Good Monday morning and happy first day of Hanukkah!
As Jews around the world lit the menorah last night, dozens gathered outside the kosher grocery store in Jersey City, site of a deadly antisemitic shooting just two weeks ago. Yoely Greenfeld, the brother of Leah Mindel Ferencz, one of the victims in the attack, lit the candles at a ceremony attended by Martha Freire Carrasco, the widow of Douglas Miguel Rodriguez, who was also murdered in the shooting, as well as two police officers wounded in the attack.
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FILM SCENE — Bringing ‘never again’ to the silver screen
“The Song of Names,” due in theaters December 25, is a poignant, haunting and memorable movie. It is also the first feature film ever allowed to shoot on the grounds of Treblinka. Jewish Insider’s Amy Spiro reports:
Spanning decades: The film, starring Tim Roth and Clive Owen, darts between 1938, 1951 and 1985, following the lives of two young boys brought together just before the onset of the Holocaust. Dovidl Rapoport, a Jewish violin prodigy from Warsaw, is taken in as a lodger in London by the family of young Martin Simmonds. But more than a decade later, Dovidl vanishes without a trace, leaving Martin behind to hunt for clues.
Ancient hatred:The film was directed by Francois Girard, set to a haunting and pivotal original score from Oscar-winner Howard Shore and produced by Robert Lantos, the Hungarian-born son of Holocaust survivors who has called Canada home for more than 50 years.
Lantos spoke with JI recently about his work on the film, the troubling rise in global antisemitism and the lessons movies can teach about hatred and prejudice.
Timeless tale: “This is a story that — in the climate in which we live today — absolutely has to be told,” Lantos told JI. “It’s a way to remember, it’s a way to honor the two key words in my entire vocabulary, which are ‘never again.’” The storyline, he said, is a way of telling a Holocaust tale “in an original manner and an emotionally compelling manner.” The music-themed plot is a conduit for “bringing the horrors of the Holocaust back to a contemporary audience without forcing people to come face to face with living skeletons and images of horror.”
Site of horror: The cast and crew spent just one day filming at the site of the Treblinka extermination camp. “We asked for a permit and the authorities read the script and surprisingly they said yes,” Lantos recalled. “We only shot there for one day. And frankly, I can’t imagine spending more than one day there. The weight of the place is unbearable.” While the scene there was intended to contain dialogue, “once we were there, we all felt that the dialogue had to go, because there’s nothing to say there,” Lantos said. “There’s nothing that can be said that wouldn’t be trivial in the context of what we were seeing with our eyes.”
TOP TALKER — The Hague sets its sights on Israel
Israeli officials and the U.S. government denounced an announcement by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the weekend that there is a basis for an investigation against Israel for alleged war crimes in Gaza. “This is a dark day for truth and justice,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a video statement.
Details: In a court filing✎ EditSign submitted on Friday, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda accused Israel of disproportionate use of force in the 2014 war with Hamas in Gaza and of possible war crimes in the IDF’s response to the weekly demonstrations held along the Gaza-Israel border since 2018. Bensouda also suggested examining possible war crimes by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups for targeting civilians, using civilians as human shields and engaging in torture and “willful killing.”
First steps: Before moving forward with any potential trial, the ICC prosecutor must first prove that the court has jurisdiction in the region, something Israel has consistently pushed back against. Bensouda has asked the court to “rule expeditiously” that the ICC has jurisdiction in the Palestinian territories. Israel’s attorney-general argued in a legal brief released Friday that Palestine is not a sovereign state, and cannot be a party to the ICC. Israel is not a member of the international court.
Watch out abroad: The ICC move also gave new life to Palestinian attempts to internationalize the conflict and subject Israeli leaders and military officers to arrest and trial if they travel overseas.
Annexation red light: Netanyahu’s announcement ahead of the September 17 elections that he would annex “large parts” of the West Bank were also mentioned in the prosecutor’s decision as a factor for investigation against Israel. Haaretzreported earlier this month that officials in Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit’s office warned Netanyahu — while he was attempting to form a government — that annexing the Jordan Valley would reverse progress made in fending off attempts to prosecute Israel in The Hague.
Heard yesterday: Netanyahu doubled down on Sunday evening, calling the prosecutor’s move “pure antisemitism” during the lighting ceremony of the first night of Hanukkah at the Western Wall, where he was joined by U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman. Netanyahu added, “The light of truth lights here and we will overcome you, just as we overcame other antisemites in history.”
FILLING STADIUMS — 92,000 Jews to gather at MetLife Stadium on New Year’s Day
On January 1, 2020, approximately 92,000 people are set to gather at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey to celebrate the 13th completion of the Daf Yomi program (Siyum HaShas), a seven-and-a-half-year cycle of studying the Talmud.
