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‘You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah’ is about Jews. So why is the nicest character Christian?

(The Jewish Chronicle via JTA) — There are so many things to love about the new Netflix film “You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah” that it seems almost churlish to single out the one big thing that I think it got wrong. So first — spoilers ahoy — let me say what I think it got right.

Yes to showing Jewish tweens living their lives, doing their thing and grappling with the social and spiritual demands of a year when everyone around them is doing that too. Yes to every member of the Sandler family — dad Adam, daughters Sadie and Sunny and wife Jackie — giving great performances, and that goes for Idina Menzel as well. Yes to the way that the kids struggle for individuality in a world where every party has the same DJ and much the same set of guests. A qualified yes to the kooky, deeply irritating, but ultimately wise Rabbi Rebecca, played by Sarah Sherman.

There’s a great cast of older Jewish character actors and young stars in the making. And it’s nice to see an emphasis on the synagogue and “mitzvah project” side of things, not just the party.

Well done too for showing tweens as flawed humans, capable of great cruelty and stupidity but who are also willing to grow and learn, and use the big rite of passage as a vehicle for that growth. There are plot holes, to be sure (the tensions from Lydia’s bat mitzvah would have rumbled on for generations, not resolved in a tidy moment of catharsis), but you roll with it. I had tears in my eyes at the (implausible) ending.

I also liked the multicultural nature of the Jewish world on show. There are Latino Jews. There are Korean Jews. We might as well be in Israel: Everyone in the movie appears to be Jewish.

Everyone except Mateo.

Mateo is one of only two young boy characters in the film given anything like a personality (the others have catchphrases but nothing resembling two dimensions). He’s a friend of Andy Goldfarb, the soccer player on a mission to kiss the girls and make them cry. Mateo is short and has a foreign accent, and none of the Jewish kids except Andy pay him any attention.

But we gradually come to realize that Mateo — uniquely — is really nice and good, the moral center of the film. And even though he’s a churchgoing Christian, he turns up at Hebrew school, to teach the younger children their Shabbat prayers. This was not true of the Mateo-inspiration character in the book by Fiona Rosenbloom on which the movie is based, and it confused me, because what kind of synagogue lets a Christian kid volunteer there? Have they never heard of evangelicals? Mateo’s answer: “I go to chuch every Sunday. Might as well fill in the other six days with some other, you know, holiness, too.”

Because Mateo’s a Christian, he’s not having a bar mitzvah. And so he doesn’t have the same journey to go on as the other kids. But he doesn’t need to: From the start, he seems to be infinitely more virtuous than all of them. With Mateo the sole representative of Christianity in the film, one could read into it the message that Christians are somehow better than Jews. That they embrace mitzvot naturally, without a big song and dance, led by DJ Shmuley. That Christianity is somehow a more evolved, better religion.

The film’s closing scene makes clear what hints along the way have suggested — that Stacy will give up on brutish Andy and realize just how charming Mateo is. The implication is that Stacy — seen at the end dancing with Mateo, even though he’s a foot shorter than her — will one day become more like Mateo.

Now I have nothing against Christians — some of my best friends, et cetera, et cetera — and I’m all for interfaith friendships. And I’m not fretting about intermarriage here, in part because that’s not where seventh-grade flings typically end up.

But did anyone, when they were writing the screenplay, think through the implications of creating a pint-sized Christian saint and plonking him into a Jewish narrative? I can’t look at the story arc and the slow dancing without feeling the weight of thousands of years of Jewish persecution stemming from the idea that Christians have it figured out and Jews need to catch up to their enlightenment. Even the most benign explanation, that the filmmakers wanted to include someone from the dominant culture to make the movie relatable to the widest audience, is a reminder that we cannot escape Christian hegemony even when we tell our own stories.

It didn’t have to be this way. If you want to show a multifaith universe, where are the Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist kids? But better yet, Mateo could have been Jewish like the rest of the cast. With that mop of curly hair, short stature and love of Hebrew school, he easily could have been the nicest Jewish boy in town.

A version of this piece originally appeared in The Jewish Chronicle, a London-based newspaper. It is reprinted here with permission.


The post ‘You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah’ is about Jews. So why is the nicest character Christian? appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Jordan Reaffirms Commitment to Peace With Israel After Iran Attack, Says Ending Treaty Would Hurt Palestinians

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Al Safadi attends a press conference after a meeting on the Gaza situation in the government’s representation facility in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 15, 2023. Photo: NTB/Stian Lysberg Solum via REUTERS

Senior Jordanian officials recently reaffirmed the country’s commitment to maintaining peace with Israel, despite protests erupting across Jordan against their treaty amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

Pro-Hamas protesters have been actively campaigning to end the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, which the two countries signed in 1994 to end the state of war that had existed between them for decades and establish diplomatic relations. The treaty followed the signing of the Oslo Accords, a historic agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

However, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Al-Safadi said on Sunday that the peace deal was best for not only his country but also the Palestinians.

