Lior Ashkenazi takes a look at ‘Norman’ – Israel News – Jerusalem Post – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Meeting Lior Ashkenazi, who stars in Joseph Cedars new movie, Norman, with Richard Gere, brings to mind Albert Camus famous quote: You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer yes without having asked a clear question.

Norman opened Thursday in theaters throughout Israel, and Ashkenazi who truly never needs to ask a clear question unless he feels like it sat down for an interview at the Diaghilev Hotel in Tel Aviv earlier last week.

Ashkenazi plays Micha Eshel, an Israeli politician who accepts a favor from Geres character, Norman (the subtitle of the movie is The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer), then gets drawn into Normans schemes after he becomes prime minister. Its an unusual mixture of comedy and tragedy with parallels to many current news stories.

Ive seen many situations like that from the world of celebrities, said Ashkenazi, who could easily have coasted on the charm and looks he was born with he combines the face and physique of a Greek god with the slightly befuddled expression of a hero in a Woody Allen comedy, and to say that this works for him is an understatement but has focused on his acting, and is now one of Israels most acclaimed actors.

Someone gives you something and you pay for it by posing for a photo, he said.

Ashkenazi has been a celebrity for years, thanks to acting, which has put him at the center of the renaissance in Israeli movies over the past decade and a half. Among his most important movies are Dover Koshashvilis A Late Wedding, which ushered in the trend of stories about outsiders in Israel, in this case, Georgians (and which features the most sizzling sex scene in Israeli movies, with Ashkenazi and the late Ronit Elkabetz); Eytan Foxs Walk on Water, in which Ashkenazi plays a tightly wound Mossad agent who befriends a gay man; Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushados two gory psychological thrillers Rabies and Big Bad Wolves (which Quentin Tarantino called the best film of the year), where the actor portrays disturbed, violent cops; and Cedars previous film, the Oscar-nominated Footnote, in which, cast against type, Ashkenazi plays a Talmud scholar locked into a rivalry with his father.

He is especially pleased with his work with Cedar, which he sees as a true collaboration, especially with Norman.

When I came into Footnote, the script was pretty much finished, he said. But on Norman, I was more involved… Its a complicated story, with so many implications. And it was a script Joseph was working on for a long time, and he really involves the actors in the work, it was wonderful. Its a complicated story and it was woven together so carefully.

Cedar challenged me… Hes intellectual and you have to be alert. He can talk about so many things and you have to know what they are.

Working with Gere also upped his game.

There was the excitement of Im working with Richard Gere!, and then he is a colleague, we work together, we eat together, we talked about his choices… He works very hard, hes a very method actor, very concentrated. Between takes, hes focused, he doesnt fool around… You think of him as a leading man, from Pretty Woman and movies like that. But he is very serious, although of course hes also very charismatic… He brings out an elegance in the character.

ANY MOVIE about politics will invite questions about how much it is based on reality, and Ashkenazi was very clear about how he sees his character.

People say, Is it Bibi [Benjamin Netanyahu]? No, its not him. In a way, its a combination of several prime ministers and politicians, where theyre in the right place at the right time and suddenly theyre popular… And the politicians, no matter how popular they are… there is always someone behind them, someone they are indebted to.

In order to hone his characterization Ashkenazi tried to meet with politicians, but was disappointed to discover that when they heard the synopsis, they all refused…you could do a copy-paste from the headlines into the script and that made them uncomfortable, apparently.

Ashkenazi sees Norman as something more than just a political story.

Its about friendship, he said. Its about how you know if someone is really a friend, or you wonder whether hes just someone who needs something from you… In Norman, theres a lot of ambivalence, and its left open: does he love Norman, or is Norman just someone who can do things for him? Ashkenazi, who was born in Ramat Gan to Ladino-speaking parents from Turkey, said he came to acting in that cliche way; I was always the class clown.

Inspired by Burt Lancaster movies, which he enjoyed watching with his father, and the work of Robert De Niro, he studied acting at Beit Zvi. Although he is proud he has never had a day job since he finished school, when some of his early plays were not the hits he had hoped they would be, he enrolled in a computer science course.

But after one lesson, I understood its not for me. And he has never looked back, moving gradually from theater to film as the movie industry flourished.

After his films were shown at festivals around the world, there was the temptation of trying to go to Hollywood, but he resisted it.

If I go there, I would always be foreign, I would always have an accent, he said. I cant see myself going on auditions in LA.

Surprisingly, Ashkenazi said he was terrible at auditions.

But some foreign directors have come calling recently. After the interview, he was off to work on an international movie, Entebbe, about the hijacking and rescue mission in 1976, which is shooting a few scenes here.

The film, which Jos Padilha, the creator of the television series Narcos, is directing, also stars Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl. Once again, Ashkenazi will play a prime minister, but this time a real one: Yitzhak Rabin.

Portraying a real prime minister, and such a revered one, he says, can be a burden.

Im not doing an imitation of Rabin, he said. Im in a story about this rescue mission and Im playing the prime minister who ordered it.

He is also in Julie Deplys movie My Zoe and he plays a Jewish reporter from New York in Dragos Buligas vampire movie, The Wanderers. He will play a Mossad agent in Sarajevo in a film by Tony Kaye, who made American History X.

But Israeli cinema remains key for Ashkenazi and he has roles in upcoming films by Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride) and Shmuelik Maoz (Lebanon). Although he is no longer performing in the theater, he has been directing plays for some time, and is now directing his first short film. Its based on a play and tells the story of a driving instructor giving a test who voices regrets about his life to a student. Ashkenazi has chosen not to act in this project and it stars Menashe Noy as the instructor and Moran Rosen as the student.

But although directing beckons, he said he wouldnt give up acting anytime soon.

This is always was what Ive really wanted to do.

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Lior Ashkenazi takes a look at ‘Norman’ – Israel News – Jerusalem Post – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Purim Parody: 10 killed in world-record hummus catastrophe – Jerusalem Post Israel News

MCGUNNES WORLD Record auditor Fergus Angus looks on in horror as the hummus tragedy unfolds. . (photo credit:Courtesy)

Tragedy struck yesterday during an attempt to make the worlds largest bowl of hummus.

Seeking to exceed Lebanons 2010 record of 10,432.625 kilos of chickpea mixture, Israeli entrepreneur Moshe Cohen-Levy has been churning up the famous pasty Israeli dish for the last two weeks at a soccer pitch near Holon.

Everything was going well. We had 30+ workers churning up the chickpeas day and night and then ladling them into a giant bowl.

Things began to go wrong, however, when they started to add the massive falafel balls.

Unfortunately, there were no standardized vehicles or drivers trained to transport 22.679-kilo falafel balls.

The balls were not well secured, recalls survivor Anat Mizrahi-Ashkenazi. At around 2 p.m. yesterday the workers began to feel a tremor as the giant falafel balls cascaded into one another on a truck.

We didnt have any warning. Apparently no one knew you are supposed secure giant balls when transporting them.

The balls rolled off the Toyota Hilux truck, striking 10 men who were standing around the giant bowl of hummus, unaware of the danger.

One minute I was stirring with a huge spoon and then we were all flying into the hummus, recalls Mizrahi-Ashkenazi.

The largest men sank into the quicksand-like edible mulch.

Cohen-Levy, who rushed to scene when he heard shouting, found a horror-movie scenario in front of him. Men and women volunteers were slowly being sucked into the chickpea mixture.

I tried to save them by throwing them a giant pita that we had on hand. But I couldnt hold it; it weighed almost 90.718 kilos.

Unfortunately, it now seems that Moshes attempt to help actually led to even greater misfortune as the giant pita submerged several of the people and they were crushed under its weight.

Luckily I was able to hold on to one of the falafel balls and miraculously survived, recalls Anat, who is recovering at Meilinson Hospital.

The McGunnes World Record auditor who was on hand to certify whether the giant bowl of hummus was the largest ever determined that although it was not the largest bowl of hummus ever (falling short of the record by 207 grams) it will hold a different record as being the largest number of people killed in a hummus-related accident.

The last time we encountered a disaster of this nature was in southern Jordan in 1964 when several men slipped on hummus and fell into a vat of tehina.

Lebanon disputes the fact that Israel now holds a world record in anything hummus-related. Mahmud Abubakr, the hummus minister, says, We will surely find such a large accident in our history as well.

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Purim Parody: 10 killed in world-record hummus catastrophe – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Racism with a kosher seal of approval – Ynetnews

The friends of former Knesset Member Sharon Gal (Yisrael Beytenu), who is currently hanging out at the Big Brother house, sent a helicopter up to the sky with the sign If a Zionist is a racist, Im proud to be racist. It would have been more accurate to write, If being a racist is Zionist, Im proud to be a Zionist, as Gals Zionism is not the fulfillment or the creation of an exemplary Jewish society. Rather, it is mostly about hating Arabs and leftists.

