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A Missouri school district could ban ‘Maus,’ citing concerns about whether it is ‘explicit sexual material’



(JTA) – A Missouri school board is preparing to vote next week on whether to ban Art Spiegelman’s Holocaust graphic memoir “Maus” — even though no parent in the district has challenged it.

Spiegelman himself is among those exhorting the board of Nixa Public Schools, a district of about 6,000 students in Christian County just south of the state capital of Springfield, not to remove his book and several others.

“We haven’t learned much from the past, but there’s some things you should be able to figure out,” Spiegelman said in an interview with the literary free-speech advocacy group PEN America published as part of a campaign directed at the Nixa school board. “Book burning leads to people burning. So it’s something that needs to be fought against.”

Nixa is at least the third district in Missouri to seriously question whether current state laws allow it to stock “Maus” in schools. Its board will meet Tuesday to determine the fate of “Maus,” along with six other books including an illustrated adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which portrays a dystopian society in which the United States has been placed under a fundamentalist theocratic rule.

Spiegelman’s book was an early, visible casualty of the nationwide conservative-led movement to remove or restrict books from school libraries for perceived inappropriate content when a Tennessee district voted to remove “Maus” from its middle school curriculum last year. There, school board members cited profanity in the book and a drawing of a naked mouse, which represented the author’s mother after she died by suicide.

Books with LGBTQ content and books about race have been the primary targets of the movement, with graphic novels in particular facing frequent challenges. Over the past year, several other Jewish books have been caught up in purges across multiple states, including an illustrated adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, a novel about the Holocaust by Jodi Picoult, and a children’s picture book about a Jewish family with two dads.

Unlike in many of these cases, no parent in Nixa challenged the appropriateness of “Maus” or several of the other books facing removal. Instead, the district is concerned that the book could risk violating a state law that establishes a criminal penalty and possible jail time for educators found to have provided children with access to “explicit sexual material.”

“Maus is pending review by the school district due to a recently passed Missouri state law making it a crime to provide materials of visual depiction of sexual act or genitalia to students. Any material that could potentially violate the law are being presented to the board,” Zac Rantz, a district spokesperson, said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Rantz emphasized that “Maus” was not being targeted because of its subject matter.

“These actions should not be viewed as an attempt to limit students’ access to information about the Holocaust or be viewed as antisemitic,” he said in the statement. “The district does not tolerate hate speech of any kind and has the teaching of the Holocaust as a part of various classes. The material is being reviewed solely on the basis of the new state law in order to help protect the staff from legal action and place the decision on the board of education.”

Nixa school board president Josh Roberts told the Washington Post the book was “potentially violative” of laws and policies but did not provide further detail. Roberts did not return a JTA request for comment.

Some other Missouri school districts have interpreted the law broadly to mean that comic books and graphic novels, in particular, could expose staff to legal liability. One district near St. Louis ordered staff to temporarily pull not only “Maus,” but also hundreds of other illustrated books, including several Holocaust history books for young readers and art history books featuring Jewish artists.

An email the Nixa school district sent to staff after the law passed instructs its staff to have all materials in their classrooms approved by the district.

“The law defines sexual material as a visual depiction of a sexual act or genitalia,” the email said in part. “There are exceptions for works of art that have serious artistic significance, or works of anthropological significance, or materials used in science courses like biology or anatomy.”

At the time of the Tennessee district’s initial removal of “Maus,” Spiegelman spoke to a local Jewish federation about the controversy, saying it was “about controlling.” He has since appeared on CBS and in other media outlets as a leading voice for authors opposing restrictions on their books in schools.

Now the Pulitzer Prize-winning comics artist is partnering with PEN America to decry attempts to remove the book. PEN has also launched a petition in an effort to convince the Nixa board not to remove the book.

Attacks on “Maus” and other books are “a real warning sign of a country that’s yearning for a return of authoritarianism,” Spiegelman told the Washington Post. Reflecting on the wide array of books that have faced bans, he said, channeling the view of the bans’ proponents, “It’s one more book — just throw it on the bonfire.”

At the Nixa board meeting, the seven-member board will vote individually on each book brought before them. Its vote for “Maus” will not consider questions of appropriateness, only whether the book could conceivably be found in violation of state law.

The post A Missouri school district could ban ‘Maus,’ citing concerns about whether it is ‘explicit sexual material’ appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Local News

Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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