestling in Texas — who were massively popular in Israel at their height in the 1980s. In fact, the Von Erichs’ promotion, World Class Championship Wrestling, was reported to be one of the most popular English-language programs in Israel for a time, and it was an injury sustained on a trip there that spelled the beginning of the end for the family’s preeminence in the sport.

“Freud’s Last Session”

This film imagines an improbable encounter between the Jewish psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and the Christian novelist C.S. Lewis in September 1939, just as Hitler has invaded Poland and launched World War II. In their extended dialogue, the two men argue about the nature of God — Freud is an avowed atheist — and viewers see snapshots of Freud’s life in his native Austria before fleeing the Nazis for London. Beware: The movie isn’t getting very good reviews. It also shows Freud in remarkable health for someone who died of cancer the month the movie is set.

The post What to watch on Christmas? Your Jewish guide to this winter’s biggest movies appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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2,500 Rabbis Call for Columbia University President’s Resignation

Columbia University administrators and faculty, led by President Minouche Shafik, testified before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 17, 2024. Photo: Jack Gruber/Reuters Connect

Thousands of rabbis are calling on Columbia University president Minouche Shafik to resign over her choosing not to fire four administrators who sent each other text messages which, she said herself, “disturbingly touched on ancient antisemitic tropes” during a panel featuring Jewish speakers.

As previously reported, Columbia administrators Susan Chang-Kim, Cristen Kromm, Matthew Patashnick, and Josef Sorett, who is dean of Columbia College, sent a series of messages which denigrated Jews while spurning their concerns about rising antisemitism and the fate of Israel, denouncing them as “privileged” and venal. The remarks were exchanged amid a deluge of antisemitic incidents at Columbia and specifically denounced Jewish leaders who appeared at the school as panelists to plea for help and explain the link between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

According to Columbia provost Angela Olinto, it has been decided that Sorett will remain in his position to “mend relationships, repair trust, and rebuild accountability.” There is, however, deep-seated opposition among Jewish alumni, faculty, and students to his remaining as dean, and since last week, over 2,000 people have signed a petition calling for his firing, arguing that he “actively joined his colleagues in mocking panelists” and is equally culpable for the comments they wrote.

On Thursday, 2,500 rabbis organized by the Coalition for Jewish Values (CVJ), which represents “traditional, Orthodox rabbis in American public policy,” echoed their sentiment while shifting focus to Shafik’s tenure in office, which, to them, has harmed both the school’s Jewish community and its reputation.

“The bigotry and double standards are blatant, and entirely at odds with the experiences that I and others had at Columbia in the past. Imagine if something like this had happened during a session when Black, Latino, Pacific Islander, or LGBTQ faculty and students were speaking about hostility they faced on campus,” CVJ vice president Rabbi Steven Pruzansky said in a statement. “Any faculty dismissing their concerns, much less ridiculing them or sharing hateful sentiments, would find themselves unemployed without delay.”

He continued, “But regarding antisemitism, President Shafik demonstrates the very ‘lack of seriousness’ she claims to decry. It is clear that all four who exchanged antisemitic messages, plus Shafik herself, must be removed from the faculty and replaced by others committed to opposing and preventing hate against Jews and all other campus minorities. This is the only way that Columbia can hope to return to being a serious academic institution where all students feel safe and valued.”

Columbia University’s decision not to fire anyone involved in the text message scandal comes on the heels of a tumultuous year in which pro-Hamas agitators roiled the campus with illegal occupations of school property, vandalism, and even alleged antisemitic hate crimes.

In April, an explosion of anti-Israel demonstrations on the eve of the Jewish holiday of Passover forced the administration to shutter the campus and institute “virtual” learning. Prior to that, footage of the protest showed Columbia students — who commandeered a section of campus and named it a “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” — chanting in support of the Hamas terrorist group, calling for the destruction of Israel, and even threatening to harm members of the Jewish community on campus. The situation was so severe that security officials deactivated Columbia Professors Shai Davidai’s identification card and temporarily banned him from campus because his safety could not be “guaranteed,” a measure which reflected the administration’s suspicion that its students, as well as the non-students they have attracted to campus, would have resorted to violence to make their point.

The events of spring semester continued a trend that began in the fall, after Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel.

“F—k the Jews,” “Death to Jews,” “Jews will not defeat us,” and “From water to water, Palestine will be Arab,” students chanted on campus grounds in the weeks after the tragedy, according to a lawsuit filed by the StandWithUs Legal Center for Justice (SCLJ). Faculty engaged in similar behavior. On Oct. 8, professor Joseph Massad published in Electronic Intifada an essay cheering Hamas’ atrocities, which included slaughtering children and raping women, as “awesome” and describing men who paraglided into a music festival to kill young people as “the air force of the Palestinian resistance.”

After bullying Jewish students and rubbing their noses in the carnage Hamas wrought on the Jewish people, pro-Hamas students were still unsatisfied and resulted to violence, according to the lawsuit. They allegedly beat up five Jewish students in Columbia’s Butler Library. 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.