And whats wrong with that, youre wondering. The Arabs are our enemies, and the leftists collaborate with our enemies. I could try to explain what is wrong with that, what is wrong, for example, with an idea of MK Miki Zohar (Likud) that Israel annex the territories and give the Arabs all democratic rights apart from voting. I could try to explain, but it seems that this is the classic case of the luxury restaurant: If you have to ask how much it costs, you cant afford it. If you need an explanation as to what is wrong with Zohars proposal or Gals world view, its unlikely that an explanation would do any good.

The goal of this op-ed is more modestnot to explain what is wrong with racism, but to point out the other places that the legitimization of racism is leading us to. Take, for example, the institutionalized racism in the ultra-Orthodox sector towards Sephardic girls seeking admission into Haredi-Ashkenazi educational institutions.

The students were deemed unfit not because they are Sephardic, but because they are not Ashkenazi (Archive photo: Dudi Vaknin)

Ahead of the previous school year, the candidacy of dozens of girls from Elad, most of whom were of Sephardic descent, was rejected by the Darkei Hanna School and the Ladaat Chokhmah Seminary in the Haredi city, which is located beyond the Green Line. Why were they rejected? Because they are unsuitable. Why are they unsuitable? Thats an excellent question. It has nothing to do with the fact that they are specifically Sephardic. It has more to do with the fact that they are not Ashkenazi.

The students parents petitioned the court. Following the court and Education Ministrys intervention, it was agreed that the Elad Municipality would move to a regional registration method, which would make it difficult to disqualify a student due to the descent of her parents or parents parents. Like the Israeli government, the Elad Municipality made a decision in principle, but failed to actually change the admission system. And the Sephardic candidates wereagaindeemed unfit to be admitted into these prestigious (and completely Ashkenazi) educational institutions.

The parents petitioned the court again, requesting that the municipality be forced to implement the decision it made in the past. The court accepted the petition. Happy ending? Not exactly.

Elad Mayor Israel Porush didnt like the decision. What do I mean by didnt like it? He really didnt like it. He declared that the court ruling contradicts the explicit order of the greatest sages of Israel, may they live long and happily, and we will turn to them to hear what should be done. Social MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) even announced that this is a day of disgrace. Have you ever heard such a thing? 100% Kosher Jews seek to practice racism, according to their forefathers finest racist tradition, and the secular state, which is suspected of leftism due to its being secular, is trying to stand in their way? Outrageous!

First of all, we must admit that the Haredi argument is essentially justified. Indeed, traditional Judaism does not believe in equalitynot between Jews and non-Jews, men and women or scholars and the uneducated. The former in each of these three pairs deserve favored treatment. An Arab, even a good Arab, is not a real human being; a woman, even a good woman, is not really a man; and a secular person, even a good secular person, will never be equal to a religious scholar (who is better than the greatest secular scholar, even if he is a complete fool).

The discrimination against Sephardim may not be according to the law of the Bible, but it is definitely prescribed by the rabbis (the greatest sages of Israel, may they live long and happily). And in the new Israel, the secular courts rulings are always conditional, until we find out what the Torah sages have to say.

And what does Minister Aryeh Machluf Deri (Shas) think about it? The minister was deeply offended when artist Yair Garbuz dared to talk about amulet kissers. Racism! And what about Elad? The Shas voters, Deri ruled, have more urgent problems than discrimination. If you are with us in the racism towards Arabs, we will forgive your racism towards Sephardim.

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Racism with a kosher seal of approval – Ynetnews

Gere delights Israeli fans at premier of Israel-US movie – Channel NewsAsia

JERUSALEM: Hollywood actor Richard Gere delighted fans after walking the red carpet in Jerusalem for the Israeli premiere of his new film “Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall Of A New York Fixer”.

The “Pretty Woman” star plays Norman Oppenheimer, a veteran “fixer” in New York’s Jewish community who runs into trouble when he tries to win over a visiting Israeli politician, played by Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi.

In the film, screened at Jerusalem’s Cinematheque on Wednesday, Gere’s character’s life changes when he buys an expensive pair of shoes for an Israeli dignitary who eventually becomes prime minister.

Critics have said the storyline is reminiscent of the connection between former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and a New York-based businessman alleged to have given him cash envelopes. Olmert is currently serving jail time for corruption.

Israeli-American writer-director Joseph Cedar said he felt compelled to explore the life of a “fixer” – someone who thrives on connecting with people and getting in with the right crowd – from his own personal life experience.

“It took him (Gere) some time to feel comfortable with a different body language, a story line that I don’t think he’s ever had to bring to the screen, and gradually he felt more and more comfortable until he really became this character,” Cedar told reporters at a news conference on Thursday.

Gere said he was not getting involved in the politics of the region and the challenge for him was portraying an unusual personality.

“I am not interested in politics, I am interested in human beings. The people that I am meeting are also people who are primarily involved with relationships and bridging the problems between human beings… I am coming froma country that is in deep anxiety and chaos right now,” the American actor and humanitarian activist said.

(Reporting by Lee Marzel, writing by Rinat Harash, editing by Ori Lewis and Pritha Sarkar)

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Gere delights Israeli fans at premier of Israel-US movie – Channel NewsAsia

Being Norman Oppenheimer – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Everyone knows a guy like Norman Oppenheimer (Richard Gere), the dogged and doomed schemer of Joseph Cedars latest movie, Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a New York Fixer.

Norman is that uncle who always wants you to meet someone he assures you will advance your career or hes the guy who never gives you a straight answer when you ask him what he does and always seems to be working some angle.

Norman is the first English-language film by Cedar, the American-born Israeli director of the Oscar-nominated films Beaufort and Footnote. It is anchored by Richard Geres brilliant performance in the title role, which emphasizes the humanity inside the nudnik. The actor brings out the vulnerability and disappointment beneath Normans hyper-confident facade.

Norman is a great character study of this very familiar type. He is a kind of cousin to Clifford Irving, the writer who claimed to have a Howard Hughes memoir, whom Gere portrayed in the fact-based 2006 movie The Hoax. But while Geres Irving seemed intoxicated by his own lies, Norman gets increasingly desperate as the story progresses. He is older and doesnt have much time left to put together that one great deal that will completely reverse his fortunes. He talks about a wife who died and a daughter, but its not clear if these women are or were real. He wanders the city talking on his headset but doesnt seem to have a home; and when hes hungry, he sneaks into a synagogue and eats herring and crackers. The devil is in the details here, from the scraps of paper where Norman scrawls his notes and phone trees to the camel hair coat he keeps spotless.

Youre like a drowning man trying to wave at an ocean liner, his nephew (Michael Sheen) tells him in one of the films key moments.

But Im a good swimmer. Dont forget that, Norman replies.

The way Norman stays afloat for a good chunk of the movie revolves around an encounter with an Israeli politician, Micha Eshel (Lior Ashkenazi). Norman very skillfully stalks the out-of-favor Eshel when the Israeli is in New York at a conference.

At an expensive mens clothing store, Norman insists on treating Eshel to a very pricey pair of shoes, and this creates a bond between them. When Eshel becomes prime minister a few years later, Norman congratulates himself, exulting, For once, I bet on the right horse.

How Norman tries to cash in on his connection to Eshel is a story that is fun and full of twists. These involve connections and deals he tries to make among a diverse group of powerful men, including a blustering, self-important rabbi (Steve Buscemi) of an upscale Manhattan synagogue genius casting and not one but two billionaire financiers (Josh Charles and Harris Yulin). Other members of this uniformly excellent cast include Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dan Stevens, Hank Azaria and Isaach De Bankole from abroad, and Tali Sharon, Neta Riskin and Yehuda Almagor from Israel.

But the key relationship in the movie is the one between Norman and Eshel. It seems to have been inspired, at least superficially, by former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who is currently serving a prison term for accepting bribes, and Morris Talansky, the financier whose testimony helped convict him. But Norman and Eshel are very different from their real-life counterparts. Eshel is a sympathetic character at first, down on his luck, and grateful for Normans support and attention. Later, he is intoxicated by his own power, and although he talks about brokering a peace deal, he seems more focused on the fame and honor it will bring than anything else. In short, hes a typical politician, however different he may seem at first.

Ashkenazi, an extraordinary actor, faces a challenge making Eshel interesting and intermittently sympathetic, but he is able to pull it off.

Its a low-key performance, but so masterful that I was disappointed when the character behaved as virtually any politician would under similar circumstances. Like Norman, I wanted to think that Eshel was special.

And, like Eshel, I wanted to think that there was more to Norman than just some guy who uses people until he finds himself out of his depth. Cedar really gets into Normans head, an often uncomfortable place to be. As much as we would like to look down on a guy like Norman, Cedar makes us see ourselves in him. He does this in part by bravura effects that emphasize Normans point of view, such as a scene where Norman reconnects with Eshel at the conference of an AIPAC-like organization, and everyone around them freezes. As Norman suddenly gets the attention and respect he has always craved from the people who are important to him, he visualizes all these acquaintances just as heads because he doesnt see them as real people but merely as sources of approval.