Uniting Jews: The event, organized by Agudath Israel of America, is considered to be the largest gathering of American Jews in a single venue in the history of the United States. Featuring speeches from leading rabbis of the Orthodox Jewish community, the gathering will be broadcast around the world.
Safety first: Rabbi Yosef Chaim Golding, the Siyum’s chief operating officer, tells JI that the recent Jersey City attack has had no impact on the already high-level security measures in place. Over the past few months, Golding has been working closely with more than 50 law enforcement agencies including the New Jersey State Police, New Jersey Department of Homeland Security, New York City Police Department and the FBI to ensure that the stadium is “the safest place to be in New Jersey on January 1st.”
Yossi Gleiberman, a lecturer and the composer of the “Songs of Shas” musical video series, spoke with JI’s Jacob Kornbluh about the nature of the celebration, the discipline needed to be part of the Daf Yomi daily study, and how it connects people of all backgrounds and at every stage of life.
Background: “The Talmud is a 20-volume set of 37 different tractates that make up all aspects of Jewish life and Jewish law,” Gleiberman said. “In total we have over 2,700 pages of content. In the 1930s, it was Rabbi Meir Shapiro’s idea to start a program where people would be studying the same page on a daily basis — approximately between 40 minutes and an hour a day — throughout the whole world — so that if a person in New York travels to London or somebody from London travels to Japan, he’d meet the fellow participant of the Daf Yomi cycle and they can study together and share their thoughts. And today… we are able to share with people from around the world or other study groups daily lectures and commentaries via social media.”
The book of ethics: According to Gleiberman, Talmud studies are not necessarily focused on a person’s relationship with God, but largely focused on ethics — business ethics, ethical manners at home, and the way people should treat each other. At his two daily lectures, Glieberman said, fellow attendees are mostly “practicing good-standing members of the community — it can be from a lawyer to a doctor or people involved in retail or any other kind of labor — and they’re able to juggle and balance a life of studying along with the life of having a family and enjoying and taking advantage of all the great things that the world has.”
Celebrating a journey: Unlike wedding celebrations or graduations, where one celebrates reaching a milestone or accomplishment and then moves on in life, the Siyum, Glieberman explains, is “celebrating the journey. The destination came about as we went through the journey for the last seven-and-a-half years, and the journey starts again the next day. The gathering itself is not necessarily where people are going to go partying and drinking, but an opportunity to reconnect, to get re-energized and to celebrate our commitment.”
DEBATE RULES — DNC’s new threshold for debate participation leaves a thin stage
DNC raises the debate threshold, again: On Friday, the Democratic National Committee announced it would raise the threshold for participation in the January presidential primary debate,” JI’s Ben Jacobs reports. Candidates now need to reach 5% support in four different polls conducted in early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina) or nationally, or reach 7% in two polls of the four early states — an increase from the criteria for the December debate, which were 4% and 6% respectively. Additionally, campaigns need to receive donations from 225,000 unique individuals, an increase of 25,000 over the December debate.
Will debate stage continue to shrink? Only five candidates have met the qualifications for the January debate: former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Politico reports that businessmen Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang need two and three polls respectively in order to make the stage. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) has already hit the fundraising threshold, but has yet to get one qualifying poll. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be excluded, despite having the required poll numbers, because the billionaire will not accept campaign donations.
Polling issues: The DNC’s use of polls to determine debate qualification has presented a number of issues for campaigns. The debate process has been outsourced to pollsters who have been less than vigorous in conducting polls of early states — no qualifying polls were conducted in Iowa or New Hampshire during the month of December. This leaves candidates more reliant on polls that measure national popularity, which is often a function of name identification rather than grassroots organizing in key early states.
A menorah is displayed on Cory Booker’s campaign bus in Iowa on Sunday night
👴🏻 Reliving Fear:Zoltan Matyash, a Holocaust survivor, shared with The New York Times his heartbreaking personal story of living through Auschwitz, his recurrent nightmares and the struggle to pay the rent in the subsidized apartment he shares with his wife in Borough Park, Brooklyn. [NYTimes]
✍️ Preserving the past: In the New Yorker, Tyler Foggatt interviews Miglė Anušauskaitė, a Lithuanian cartoonist who learned Yiddish and is now translating the decades-old autobiographies of young Lithuanian Jews, written on the cusp of the Nazi occupation of the country. [NewYorker]
💻 Digital Outreach:The Washington Post takes an inside look at the Israeli Foreign Ministry’s efforts to use social media as a means of diplomatic outreach to the Arab world. One academic said that today there is “a growing portion of young Arabs who are no longer afraid to talk to Israelis.” [WashPost]
AROUND THE WEB
🔥 Talk of the City: A 33-year-old man is facing several charges of arson and criminal mischief after breaking into a Yeshiva University dorm early Friday morning and using matches intended for a Hanukkah menorah to set three fires in the building.
