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Why American Eagle now has a mezuzah at its Times Square flagship

(New York Jewish Week) — American Eagle Outfitters now has a mezuzah on the front door of its flagship Times Square location, courtesy of Chabad, the Hasidic outreach movement.

The parchment with Jewish holy text in an oblong metallic case, traditionally a marker of a Jewish home or establishment, was affixed on the apparel brand’s door as part of the recently concluded convention of CTeen, Chabad’s youth group. At a concert in Times Square on Saturday night, thousands of teens from more than 30 countries gathered to sing Jewish songs — and witness the mezuzah being hung.

Out of all the retailers in Times Square, how did Chabad choose American Eagle? 

That question has proven surprisingly hard to answer, as representatives of neither Chabad nor American Eagle agreed to speak on the record about the relationship between the Hasidic movement and the apparel brand. 

But a clue to the reason lies with American Eagle CEO Jay L. Schottenstein, a Jewish philanthropist whose family has donated tens of millions of dollars to a range of Jewish organizations. ArtScroll’s translations of the Talmud, for example, bear the name “Schottenstein,” and the family has given to a range of Jewish institutions in Columbus, Ohio, where the Schottenstein family is based. American Eagle’s revenue for fiscal year 2022 was projected at nearly $3.5 billion, according to Forbes.

Chabad is among the beneficiaries of the Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Foundation, which gave more than $200,000 to the movement’s institutions in 2020, the most recent year for which tax documents are available. Since 2014, American Eagle has also given Chabad access to the retail giant’s gigantic advertising screens in Times Square. 

Rabbi Aryeh Klattman, a Chabad rabbi from Columbus, told the New York Jewish Week that American Eagle “is now the most inclusive brand in America” due to its hanging of the mezuzah. 

“I salute them,” Klattman said. “It meant so much to every teenager who was there. It was an expression of Jewish pride.” 

Stefan Schiff, a senior and tennis star at Bexley High School in the Columbus area, was the conference attendee who placed the Jewish ritual object on the store’s doorpost.  

“This is a big honor for me,” Schiff said in a statement. “I am proud to be a part of such a tremendous display of Jewish pride together with my Jewish brothers and sisters from around the world.”

Chabad said that the ritual object is “Times Square’s first-ever mezuzah,” a bold claim that is almost certainly inaccurate. The New York Jewish Week did not determine conclusively whether a mezuzah is, at present, affixed to any doors in one of the busiest public spaces of the most Jewish city in the country. But less than a decade ago, a building on 40th Street and Seventh Avenue was home to a synagogue, the Garment Center Congregation. That building’s address currently boasts the Margaritaville Resort Times Square. (The synagogue, incidentally, is suing the building’s developer).

Additionally, which set of blocks, exactly, counts as “Times Square” is up for debate, though an expansive definition proposed last year by New York City itself includes parts of the Garment District, which was once heavily Jewish. Those borders also include at least one synagogue.

Rabbi Mendy Kotlarsky, the Chabad director of outreach, told the New York Jewish Week that Chabad “sent out a couple of the guys to scout the area” to search for a mezuzah.

But Kotlarsky acknowledged that the claim might be debunked.

“We’re walking around Times Square, and in Duffy Square, and we didn’t see any,” he said. “Nobody ever claimed to have put up the first mezuzah.  We are the first to claim it. If somebody came to me and said, “‘I put up the first mezuzah,’ I would say, ‘You’re right.’”

“That’s not what’s important to me,” Kotlarsky added. “What’s important was we were able to do that and the teens were able to connect with it.”  

The event also took place at the end of a Shabbat that a small white supremacist group in Iowa had promoted as  a “Day of Hate,” prompting police warnings. The day ended with no discernible uptick in antisemitic activity, both in New York and across the country.  

“This day was designated by other people as the ‘Day of Hate,’” Klattman said. “The best response to darkness is light and love.”