On some level, this can be seen as an allegory about American Jewish-Israeli relations, but it would be a mistake to go too far with that. Both Norman and Eshel see their interactions as a zero-sum game, and perhaps that is the real tragedy to which the title makes reference. But the script is more than just a metaphor for the tensions between American Jews and Israelis.

There is a great deal of dialogue in the film, much of which is over the phone, which Cedar tries to enliven by using a split screen, showing the two people talking as if they were in a room together. It can be demanding to follow Normans deals through all these conversations, and there are some scenes late in the film that drag. But Normans epic quest to make a success out of his life soon gets back on track, and a brief expression on Geres face reminds us that we are rooting for Norman, in spite of all his duplicity and how wary we are of the real Normans in our lives.

This is Cedars fifth feature film, and it brings to the foreground a theme that has been present in all of his movies: identity and what it means to be an insider and/or an outsider. In the movie Campfire, he examined the tension between a religious/nationalist identity and the freedom afforded by the larger world, through a portrait of an observant woman who became an outsider in her own community after she lost her husband.

Footnote was the story of an aging scholar who longs, in spite of his uncompromising nature, to be embraced by the establishment (exemplified by being awarded the Israel Prize); and his much more engaging and politically astute son (played by Lior Ashkenazi), who has all the honors in the world, except the full respect of his father. The widow and the father are rigidly honest and have to come to terms with not getting the approval they seek, with not being true insiders.

Norman, on the other hand, is all compromise, all wheeling and dealing, but he remains the quintessential outsider. The tension comes from whether he will make the deal of his dreams and win on his own terms or crash and burn, and what that crash will teach him if it comes.

But who Norman becomes is open to debate. Its the art of the deal that Cedar makes with the audience that Norman remains unknowable. In spite of his affability, Norman keeps his true self hidden. Cedars refusal to give us any easy answers is what makes this film memorable and, ultimately, moving and real.

NORMAN Directed by Joseph Cedar With Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi, Steve Buscemi, Dan Stevens, Charlotte Gainsbourg Running time: 117 minutes In English and Hebrew.

Check with theaters for subtitle information.

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Being Norman Oppenheimer – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Sad, but not surprising – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Rabbi Yona Metzger. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

On February 23, the Jerusalem District Court rejected former chief Ashkenazi rabbi Yonah Metzgers plea bargain and extended his prison sentence, for fraud and bribery, to four-and-a-half years.

Also, he will pay a fine of NIS 5 million for tax evasion. These crimes were committed while Metzger served as chief rabbi and the judge noted that Metzger should have been a model for exemplary behavior as a religious and spiritual leader. Instead, he joins too many Israeli political leaders as an example of corruption, criminal behavior, overreaching greed and arrogance.

Rabbi Metzger is the first former chief rabbi to go to prison. Sadly, I am not surprised as I served on the Commission to Appoint Dayanim as the Israel Bar Associations representative during Metzgers tenure as chief rabbi.

In December 2004, a year after he was elected chief rabbi, attorney-general Mani Mazuz (currently a Supreme Court justice) ordered a police investigation into complaints of fraud and bribery. In May 2005, the investigation was completed and it was recommended that Rabbi Metzger be charged. Immediately after the publication of the police recommendation, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court demanding Metzger withdraw from sitting as a dayan (religious court judge) in the Rabbinic Court of Appeals as well as from participation in the meetings of the Commission to Appoint Dayanim. In June 2005 Metzger agreed to cease work as a dayan and a member of the commission.

In April 2006, attorney-general Mazuz published a 40-page document summarizing his decision to close the case against Rabbi Metzger because of insufficient evidence.

However, Mazuz pointed out that Metzgers actions and failure to be truthful during the investigation raised serious questions about his suitability to serve in the prestigious office of chief rabbi. Mazuz concluded that Metzger was unfit morally and spiritually for the post and therefore should resign. Legislation creating the Chief Rabbinate did not provide for the removal of a sitting chief rabbi, but Mazuz argued that if Metzger refused to step down, the justice minister could convene the Commission to Appoint Dayanim to consider ending his role as a dayan.

Since Metzger indeed refused to resign, I found myself, alongside my colleagues on the commission, part of a jury tasked with determining whether Metzger was fit to serve as a dayan. I took my new role very seriously and spent many days reviewing the case records, including the police investigation and the attorney-generals recommendations.

While Rabbi Metzger did not appear before the commission to give testimony, his highly respected criminal lawyer, Prof. David Libai, appeared on his behalf. Since both Libai and I are graduates of the University of Chicago, I was particularly proud of his eloquent and masterful presentation. However, his responses to questions I raised were not convincing.

I found the prosecutors arguments far more powerful, especially in light of Metzgers behavior prior to being elected chief rabbi as well as afterwards. We were reminded that in the late 1990s, Metzger was a candidate for the position of chief rabbi of Tel Aviv. At that time several complaints as to his suitability were brought to the voting body and several Orthodox leaders testified. Written opinions by leading religious scholars argued that Metzger was unfit for the post. In 1998, thenchief rabbi Bakshi Doron and his colleagues found Metzgers responses to the complaints evasive and contradictory. Before completion of their investigation, however, Metzger sent a letter withdrawing his candidacy. Therefore the investigation was closed.

After Metzger was elected chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel in 2003, Rabbi Doron wrote the following: It never occurred to me that Metzger had the chutzpah to submit his candidacy to be elected chief rabbi of Israel after he agreed to withdraw his candidacy to the post of chief rabbi of Tel Aviv.

Apparently the questions I posed during the commissions hearings became known in the religious establishment and there was concern that I might vote to remove Rabbi Metzger. Leading rabbis, most of whom I respected for their scholarship and integrity, began to call me and argue that Metzger should not be removed under any circumstances.

When I replied that the evidence of his criminal behavior was compelling, they claimed that removing a chief rabbi would set a dangerous precedent. As an observant woman, mother, wife, grandmother, lawyer and Israeli citizen, I was shocked and saddened by the response of these spiritual leaders.

In February 2008, my colleagues on the commission voted to retain Metzger as a dayan. I wrote a dissenting opinion, arguing that he was morally, ethically and halachically unfit to serve.

In 2013, during the last year of his tenure, a new criminal investigation into his activities while serving as chief rabbi was begun. Criminal charges were brought against him and he pleaded guilty in January 2017.

This sad and shameful story raises several questions: Why was Metzger allowed to become a candidate for chief rabbi of Israel given his background? How and why was Metzger elected to the position of chief rabbi? It is no secret that selection of a chief rabbi is highly political, and there are those who claim Metzger was chosen by Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) leaders to weaken the position of chief rabbi. Whether that claim is true or not, it is clear that he has brought deep shame and public disdain on the office of the Chief Rabbinate. Perhaps the real question is: why does Israel need chief rabbis today? The author is a womens rights lawyer based in Jerusalem. Elected by the Israel Bar Association in December 2002 to be its representative on the Commission to Appoint Dayanim, she was the only woman on the commission at that time and was reelected to a second term in December 2005, serving until January, 2009.

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Sad, but not surprising – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Court strikes blow against discrimination of Sephardi haredi girls – Jerusalem Post Israel News

A CLASSROOM awaits its pupils.. (photo credit:MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The Jerusalem District Court ruled to impose regional registration for two haredi (ultra-Orthodox) high schools for girls in the city of Elad this week, striking a blow against the discrimination of Sephardi haredi girls in Ashkenazi haredi schools.

The regional registration solution is designed to eliminate the de facto quotas of 20% or 30% imposed by Ashkenazi haredi schools for Sephardi girls, according to activists.

This problem has occurred repeatedly in many Ashkenazi haredi girls schools around the country, including in Elad, and stems from racist motives, activists claim.

In the 2014/2015 school year, the Education Ministry, then under the direction of former Yesh Atid MK Shai Piron, intervened in the registration process due to a recurrence of the issue.

Following a legal petition by the Noar Kahalacha activist group, the situation was eventually resolved for that particular year in an agreement between the Education Ministry and the Elad Municipal Authority, which included a stipulation that regional registration be used for the 2016/2017 school year and onward.

This agreement was given the imprimatur of a court decision, but Noar Kahalacha found that regional registration had not been used despite this assurance and filed a motion with the courts to find the Elad Municipality in contempt of court.

That motion was granted on Monday, and Judge Nava Ben-Or ordered the Elad Municipal Authority to publish notices declaring that registration for the two high schools will be done on a regional basis for the 2017/2018 school year and onward.

She also ordered the Elad Municipal Authority to pay a NIS 1,000 fine for every day it fails to publish this notice.