Facing a wave of investigations and litigation related to its handling of antisemitism on the campus, Columbia recently decided to settle a lawsuit, brought by one of its students, which accused school officials of neglecting their obligation to foster a safe learning environment.

The resolution of the case, first reported by Reuters, calls for Columbia to hire a “Safe Passage Liaison” who will monitor protests and “walking escorts” who will accompany students whose safety is threatened around the campus. Other details of the settlement include “accommodations” for students whose academic lives are disrupted by protests and new security policies for controlling access to school property.

Shafik, who took office in July 2023, has recently attempted to assuage concerns that Columbia has become a sanctuary for antisemites.

“We will launch a vigorous program of antisemitism and antidiscrimination [sic] training for faculty and staff this fall, with related training for students under the auspices of university life,” she said in a recent statement addressing the administrators’ conduct. “Columbia’s leadership team recognizes this as an important moment to implement changes that will build a stronger institution as a result. I know that you all share this commitment.”

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post 2,500 Rabbis Call for Columbia University President’s Resignation first appeared on

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Biden Doesn’t Mention US Hostages in Gaza, Calls for End to Israel-Hamas War in NATO Press Conference

US President Joe Biden holds a press conference during NATO’s 75th anniversary summit, in Washington, DC, July 11, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Nathan Howard

US President Joe Biden gave an update concerning ceasefire negotiations to halt fighting in Gaza and reflected on what he regrets about his approach to the Israel-Hamas war during his high-stakes NATO press conference on Thursday.

During Biden’s initial remarks, he spoke about the ongoing ceasefire negotiations between Israel and Hamas being mediated by the US, Egypt, and Qatar. “There are still gaps but we are making progress and the trend is positive,” he said.

The press conference came amid reporting in The Washington Post quoting a senior US official who said “the framework [of a deal] is agreed.” Now, the parties are just “negotiating details of how it will be implemented,” according to the report.

However, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist group that rules Gaza, of making demands that contradict the framework brokered by the US, creating uncertainty about whether the two sides are as close to a deal as Biden let on.

Biden was also asked a question regarding what he regrets most about the way he has handled the Israel-Hamas war. In his answer, which was approximately five minutes long, he did not mention the hostages kidnapped by Hamas during its onslaught across southern Israel on Oct. 7 or the eight Americans still in captivity in Gaza, whose release he has been unable to secure.

Some observers have accused Biden of framing the issues in the war as primarily the fault of Israel, rather than Hamas.

The President of the United States was just asked what his regrets were over the Israel-Hamas war.

Not once in his 5 minute answer did he mention the word “hostages” or the inability to secure the release of the 8 American hostages *still* being held in Gaza.

— Shabbos Kestenbaum (@ShabbosK) July 12, 2024

The US president spoke about the difficulty of getting humanitarian aid into Gaza and claimed Israel has been “less than cooperative” at times. He did not note that Hamas reportedly steals a significant portion of aid that goes into the enclave, making it difficult for regular civilians to get access to it. And, when people are able to get aid, many times it is being sold for high prices after it was stolen.

Biden also lamented that Israel’s “war cabinet is one of the most conservative war cabinets in the history of Israel” when discussing how it has been, at times, difficult to get the Jewish state to do what he wanted in the war. He appeared to confuse the broader government cabinet, which includes some far-right ministers, with the recently disbanded war cabinet, a unity body that included centrist opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz.

“There’s a lot of things that in retrospect, I wish I had been able to convince Israelis to do,” Biden said.

Biden also spoke about the “day after” in Gaza, saying the war “should end now” and neither Israel nor Hamas should “occupy” the Palestinian enclave once the fighting is over.

“The day after in Gaza has to be … no occupation by Israel of the Gaza Strip as well as the ability for us to access, get in, and out as rapidly as you can all that’s needed there,” Biden said, apparently referring to a freer flow of humanitarian assistance into the enclave. “Don’t make the same mistake America did after bin Laden. There’s no need to occupy anywhere, go after the people who did the job.”

Biden also reiterated his call for a two-state solution to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Thursday’s press conference was widely seen as particularly high stakes because it came two weeks after his poor debate performance against former US President Donald Trump. There has been increasing buzz regarding the question of whether Biden will stay in the 2024 presidential race, and this press conference was viewed as an important test to see if he just had a bad debate night or if he may not be mentally fit to seek re-election in November.

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Kosher organizations go to court, arguing that current meat production regulations jeopardize ritual slaughter practices

Canadian kosher organizations were in court in Montreal this week, asking for an injunction that would allow them to continue the practice of shechitah, or Jewish ritual slaughter, amidst newly imposed regulations by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In a hearing before the Federal Court on July 10 and July 11, the Jewish Community Council […]

The post Kosher organizations go to court, arguing that current meat production regulations jeopardize ritual slaughter practices appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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