📡 Heard on Cable: In an interview with Trish Regan on Fox Business on Friday, White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller pushed back against calls for his resignation after a recent leak of his emails showing white nationalist leanings.
🕊️ Virtual Engagement: United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchanged diplomatic gestures on Twitter after the latter tweeted an article supporting an emerging alliance of Arab states with Israel.
👩 Moving Up:Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely will reportedly be appointed as Israel’s minister of Diaspora Affairs as Netanyahu approaches the January 1st deadline to relieve himself from his additional portfolios. In 2017, Hotovely came under fire for suggesting that American Jews have a poor commitment to service in the U.S. military.
🇨🇳 Burgeoning Allies: Caught in the middle of Trump’s trade war with Beijing, Israel is nevertheless chasing a free-trade agreement with China.
📺 Number One: Israeli TV show “Prisoners of War” was ranked number 1 in The New York Times list of the 30 best international TV shows of the decade, while “Fauda” came in eighth place.
🎥 Hollywood Intrigue: After the failure of the Endeavor IPO, Ari Emanuel faces increased pressure from financers, employees and rivals, according to a report in Vanity Fair.
📉 Money Problems: Marcato Capital, the activist hedge fund prominently backed by Bill Ackman and the Blackstone Group, will close after a loss of assets.
🧭 Spiritual Guidance: Abraham Riesman turns to Rabbi Jon Leener for support after watching “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Warning: spoiler alert.
🔎 Clean Record:According to Axios’s Dan Primack, sources inside WeWork report finding no evidence that ousted CEO and co-founder Adam Neumann committed fraud while leading the company.
🎨 Art Scene: British street artist Banksy has unveiled his latest work — a rendition of the Nativity scene under an Israeli concrete barrier — in his Bethlehem hotel. The scene, which includes bullet holes, is titled “Scar of Bethlehem.”
⚾ Sports Blink:MLB infielder Ian Kinsler has announced his retirement from baseball after a 14-year career spent with the Rangers, Tigers, Angels, Red Sox and Padres. A four-time all-star, Kinsler won a World Series ring in 2018.
🗳️ 2020 Watch: The Illinois Republican Party is planning to launch an awareness campaign to let Republican voters know that Arthur Jones, who won the GOP nomination two years ago and is running again in the Republican primary for Illinois’s 3rd congressional district, is an outspoken Holocaust denier and antisemite.
🍩 Doughnut Demand:The Washington Postspotlights the Kosher Pastry Oven in Silver Spring, Maryland, where a line of pastry enthusiasts formed yesterday morning — more than a half hour before the store opened — to get their hands on jelly doughnuts.
🥂 8 Crazy Nights: Kyle Bagley and Sam Stone, the non-Jewish co-owners of the Graystone Tavern in Chicago, decided to convert their bar into the city’s first-ever Hanukkah-themed pop-up bar.
🕯️ Tragic End: Rosalee Glass, a 102-year-old Holocaust survivor who was acknowledged by President Trump at this year’s White House Hanukkah party, passed away days after sustaining injuries when she was dropped from her wheelchair at the airport on her way to D.C.
Filmmaker whose next movie will be about screenwriter and Jewish activist Ben Hecht, Aviva Kempner turns 73…
Television producer Barney Rosenzweig turns 82… Electrical engineer, who with Vint Cerf, invented the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP), the fundamental techniques at the heart of the Internet, Robert Elliot “Bob” Kahn turns 81… Emmy Award-winning actor, director and producer, best known for his work on “The Simpsons,” Harry Shearer turns 76… Russian-born mathematician, living in France, Mikhail Leonidovich Gromov turns 76… Senior U.S. District Judge in the Southern District of New York, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan turns 75… One of two Grand Rebbes of Satmar, Rabbi Zalman Leib Teitelbaum turns 68… Political analyst and commentator William “Bill” Kristol turns 67… Dean at Indiana University’s School of Global and International Studies, he served as the United States ambassador to Poland (2009-2012), Lee A. Feinstein turns 60…
CEO of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal turns 53… Jonathan Eric Zucker turns 48… Israeli investor in natural resources including diamond and copper mining interests in the Congo, he is the subject of U.S. sanctions, Dan Gertler turns 46… Israeli-Spanish singer-songwriter of Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) music, Yasmin Levy turns 44… Former special assistant to the president for regulatory reform, legal and immigration policy on the Domestic Policy Council in the Trump White House, she clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, Zina Linda Gelman Bash turns 38… VP of strategy and mergers at the Heritage Group, Adam Milakofsky turns 38… Israeli singer and composer of the genre known as Mizrahi music, Dudu Aharon turns 35… Israeli fashion model, Shlomit Malka turns 26… Marketing manager at Rokt, an e-commerce marketing technology firm, Lauren Kahn… Account executive at Edelman, India Goodman… Tom Epstein…