The injustice done by the Elad Municipal Authority and the girls high schools in Elad has come to an end. We welcome this precedent of regional registration, and Interior Minister Arye Deri is now obligated to fulfill his promise to implement regional registration around the country, Noar Kahalacha said in response.

Haredi political leaders were swift to denounce the ruling.

Elad Mayor Israel Porush said that the ruling directly contradicts the explicit instructions of the most senior rabbis, to whom we will turn for directions as [to] how to act.

Senior United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni echoed Porushs comments, saying the events marked a disgraceful day for the state.

The people who determine issues such as regional registration are the leading rabbis, and in no way are they determined by some frustrated guy who wants the court to make the decision, he told the BHadrei Haredim website, in reference to Noar Kahalacha director Yoav Laloum.

This undermines all the agreements of the haredi education system. It wont happen, we all stand behind Mayor Israel Porush and the court will not determine where regional registration will and will not happen, he declared. If the court determines things in our education system, tomorrow the courts will determine what will be taught and what [will] not, and who the teachers will be. The courts cannot interfere on issues relating to our education.

The root of the problem stems from a perception within the Sephardi haredi community that the Ashkenazi haredi schools are better, more prestigious and will lead to better life opportunities within the haredi world.

Although some Sephardi girls are accepted into the Ashkenazi schools, it is often the daughters of well-connected Sephardi families, be it to a national or local politician, prominent rabbi or a donor to the schools.

Some of the brightest Sephardi girls are also accepted, creating an impression that the Sephardi institutions are indeed second class.

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Court strikes blow against discrimination of Sephardi haredi girls – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Israeli ultra-Orthodox School System Takes the Money and Runs – Haaretz

The Ashkenazi Independent Education System receives $326 million in taxpayer funds annually but wards off government oversight. And too bad it shuns standardized tests.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee, let out a sarcastic laugh when I asked him why the ultra-Orthodox Asheknazi school system he heads, the Independent Education System, refuses to take part in the nationwide Meitzav standardized tests.

We wont allow any procedure in which the Education Ministry is involved, Gafni said, feeling free to speak on the record. Its our educational independence we decide, not the Education Ministry. We decided this back in the days of Ben-Gurion, who assured our educational independence. We wont accept dictates, and we wont accept the Education Ministrys oversight.

Gafnis candidness would be admirable if it werent for one tiny problem. The Independent Education System is Israels largest ultra-Orthodox or Haredi school system and relies on taxpayer money. The independence Gafni is so proud of is only a question of pedagogy and oversight. When it comes to funding, the Independent Education System is far from independent the state finances it to the tune of 1.2 billion shekels ($326 million) annually.

So the Education Ministry has no oversight, and the Finance Ministry has very little. While the Finance Ministry has an accountant working in the Independent Education System, with no one to assist him and no support from the Education Ministry, his ability to figure out whats going on is severely limited.

The Independent Education System is largely for Ashkenazi Jews those with roots in Europe as opposed to Mizrahi Jews, those with roots in the Middle East.

One reason for worry is that when the Mizrahi Haredi school system, the Shas-controlled Maayan Hachinuch Hatorani, was subjected to a review three years ago by the Finance Ministrys accountant general, massive irregularities were discovered including 20 illegal schools and an average class size of eight children rather than 20 as required by the Education Ministry.

Also, two schools were still operating despite having been ordered to close for safety reasons, and employees who were still working were receiving retirement benefits. Finally, there were more than 1,000 staff members whose spouses were also employed by the system, double salary payments, and even fictitious salary payments to people not working.

All this went on under the nose of the Finance Ministry accountant in the Mizrahi Haredi school system, which is much smaller than the Independent Education System. So there are very serious concerns that similar things could be discovered if the Ashkenazi system went through an in-depth review.

One such review is finally underway. Three years after the scathing review of the Mizrahi system, the bigger and wealthier Ashkenazi system is still being coddled by the accountant general. A Finance Ministry spokeswoman told TheMarker that cooperation between the Independent Education System and the accountant generals office had improved, and that two sections of a review had been completed.

The subject of staff and teachers wages is yet to be completed, the spokeswoman said. Since were still mid-review, we wont publish the findings now to avoid harming the process.

Shady salary practices

This is a curious response given the time since the review of the Mizrahi system was completed, and considering that the two sections of the Ashkenazi review that have been completed are of less controversial areas. When major irregularities are found, they usually concern wages, and these have not been reviewed.

Could the Finance Ministry be protecting the Independent Education System because it fears powerful politicians like Gafni? This wouldnt come as much of a surprise. After all, one of the last moves by former Accountant General Michal Abadi-Boiangiu was on the appointment of an official in the Independent Education System a deputy director for salary affairs.

Correspondence between Abadi-Boiangiu and former Education Ministry Director General Michal Cohen shows that these two powerful women did not even decide on whether a school system that receives 1.2 billion shekels of public funds annually should be allowed to have a paid deputy director.

This situation, in which the Education Ministry is not involved in determining the organizational structure of the Independent Education System, which is funded with more than 1 billion shekels, does not seem reasonable to me, Abadi-Boiangiu wrote.

I have explained to the director general that it is not the job of the accountant general to rule on such matters . The director general replied that this matter has always been handled by the department of the accountant general . Unfortunately, as we see, the Education Ministry is not addressing the matter, the officials from the budget department are declining to addresss the matter, and we are operating in a void.

The Independent Education System is basically a hot potato that no one wants to touch. The Education Ministry fobs the responsibility off on the Finance Ministrys accountant general, and the accountant general fobs it off on the Education Ministry. And they both fob it off on the budget department, which wont touch the subject either. Consequently, theres no real government oversight.

The Independent Education System seems to be the organization that receives the most government funding without any oversight. In many ways, the government throws 1.2 billion shekels every year into a black hole with no idea whats being done with it.

The Independent Education System doesnt have its students take part in the Metizav standardized tests, though the Mizrahi system does. Ever since the major irregularities were uncovered by the Finance Ministry review, and since Arye Dery took over the ultra-Orthodox Mizrahi party Shas from Eli Yishai, the Mizrahi system has shown a greater willingness to cooperate with the Education Ministry.

Asked why whats good for the Mizrahim shouldnt be good for the Ashkenazim, Gafni replied: Why dont you send Maayan Hachinuch flowers? We have no intention of being tested by outside examinations. Well only use the independent examinations that we conduct ourselves.

Shunning international exams

Neither Haredi school system takes part in the international TIMSS and PISA standardized tests. As a result, Israel is essentially violating the conditions set down by the international organizations involved, since the rate of nonparticipants in the exams far exceeds the allowed levels. With the TIMSS exams, the allowed nonparticipation rate is 5%, but Israel excuses 17.6% of its students, mainly because Haredi children dont take the tests; that community makes up 15.7% of Israeli schoolchildren.

Haredi girls did take the last PISA tests, and even did surprisingly well in math, equivalent to girls in the state religious school system but lower than girls in the state secular school system. In science and reading, the Haredi girls scored much lower than girls in either public school system (though higher than girls in the Arab public schools).

The Haredi girls participation in the international tests isnt that surprising when you consider that in the Haredi schools, girls are often taught core-curriculum subjects; the expectation is that theyre the ones who eventually will work to support the family. Therefore, there was nothing to fear from them taking the tests.

However, the insistence in both Haredi school systems that boys not take the international tests, and the Ashkenazi systems refusal for boys to take the Meitzav exams, are a clear signal that they have something to hide. That is, they dont teach core subjects and the kids are likely to fail.

Thus the Education Ministrys peculiar response on how it oversees the Haredi schools core curriculum, particularly in the Ashkenazi system, should be taken with a grain of salt. The ministry says 65% of the boys schools in the Ashkenazi system and 93% of the boys schools in the Mizrahi system teach a full core curriculum, because all the Haredi schools are under ministry oversight, and all the Haredi teachers teach core subjects.

Its very hard to see how the Education Ministry could cite such high figures, especially regarding the Ashkenazi system, when this system refuses to let inspectors enter its facilities, doesnt submit to tests, has no accounting reviews, and when everyone knows that theres a huge shortage of Haredi teachers qualified to teach core subjects.

In fact, the Education Ministry received extra funding from the Finance Ministry to train 700 Haredi teachers to teach core subjects. Data from the Council for Higher Education shows that just 10% of Haredi teachers are college graduates, and there is a shortfall of 17,000 teachers with appropriate education for Haredi elementary schools alone. So just whos teaching core subjects to 65% or 93% of the Haredi students?

Like the accountant generals office, the Education Ministrys oversight of the Haredi schools, especially the Ashkenazi system, appears to be largely lip service. Gafnis audacity is therefore completely understandable. He can take 1.2 billion shekels of taxpayer money while proclaiming that he neednt be subject to Education Ministry supervision. He knows that no politician or government official will stop him.