“The treaty actualized all our rights and served our interests. Revoking it would not be in Jordan’s or the Palestinians’ interest,” Al-Safadi told Jordan’s official news channel Al-Mamlaka in remarks flagged by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). “If we thought even for a moment that revoking it would be in the interest of Jordan or of the Palestinians, we would have done so without hesitation.”

Revoking the peace treaty, he continued, would “harm both Jordan and Palestine and greatly limit our ability to continue fulfilling our main and primary role in providing aid to the Palestinian people … The peace treaty is a source of strength for us and allows us to continue our role of aiding the Palestinian people while protecting our interests.”

Al-Safadi’s comments came one day after Jordan — along with the US, Britain, and France — helped Israel repel an unprecedented direct attack by Iran against the Israeli homeland. Iran fired over 300 drones and missiles at the Jewish state, nearly all of which were shot out of the air. Only one injury was reported in Israel.

The chief diplomat’s defense of the peace treaty also came amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, which has fueled anti-Israel animus across Jordan. Thousands of protesters have been routinely gathering for weeks to lambast Israel, express solidarity with Hamas, and call for an end to the peace treaty. Al-Safadi addressed such opposition in his comments.

“We respect Jordanian public opinion,” he said. “Back in 1994, when [the treaty] was signed, it protected our interests. We regained all our occupied lands, and the treaty enshrined Jordan’s special role in administrating the places holy to Islam and to Christianity in Jerusalem. Were it not for this role, there would have been a vacuum, and Israel would have exploited this to impose its own sovereignty and administration on the holy places rather than granting them to the Palestinians.”

Al-Safadi wasn’t the only official to recently articulate Jordan’s commitment to the peace treaty amid calls to revoke it and mass anti-Israel protests over the Gaza war.

Jordan’s government spokesman, Muhannad Mubaidin, told Sky News Arabia late last month that Hamas was inciting the Jordanian people against their leadership. The Palestinian terrorist group and its supporters in Jordan, he said, were trying “to force Jordan to choose different options,” but “peace is our strategic choice and the peace treaty [with Israel] is what allows us to fulfill our role of easing the pressures on the people in the West Bank.”

MEMRI was first to report Mubaidin’s comments in English.

The post Jordan Reaffirms Commitment to Peace With Israel After Iran Attack, Says Ending Treaty Would Hurt Palestinians first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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US Stops UN From Recognizing a Palestinian State Through Membership

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks to members of the Security Council during a meeting to address the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at UN headquarters in New York City, New York, US, April 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The United States on Thursday effectively stopped the United Nations from recognizing a Palestinian state by casting a veto in the Security Council to deny the Palestinian Authority full membership of the world body.

The United States says an independent Palestinian state should be established through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority and not through UN action.

It vetoed a draft resolution that recommended to the 193-member UN General Assembly that “the State of Palestine be admitted to membership of the United Nations.” Britain and Switzerland abstained, while the remaining 12 council members voted yes.

The Palestinians are currently a non-member observer state, a recognition that was granted by the UN General Assembly in 2012. But an application to become a full UN member needs to be approved by the Security Council and then at least two-thirds of the General Assembly.

The Palestinian push for full UN membership comes six months into a war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and as Israel is expanding settlements in the West Bank.

“Recent escalations make it even more important to support good-faith efforts to find lasting peace between Israel and a fully independent, viable, and sovereign Palestinian state,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council earlier on Thursday.

“Failure to make progress towards a two-state solution will only increase volatility and risk for hundreds of millions of people across the region, who will continue to live under the constant threat of violence,” he said.

Israel‘s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said Palestinians failed to meet the criteria to become a full UN member, which he outlined as: a permanent population, defined territory, government, and capacity to enter relations with other states.

“Who is the council voting to ‘recognize’ and give full membership status to? Hamas in Gaza? The Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Nablus? Who?” Erdan asked the Security Council earlier on Thursday.

He said granting full UN membership to Palestinians “will have zero positive impact for any party, that will cause only destruction for years to come, and harm any chance for future dialogue.”

The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank. Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from power in Gaza in 2007.

Ziad Abu Amr, special envoy of Abbas, earlier asked the US: “How could this damage the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis? How could this recognition and this membership harm international peace and security?”

“Those who are trying to disrupt and hinder the adoption of such a resolution … are not helping the prospects of peace between Palestinians and Israelis and the prospects for peace in the Middle East in general,” he told the Security Council.

Abu Amr said full Palestinian UN membership was not an alternative for serious political negotiations to implement a two-state solution and resolve pending issues, adding: “However, this resolution will grant hope to the Palestinian people hope for a decent life within an independent state.”

The post US Stops UN From Recognizing a Palestinian State Through Membership first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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The value of Jews to Canada today: What would the cost be if the community packed up and left?

Jonathan L. Milevsky is an author and educator. Raphi Zaionz is the founder of mygoals Inc. Both live in Toronto, for the moment. (The latter’s children either have left or are planning to leave Canada.) Towards the end of the film Schindler’s List, there’s a scene in which the famous non-Jewish philanthropist, who saved over […]

The post The value of Jews to Canada today: What would the cost be if the community packed up and left? appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

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