The post Why American Eagle now has a mezuzah at its Times Square flagship appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Obituaries

Dr. NATHAN WISEMAN

Wiseman, Nathan Elliot
1944 – 2023
Nathan, our beloved husband, Dad, and Zaida, died unexpectedly on December 13, 2023. Nathan was born on December 16, 1944, in Winnipeg, MB, the eldest of Sam and Cissie Wiseman’s three children.
He is survived by his loving wife Eva; children Sam (Natalie) and Marni (Shane); grandchildren Jacob, Jonah, Molly, Isabel, Nicole, and Poppy; brother David (Sherrill); sister Barbara (Ron); sister-in-law Agi (Sam) and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Nathan grew up in the north end of Winnipeg surrounded by his loving family. He received his MD from the University of Manitoba in 1968, subsequently completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Manitoba and went on to complete a fellowship in Paediatric Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard University. His surgeon teachers and mentors were world renowned experts in the specialty, and even included a Nobel prize winner.
His practice of Paediatric Surgery at Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg spanned almost half a century. He loved his profession and helping patients, even decades later often recounting details about the many kiddies on whom he had operated. Patients and their family members would commonly approach him on the street and say, “Remember me Dr. Wiseman?”. And he did! His true joy was caring for his patients with compassion, patience, unwavering commitment, and excellence. He was a gifted surgeon and leaves a profound legacy. He had no intention of ever fully retiring and operated until his very last day. He felt privileged to have the opportunity to mentor, support and work with colleagues, trainees, nurses, and others health care workers that enriched his day-to-day life and brought him much happiness and fulfillment. He was recognized with many awards and honors throughout his career including serving as Chief of Surgery of Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg, President of the Canadian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, and as a Governor of the American College of Surgeons. Most importantly of all he helped and saved the lives of thousands and thousands of Manitoba children. His impact on the generations of children he cared for, and their families, is truly immeasurable.
Nathan’s passion for golf was ignited during his childhood summers spent at the Winnipeg Beach Golf Course. Southwood Golf and Country Club has been his second home since 1980. His game was excellent and even in his last year he shot under his age twice! He played an honest “play as it lies” game. His golf buddies were true friends and provided him much happiness both on and off the course for over forty years. However, his passion for golf extended well beyond the eighteenth hole. He immersed himself in all aspects of the golf including collecting golf books, antiques, and memorabilia. He was a true scholar of the game, reading golf literature, writing golf poetry, and even rebuilding and repairing antique golf clubs. Unquestionably, his knowledge and passion for the game was limitless.
Nathan approached his many woodworking and workshop projects with zeal and creativity, and he always had many on the go. During the winter he was an avid curler, and in recent years he also enjoyed the study of Yiddish. Nathan never wasted any time and lived his life to the fullest.
Above all, Nathan was a loving husband, father, grandfather, son, father-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, brother, brother-in-law, cousin, and granduncle. He loved his family and lived for them, and this love was reciprocated. He met his wife Eva when he was a 20-year-old medical student, and she was 18 years old. They were happily married for 56 years. They loved each other deeply and limitlessly and were proud of each other’s accomplishments. He loved the life and the family they created together. Nathan was truly the family patriarch, an inspiration and a mentor to his children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and many others. He shared his passion for surgery and collecting with his son and was very proud to join his daughter’s medical practice (he loved Thursdays). His six grandchildren were his pride and joy and the centre of his world.
Throughout his life Nathan lived up to the credo “May his memory be a blessing.” His life was a blessing for the countless newborns, infants, toddlers, children, and teenagers who he cared for, for his colleagues, for his friends and especially for his family. We love him so much and there are no words to describe how much he will be missed.
A graveside funeral was held at the Shaarey Zedek cemetery on December 15, 2023. Pallbearers were his loving grandchildren. The family would like to extend their gratitude to Rabbi Yosef Benarroch of Adas Yeshurun Herzlia Congregation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba, in the name of Dr. Nathan Wiseman.

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Ben Carr

Click here to watch Ben Carr’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crfREGNRKfg

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Click here to watch a video of Marty Morantz’s remarks: https://studio.youtube.com/video/zHzC-iaqivg/ed

Gustavo Zentner

Click here to watch a video of Gustavo Zentner’s remarks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3M_cCYuLgs

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