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Israeli ultra-Orthodox School System Takes the Money and Runs – Haaretz

Colorful and vibrant Purim customs from across the globe – JerusalemOnline

This week, Jews around the world will be celebrating Purim in commemoration of our triumph over Haman, who sought to annihilate the Jewish people. How do different Jewish communities across the world celebrate this festive occasion?

This week, Jews around the world will be celebrating Purim, the festival commemorating our triumph over Haman, the evil vizier under King Ahasuerus who sought to annihilate the Jewish people. Throughout the Jewish world, Jews read the Book of Esther (Megillat Esther) inside of the synagogue and Jews usually prepare gifts of food known as Mishloach Manot in order to bring to family and friends.

Additionally, according to the Talmud, a Jew is obligated to get drunk on Purim until he does not know the difference between cursed be Haman and blessed be Mordechai. Traditionally, all Jews hold festive meals in honor of the holiday. However, at the same time, different Jewish communities across the planet also have their own unique customs and foods that they eat in order to celebrate the joyful holiday.

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In the Ashkenazi Jewish tradition, the children come to the synagogue dressed up in costumes. It is usually popular for the children to dress up as the main protagonists of the Purim story: Mordechai, Queen Esther, King Ahasuerus and the wicked Haman. These young people come to the synagogue accompanied by special noise-makers. Whenever the name of the evil Haman is proclaimed in the Megillah reading, the children make tons of noise in order to blot out the name of the evil Haman. In addition, Ashkenazi Jews also put on elaborate Purim spiels, which are humorous plays.In addition, Ashkenazi Jews traditionally eat a three-triangle pastry called a Hamantaschen that is filled with either dates, figs, chocolate or fruit.

Conversely, Iraqi and Yemenite Jews do not have a custom of dressing up for Purim or making tons of noise whenever Hamans name is mentioned in the synagogue. In Yemen, Jewish children used to make a wooden effigy to symbolize Haman, which they placed on a wagon to prance around the neighborhood. While dragging around the Haman effigy, Yemenite Jewish children would sing songs about Haman and at the end of the procession, they would literally hang the Haman effigies! In the Baghdad Jewish community, Jews would write Haman on a piece of paper and erase it utilizing wine. Iraqi Jews also make a pastry known as Sambusak El Tawa, which is filled with chicken and vegetables. In addition, Iraqi Jews like most other Mizrahi Jewish communities give their children presents for Purim.

Unlike Yemenite and Iraqi Jews, Moroccan Jews do make noise whenever the name Haman is mentioned. However, instead of utilizing noise-makers, they ululate, thus making a high pitched sound that is common in Arabic culture as a sign of great emotional intensity. In addition, Moroccan Jewish children fill up a kaftan (similar to a Mexican piata) with Hamanis (traditional Moroccan Purim candies). The children hang the kaftan from a pole and then they beat it with bats so that the hamanis can fall down for all of the children to eat. Moroccan Jews also traditionally make special Purim breads, which taste like sweet challah. Raisins and hard-boiled eggs are kneaded into the center of the bread in order to symbolize Hamans eye.

In the Egyptian Jewish community, Jews would parade around on camels, donkeys, and horses in order to memorialize how Mordechai was paraded around the city of Shushan by Haman, which marked the beginning of Hamans demise from power. All of these traditions illustrate that Jews around the world have varying customs of how to blot out Hamans name from history in compliance with Exodus 17:14, I shall surely erase the memory of Amelek. Haman was a known descendent of Amalek and Queen Esther, as a descendant of King Saul, completed G-ds command to annihilate Amalek by ridding the Jewish people of Haman and his supporters.

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Colorful and vibrant Purim customs from across the globe – JerusalemOnline

Times of Israel to host Joseph Cedar at first Jerusalem screening of ‘Norman’ – The Times of Israel

Joseph Cedar, Israels most celebrated film director, returns to our screens next week with his new movie Norman, starring Richard Gere, Steve Buscemi, Lior Ashkenazi, Charlotte Gainsborg and Michael Sheen.

The Times of Israel is hosting the films first Jerusalem screening on Monday, three days before the official premiere.

Cedar will attend the screening, and will be interviewed live on stage by Times of Israels Ops&Blogs editor Miriam Herschlag.

Cedar, a native New Yorker who emigrated to Israel at age six, has received two Academy Award foreign film nominations and an armful of trophies, including awards from the Cannes and Berlin film festivals and the Israel Film Academy.

A scene from the Joseph Cedar movie Norman (Courtesy)

Norman is his first film set outside the Middle East, although Israel features prominently in a character played by Lior Ashkenazi, who rises to become the Israeli prime minister.

Ashkenazi, one of Israels finest actors, also starred in Cedars Oscar-nominated comedy Footnote.

Norman (Courtesy)

Richard Gere plays Norman Oppenheimer, a would-be operator who lives a lonely life in the margins of New York City power and money, dreaming up financial schemes that never come to fruition. Norman strives to be everyones friend, but his incessant networking leads him nowhere.

Desperate for someone willing to pay attention to him, Norman sets his sights on Micha Eshel (Ashkenazi), a charismatic Israeli politician alone in New York at a low point in his career. Sensing Eshels vulnerability, Norman reaches out with a gift of a very expensive pair of shoes. Eshel is deeply touched. When he becomes prime minister three years later, he remembers.

Joseph Cedar (Courtesy)

With this connection to the leader of a major nation, Norman is suddenly awash in the respect he has always craved. Flush with his newfound feeling of success, Norman attempts to use Eshels name to leverage his biggest-ever deal: a tortuous series of transactions linking Eshel to Normans nephew (Michael Sheen), a rabbi (Steve Buscemi), a mogul (Harris Yulin), his assistant (Dan Stevens) and a treasury official from the Ivory Coast. But the kaleidoscopic plans soon go awry, creating the potential for an international catastrophe.

Variety says the film is as gnarled and back-stabbing as anything on House of Cards, and notes that Geres acting just keeps getting better.

Judge for yourself and meet Joseph Cedar next Monday at Cinema City in Jerusalem.

Booking Information:

Monday, March 6; Exclusive Times of Israel preview

NORMAN starring Richard Gere

Director Joseph Cedar talks to Miriam Herschlag

7:45 p.m., Cinema City, Jerusalem BOOK HERE

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Times of Israel to host Joseph Cedar at first Jerusalem screening of ‘Norman’ – The Times of Israel

Letters to the Editor The McGill Daily – The McGill Daily (blog)

Responses against the recently published article, “Jewish identity in a pickle”

Response to Jewish identity in a pickle, written by IJV McGill

Upon reading this article, I was struck by the factual inaccuracy, slander and perversion of Jewish identity that the authors employed to further their agenda as members of Independent Jewish Voices, an organization who criticizes Israeli state policy through a de-legitimization of the Jewish connection to Israel.

De-legitimizing this connection is factually inaccurate. The authors cite the Jewish people as diasporic, however they fail to mention that the reason the Jews constitute a diaspora is because they originate from the kingdom of Judah (what is now Israel/Palestine). Failing to acknowledge this fact is an attempt to pervert history. Jews are a Semitic people indigenous to the Levant and this is non-contestable.

Zionism was not a radical idea invented by Herzl, as the authors claim. The central tenets of Zionism, which encompasses the notion that Jews should be able to return to the land they have been expelled from since 740 BCE, has always been present in the Jewish consciousness. Of course, not all Jews believe this. However, decrying Herzl as a colonial oppressor ignores the fact that many Jews very much wanted to seek refuge in their ancestral homeland, due to their persecution across Eastern Europe and in the Middle East.

The article chooses to associate Zionism with elite Ashkenazi colonialists. Claiming that Ashkenazi Jews are privileged (which perpetuates an anti-Semitic stereotype that has existed since the 1800s) ignores the diversity of Ashkenazi Jewish experiences and invalidates the authors attempt to create an inclusive space for all Jews. Being a Zionist does not mean supporting Israeli state policy. Many Israelis are Zionists who share a plurality of political views, and are constantly mobilizing in protest of unjust Israeli state policies. I would encourage the IJV to inform themselves before they make sweeping claims that generalizes an entire ethno-religious identity.

Rachel Coburn

On IJVs Rant: So Many Words, So Little Substance

I write in response to the recent McGill Daily feature, Judaism in a Pickle, penned by three students who proudly flaunted their anti-Zionism yet lacked the courage to do so using their real names, instead hiding under pseudonyms.

The facts and anecdotes in the article range from the mendacious to the absurd. Thus, the commentary itself commits historical error by marginalizing the leadership and contribution of Eastern-European-Jews to the Zionist project, despite the fact that Israels first four Prime Ministers (one a woman) came from the Russian Empire. Meanwhile, a story of rejecting Israeli pickles is offered as some courageous sign of moral development and gusty rebellion.

IJV complains that its views are ignored and marginalized. The organized Jewish community has every legal and moral right to reject views that directly conflict with, indeed threaten, its members and values. As Rabbi Reuven Poupko succinctly put it, You dont invite butchers to a vegetarians convention.

An entity that affirms everything ultimately affirms nothing.

IJV is entitled to its views, repugnant as I and many others find them. It is not entitled to impose them on the many others, myself included, who utterly reject them and for whom their Jewish heritage and identity and love for the land, people, and State of Israel are indivisible.

I wish to highlight the fact that in its approximately four-thousand word discourse, IJV did not see it necessary or even warranted to deploy any words to condemn the nakedly inciteful and violent tweet that Sadikov published.

Sometimes it is the words that arent stated that speak the loudest.

Michael A. (Mikie) Schwartz, Third Year Student, McGill University Faculty of Law

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Letters to the Editor The McGill Daily – The McGill Daily (blog)

Why Sephardim and Ashkenazim clash over Trump – New Jersey Jewish News

by Ellie Cohanim Special to NJJN

March 2, 2017

If the Jewish community is to unite during these troubled times, bridge-building is necessary between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities around policy issues and the election of Donald Trump. What I am finding as someone with a foot in each of these communities is that while a significant majority of my liberal Ashkenazi friends are horrified by the election results, and feel part of the resistance movement, many of my Sephardi friends and family are equally passionate in celebration of Trumps win and the implementation of his campaign promises.

Many of us Middle Eastern Jews either were born in the Middle East, as with many Persian Jews, or are perhaps second- or third-generation Americans, more common in the Syrian or Iraqi communities. Typically, there is at least one generation within each family that has personally experienced living as second-class citizens in a Muslim country. Stories we have all heard inevitably include everything from the kind of daily anti-Semitism my mother experienced, walking to school and being called a dirty Jew and witnessing her schoolmates being beaten, to experiencing actual pogroms involving property damage, violence, rape, and forced conversion. In many cases a familys business and assets were stolen, and they were exiled from the countries they called home often for centuries, often dating back to the period before Mohammeds Muslim conquests.

To be clear, the experience of Jews in Muslim countries was not distressing all the time. In our home countries, we were friends, neighbors, and business associates with Muslims, so of course we do not believe that all Muslims are bad. But we do take quite seriously the threat of radical Islam. We have lived in countries once known as the French Riviera of the Middle East, only to see them disintegrate into war zones with Jews and Christians no longer welcome and Sharia (Islamic law) strictly enforced. We lived in countries that were bastions of culture and education, which were overcome by Islamic Revolutionary zeal and quickly devolved into theocratic dictatorships demanding all citizens live under the yoke of Sharia.

So when some Muslims state that Islam requires domination of the West, we believe them. When ISIS leaders say they plan to infiltrate refugee populations in the United States to commit acts of terror against Americans, we believe them. This threat perception seems to be the heart of the cleavage between the Sephardi and liberal Ashkenazi communities and our diverging responses to the Trump administration.

For many of us Sephardim, a 90-day temporary ban on the entry of citizens of countries that are either state sponsors of terror or overrun by terrorists is only common sense. In contrast, we see many of our Ashkenazi co-religionists react to this same policy by calling it and its supporters racist and Islamophobic, comparing the policy to the U.S. rejection of Holocaust refugees, and even comparing Trump to Hitler, and Jared Kushner to the kapos.

This worldview bewilders many Sephardim. We simply cannot fathom how a policy attempting to protect U.S. citizens from a potential terror attack somehow warrants comparisons to the Holocaust.

Our concerns about Muslim immigration are not limited to the current refugee issue. It is no secret that in Western countries where Muslim populations have seen recent growth there has been a correlating trend of Jews facing violence. Nowhere is this clearer than in France, where attacks by Muslims against Jews included the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi and the killing of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

We in the United States fear not only for the Jewish community, but for society as a whole. One need only read the 2013 worldwide Pew Survey of Muslim attitudes to find, for example, that 74 percent of Muslims living in the Middle East and North Africa and 64 percent of Sub-Saharan Muslims wish to be governed under Sharia, which limits the rights of women, including abortion, and supports honor killings. (The report notes that many say Sharia should only apply to Muslims, and there is debate about various aspects of Sharia.)

We, Middle Eastern Jews, wonder what the consequences for American society would be should immigration from Muslim majority countries go unchecked, and the United States finds itself confronted by large numbers of Muslims unwilling to melt into the American melting pot, a trend evidenced across Europe today.

I believe many in the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities share the same values, including freedom of religion, womens rights, and the rights of members of the LGBT community to live free of violence and harm. For many Sephardim, the perception of the greatest threat to our civil society is radical Islam, while for many Ashkenazim the greatest threat is the Trump administration. I urge our two communities to engage in open dialogue so that we may reach understanding and peace among ourselves, for without a doubt, we as a people, are in for turbulent times.

Ellie Cohanim is a correspondent for JBS (Jewish Broadcast System).

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Why Sephardim and Ashkenazim clash over Trump – New Jersey Jewish News

Gribenes: Ratatouille for the Jewish Soul Tablet Magazine – Tablet Magazine

Ratatouille, as you most likely know, is a Pixar film about a French rat who longs to cook fine food. The climax arrives when the most famous, influential, and reputedly cold food critic in Paris samples the rats cooking. Rather than serve an ornate dish of the kind the critic is accustomed to disparaging, the rat elects to serve ratatouille, the humble vegetable stew.

The criticsfirst bite transports him back to childhood and the memory of his mother serving him a fresh bowl of ratatouille. He is overcome by both the warmth of childhood happiness and what drove him to love food in the first place. His review the next day glowingly declares the rat to bethe greatest chef in all of France; the critic then risks his career to follow the rat to the small restaurant he opens.

Recently I had a not completely dissimilar experience, only with fried chicken skins filling the role of ratatouille.

Gribenes, Yiddish for crisp chicken cracklings, appears in the cookbook of the 2nd Avenue Deli (the best deli in New York, hence the world) only as a side effect of the creation of shmaltz, and only then in the roman numerals section of the book. While used sparingly today, shmaltz was used commonly for centuries by Ashkenazi Jews as a substitute for butter, whose use in meat dishes is forbidden by kashrut. One way of producing shmaltz is to saut chicken skins down into crispy bits, leaving a hot liquid fat that is easy to collect and store. The leftover skins remained as a treat to pair perhaps with a slice of bread and salt, to mix in with a matzo ball, or to devour on the spot.

The 2nd Avenue Deli, a place I escaped to as often as I could during the years I lived in New York, was where I was first introduced to gribenes. I enjoyed perusing the menu, trying out odd-sounding foods I had never heard of (like gribenes), and hoping for them to be delicious.

As you may be able to imagine if you are not familiar, gribenes do not disappoint. Served by the 2nd Avenue Deli at room temperature, they were a khaki-colored crispy mound draped in onions blackened by what appeared to be days on a skillet. I enjoyed them as a substitute for soup nuts in the split pea soup, or challenging myself to use them in exchange for french fries.

Earlier this week, my shul in Charleston, South Carolina, held a fundraiser called Not Your Bubbes Shakshuka, which was billed as an Ashkenazi Vs. Sephardic cooking competition. I decided to cook gribenes, both because they are delicious and, though I had never made them before, was most likely easy to make.

On the day of the competition, I dropped 20 lbs. of chicken skins into a giant tilting skillet in the industrial-style kitchen at my shul. A bit of oil. A pile of chopped onions. Some salt and pepper applied liberally. A couple of hours spent pushing the mash around in an effort to keep it from burning while avoiding getting burned myself by the popping oil.

I expected the dish to be a hard sellfew people hear the words fried chicken skins and want to dive right inbut I assumed that those who tried it would like it. As I served the food, there was a clear demarcation in the willingness of the clientele to try the gribenes that fell around the age of 50.Most people younger shook their heads at it and passed. But time and again the eyes of people older lit up when they saw the food. I havent had this in 40 years, one after another told me, each recalling that they had been served it last by their mother when they were a child.

Do you want some? I would ask them, my serving spoon hovering over the pan of cracklings, black onions layered on top.

Do I want some? they would sarcastically reply, eagerly putting their plate in front of me.

Most could not wait to move down the line or to their seat to try, and I watched Jew after Jew bite into the crisp mess and close their eyes to savor both the flavor and a memory from long before. The delicious and special treat that came only on occasion from their own mother when they were a child, and that they had not tasted since.

After the event, Gerry Katz, a member of my shul, still basking in the joy of eating gribenes, wrote me an email to tell me that he had calculated out the last time he had eaten gribenes: 1952. It had been 65years since hed tasted gribenes, since hed had tasted his childhood, with all of his mothers love encapsulated in each crispy bite.

Needless to say, I won the competition.

And I realized I had seen my own version of that feeling Pixar had portrayed in its movie about a rat who cooks. The manner in which food is a connection to our past and our heritage, the way in which it serves to elicit primal memories of family and comfort that perhaps can not be touched in any other way, how food connects us across generations and reminds us who we are and where we come from, perhaps especially when the food in question is delicious and even a bit sinful to eat.

Matthew Ackerman lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Gribenes: Ratatouille for the Jewish Soul Tablet Magazine – Tablet Magazine

Meet the Jewish artist behind the haunting Purim puppets of Paris – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Michel Nedjar at his studio in Paris in 2016. (Isabelle Filleul de Brohy)

(JTA) Though he may be one of Frances best-known puppet makers, Michel Nedjar insists he does not really create the acclaimed and haunting figures that he calls his Purim puppets.

A former tailors apprentice whose lifes work last week went on display at the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Lille, Nedjar says he merely exhumes his puppets to reconnect to his brethren who were murdered in the Holocaust, to his lover and mentor who died of AIDS and to his Jewish roots.

The talk of exhumation is no cryptic metaphor by Nedjar, whose 2005 exhibition titled Purim Puppets was featured for years at the Paris Museum of Jewish Arts and History.

He literally buries some of his puppets in the ground for long periods of time before digging up their decomposed remains. The processis a communion withmany of his relatives shot dead by the Nazis and dumped into mass graves in his ancestral Poland.

The Holocaust is something I carry within myself wherever I go, since I first learned of those graves as a boy, Nedjar, 69, said in a 2016 documentary about his life titled The Forbidden Areas of Michel Nedjar.

One of the items in Michel Nedjars exhibition titled Purim Puppets (The Museum of Jewish Art and History in Paris)

He doesnt bury all his puppets. Some live up to the title of his collection referencing Purim the holiday of costumes and buffoonery, when Jews are encouraged to drink alcohol and rejoice. They includethe colorful and sophisticated piata-like objects that he was inspired to create while touring Central America, Southern Asia and beyond in the 1970s.

But the exhumed ones, with their hollowed-out, gaping eye sockets, earth-filled mouths and rotting beards, are the stuff of nightmares. And they are the reason that institutions like the Lille Metropolitan, which the Le Figaro daily has ranked among the seven best French museums outside Paris, are lining up to display the work of a tailors apprentice with no formal education.

Nedjars Sephardic father an affluent tailor and textile merchant and his Ashkenazi mother sought, like many parents of their generation, to insulate him from the horror that ended just two years before his birth, when a quarter of French Jews were exterminated along with much of European Jewry.

Our parents did not want to talk to us about any of it, Nedjar says in the documentary, referring to his sister. I remember them always laughing and smiling.

His only concern as a child, Nedjar recalls, was hiding from his parents that he liked to play with his sisters dolls a preference he says was an early manifestation of his sexual orientation. So he would bury the forbidden playthings in his backyard.

Growing up privileged and happy, nothing prepared Nedjar for the 1956 documentary film Night and Fog, which shocked the world by showing, for one of the first times in wide distribution, graphic footage from theconcentration camps.

It devastated me, Nedjar said. I was one with the victims. There was a shot of a grave, and I entered that grave and I felt all those bodies around me.

Nedjar said he realized for the first time that had he been born just two years earlier, he also wouldve been killed for being a Jew.

It was after watching the film at the age of 9 that Nedjar said he exhumed his doll for the first time as a therapeutic exercise.

Exhuming that puppet was to exhume all those dead that were inside me now. It was too heavy, too painful, he said. You can call it therapy, you can call it an attempt to reach the surface and breathe. That puppet saved me.

In a way, that puppet also made Nedjar a well-known artist in France. After displaying his buried Purim puppets he chose the name because it signified Judaisms ability to rejoice even when faced with the threat of extinction he was able to present and sell his work at prestigious art galleries.

But it would take decades for Nedjar to transform that childhood experience into the inspiration behind his trademark technique.

A poor student who flunked high school, Nedjar was put to work at his fathers atelier, where he completed a tailors apprentice training. Then he started selling clothes and textiles with his maternal grandmother, who taught him Yiddish, at the main flea market in Paris. Back then, it was a heavily Jewish institution, with many Ashkenazi merchants.

Nedjar says it was good for his development as an artist.

There was always schmattes lying around the house and at the market, he recalled, using the Yiddish word for rags. I started working with it, sewing crazy clothes and designs from old curtains which the hippies during the 1970s absolutely adored, so I was able to save money and travel the world.

In Mexico, Nedjar lived with the filmmaker Teo Hernndez, who would become Nedjars great love and artistic mentor.

Teo taught me to make love and make films, he said in the documentary.

Upon leaving Mexico, Nedjar sank into an acute depression that worsened as many of his friends contracted the HIV virus that causes AIDS the disease that in 1992 claimed Hernndezs life.

Bereaved, depressed and considering psychiatric treatment, Nedjars mind circled back to the puppets he buried and exhumed as a child decades earlier to deal with his grief over the Holocaust.

I told myself I needed to rescue myself with the puppets, he said. Idont know why but I had this intuition.

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Meet the Jewish artist behind the haunting Purim puppets of Paris – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Why Sephardim And Ashkenazim Clash Over Trump – Jewish Week

If the Jewish community is to unite during these troubled times, bridge-building is necessary between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities around policy issues and the election of Donald Trump. What I am finding as someone with a foot in each of these communities, is that while a significant majority of my liberal Ashkenazi friends are horrified by the election results, and part of the resistance movement, many of my Sephardi friends and family are equally passionate in celebration of Trumps win, and the implementation of his campaign promises.

Many of us Middle Eastern Jews either were born in the Middle East ourselves, as with many Persian Jews, or are perhaps second-or third generation Americans, more common in the Syrian or Iraqi communities. Typically, there is at least one generation within each family that has personally experienced living as second-class citizens in a Muslim country. Stories we have all heard inevitably include everything from the kind of daily anti-Semitism my mother experienced, walking to school and being called a dirty Jew, and witnessing her schoolmates being beaten, to experiencing actual pogroms involving property damage, violence, rape and forced conversion. In many cases a familys business and assets stolen were stolen, and they were exiled from the countries they called home often for centuries, often dating back to the period before Mohammeds Islamic Conquest.

We Sephardim simply cannot fathom how a policy attempting to protect U.S. citizens from a potential terror attack somehow warrants comparisons to the Holocaust.

To be clear, the experience of Jews in Muslim countries was not distressing all the time. In our home countries, we were friends, neighbors and business associates with Muslims, so of course we do not believe that all Muslims are bad. But we do take quite seriously the threat of radical Islam. We have lived in countries once known as the French Riviera of the Middle East, only to see them disintegrate into war zones with Jews and Christians no longer welcome and Sharia [Islamic law] strictly enforced. We lived in countries that were bastions of culture and education, which were overcome by Islamic Revolutionary zeal, and quickly devolved into theocratic dictatorships demanding all citizens live under the yoke of Sharia.

So when some Muslims state that Islam requires domination of the West, we believe them. When ISIS leaders say they plan to infiltrate refugee populations in the U.S. to commit acts of terror against Americans, we believe them. This threat perception seems to be the heart of the cleavage between the Sephardi and liberal Ashkenazi communities and our diverging responses to the Trump administration.

For many of us Sephardim, a 90-day temporary ban on the entry of citizens of countries that are either state sponsors of terror or overrun by terrorists is only common sense. In contrast, we see many of our Ashkenazi co-religionists react to this same policy by calling it and its supporters racist and Islamophobic, comparing the policy to the U.S. rejection of Holocaust refugees, and even comparing Trump to Hitler, and Jared Kushner to the kapos.

This worldview bewilders many Sephardim. We simply cannot fathom how a policy attempting to protect U.S. citizens from a potential terror attack somehow warrants comparisons to the Holocaust.

Our concerns about Muslim immigration are not limited to the current refugee issue. It is no secret that in Western countries where Muslim populations have seen recent growth there has been a correlating trend of Jews facing violence. Nowhere is this clearer than in France, where attacks by Muslims against Jews includes the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi and the killing of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse.

We in the U.S. fear not only for the Jewish community, but for society as a whole. One need only read the 2013 worldwide Pew Survey of Muslim Attitudes to find, for example, that 74 percent of Muslims living in the Middle East and North Africa, and 64 percent of Sub-Saharan Muslims wish to be governed under Sharia, which limit the rights of women, including abortion, and support honor killings. (The report notes that many say Sharia should only apply to Muslims, and there is debate about various aspects of Sharia.)

We Middle Eastern Jews wonder what the consequences for American society would be should immigration from Muslim majority countries go unchecked, and the U.S. find itself confronted by large numbers of Muslims unwilling to melt into the American melting pot, a trend evidenced across Europe today.

I believe many in the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities share the same values, including freedom of religion, womens rights and the rights of members of the LGBT community to live free of violence and harm. For many Sephardim, the perception of the greatest threat to our civil society is radical Islam, while for many Ashkenazim the great threat is the Trump administration. I urge our two communities to engage in open dialogue so that we may reach understanding and peace among ourselves, for without a doubt, we as a people, are in for turbulent times.

Ellie Cohanim is a correspondent for JBS (Jewish Broadcast Service).

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Why Sephardim And Ashkenazim Clash Over Trump – Jewish Week

Why a 400-Year-Old Jewish Music Tradition Continues To Thrive – Forward

Klezmer, the Eastern European musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews, is constantly evolving. Played by musicians called klezmorim at weddings and other celebrations, it has enjoyed a world revival in recent years. The musician and researcher Walter Zev Feldman, an expert on Jewish and Ottoman Turkish music, is Visiting Professor of Music at NYU Abu Dhabi. As a performer, he has released the CDs Jewish Klezmer Music and Khevrisa: European Klezmer Music. His latest book, Klezmer: Music, History, and Memory is out from Oxford University Press. Recently Professor Feldman shared with The Forwards Benjamin Ivry some notions about what is, and what is not, klezmer:

**Benjamin Ivry: How much fun is authentic klezmer music? At an Ashkenazi wedding celebration, you describe music played before the chuppah as an invitation for the souls of the dead parents to come[an] almost necrophiliac fantasygiven even more scope when the community was facing an existential threat.

Walter Zev Feldman: In Eastern Europe among Jews, there had to be a balance of the serious penitential with the joyous, so a wedding among Jews in East Europe has very little to do with the concept of a wedding of Jews in America or Israel. It had to begin in a very sad and tragic way, otherwise it would have been considered ill-omened for the future. You had to earn your happiness; it wasnt just a given.

One klezmer tradition included a penitential song about how the brides happy life in her family home was over and responsibilities of marriage and childbearing were upon her. Was this gloomy prediction for women made because only males wrote and performed klezmer music at the time?

No, I dont think thats relevant. This is a confluence of rabbinic thinking about weddings with a penitential aspect in the old Ashkenaz tradition. There are also several gentile folk cultures from Turkey to Russia that emphasize sorrow for the bride. This question has never, ever been researched before, so it needs more study.

You explore what have been called moralishe niggunim or melodies of a high moral character, which although not as weepy as other klezmer tunes, nevertheless had plenty of high seriousness. Is the subject of klezmer inevitably somber due to the Holocaust and other factors and has klezmer become a funereal art for those interested in its past?

I did not mean to give that impression, actually. Its interesting that you read it that way. Klezmer: Music, History, and Memory is part one, the history of the music of the klezmorim into the Shoah, not about the immigration. My next book, Untold Stories, will show the aspect of the klezmer tradition which is actually kept alive. Its not entirely a dead thing.

You note that traditionally, klezmorim did not accompany singers and considered themselves superior to vocalists. Doesnt this contradict much of world instrumental tradition, in which musicians aspire to the expressivity of the human voice? What was wrong with singers?

There was nothing wrong with the chazzan. In Europe, the klezmer never accompanied the chazzan, a professional singer who performed with no accompanists. It was taboo because the rabbis forbade singing at weddings. The Ashkenazim were the only Jewish culture documented where women were not allowed to sing at weddings. That was obviously because of moral reasons, where rabbis for centuries were telling men they should not listen to the voice of women. But in other Jewish cultures, this was not taken as seriously.

The Argentine-born Israeli clarinetist Giora Feidman has claimed, Klezmer is not Jewish music. Would you agree?

I have no idea what he is talking about. Giora is a good musician from a klezmer family, but he has done zero research so you have to discount what he says, it has nothing to do with reality.

The Shirim Klezmer Orchestra released a klezmer-style version of Tchaikovskys Nutcracker Suite. If Tchaikovsky is added, can any room be left for klezmer?

I think that [crossover] fashion has ended. I dont think thats going anywhere. Klezmer music was one of the most stable features of Jewish music, with a class of professional musicians who developed it for 400 years. 400 years is no small thing.

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Why a 400-Year-Old Jewish Music Tradition Continues To Thrive – Forward

Ministers move to end anti-Sephardi discrimination in ultra-Orthodox schools – The Times of Israel

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri and Education Minister Naftali Bennett on Monday unveiled new directives they said would end discrimination against ultra-Orthodox Sephardic girls, many of whom are rejected from largely Ashkenazi institutions due to their ethnic background.

Dozens of Sephardic students, primarily those applying to the Beis Yaakov network of high schools, remain at home every year after being refused admission into schools, in an issue that has plagued the ultra-Orthodox community for years.

Critics charge the schools maintain non-official quotas of Sephardic students, stemming from endemic racism against those whose families originate in Arab or Muslim lands.

Many of the schools deny the allegations of discrimination while insisting they should be allowed to admit or reject students at their discretion. Countering claims of discrimination, some Ashkenazi schools point to the parallel Shas school system in place since 1984, arguing the Sephardic education framework is responsible for absorbing those students.

Sitting alongside Deri during the weekly Shas faction meeting, Bennett said the new regulations, effective immediately, would force ultra-Orthodox schools to begin the registration process earlier in the year. That directive would give the ministry and the students more time to find an alternate school or force the institution to accept them, he said. He also promised transparency, saying the schools would be obligated to explain why they rejected each student and an appeals panel would be set up in the ministry to oversee complaints by parents.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (L) speaks with Education Minister Nafatli Bennett during the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, Jerusalem, October 31, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

No girl will be discriminated against due to ethnicity, period, said Bennett. This is a problem that shouldnt have existed in the State of Israel, he added.

Deri, the Shas party leader, said his initial proposal to force regional registration of all students was rejected due to internal coalition sparring.

But he lauded the compromise, saying for us, the Shas faction, today is a holiday.

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Ministers move to end anti-Sephardi discrimination in ultra-Orthodox schools – The Times of Israel

genetic testing and hereditary disease: some gifts we can not control – Patheos (blog)

There are many respects in which being of Jewish descent seems like a wonderful gift. Even as a practicing Catholic, my ties with my ancient heritage are very real. Because one half of my extended family is Jewish, we have the opportunity to participate directly in weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs, reminders of rich traditions of community, identity, and relation to the divine, that reach far into the past, and which survived against incredible odds. As my brother has remarked before: each Jewish feast can be summarized as they tried to kill us, we survived, lets drink.

To be able to celebrate these feasts gives the year a special richness. Because we did not become Catholic until I was about twelve, Catholic rituals occasionally feel a little new and borrowed, still, compared with the prayers of Hannukah or the Seder, that I remember from long before I learned to pray the Hail Mary. I agree with practicing Jews that we should not try to Christianize the Jewish traditions. This would be cultural appropriation. But I do not consider that I gave up being Jewish in order to follow Christ.

Even if I did decide not to call myself Jewish anymore, secret messages hidden within my body would be there to remind me of my ties with a living, physical community of persons. Im not talking just about the fact that my nose is not exactly pert or piquant, or any of the adjectives that go along with proper femininity. I mean, my genes themselves.

There are certain genetic misfortunes that go along with having an Ashkenazi Jewish heritage. The best known is the breast cancer gene. From the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center:

Members of the Jewish community who trace their roots to Central or Eastern Europe are known as Ashkenazi Jews. Although today members of this community are found around the world, Ashkenazi Jews for centuries were a geographically isolated population. The isolation experienced by this population means its members can trace their ancestry back to a small number of members known as founders.

Over time, the genetic traits of these early Ashkenazi founders have been passed down through generations, including a greater frequency of carrying certain changes in genes known as BRCA1 and BRCA2, which are associated with an increased risk of cancer. Everyone has two copies of each of these genes, one that is inherited from their mother, and one from their father.

Some specific changes, or mutations, in BRCA1 and BRCA2 occur more frequently in Ashkenazi Jews than in the general population. These mutations increase the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast and ovarian in women and breast and prostate in men. About one out of every 40 individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry have a mutation in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene, as compared to one out of every 800 members of the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Being of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, then, means that if one is inclined towards hypochondria, one gets a little bit extra to worry about. In my case, I have good reason. My mother is a three-time survivor. Shes seventy now, and going strong, working full-time as the director of a history museum, and still more with it than I will ever be. She could be held up as the classic model of survivor.

And she carries the gene. Her mother, my grandmother, probably carried it too, though she died very young, of breast cancer, long before I was born. I can only know her through stories, and pictures. We have a photo of her over the staircase in my parents house, and I can see just how much my mother resembled her, and I can see hints of her face in my own.

Because my family is very likely to lose our health insurance if the Trump regime succeeds in carrying out its plans (we are hoping ineptitude will triumph, through comedic irony) I decided to request genetic testing, while I still had a chance to do something about it. Once the tech at the imaging center saw my paperwork on family history, she agreed. The process was remarkably simple: spit into a vial a few times. Fill out a form. Wait.

During the waiting period I talked to my doctor about possible options. Because I may be facing a long period of time without health care, in which the cost even of getting a mammogram could become prohibitive, and in which my family could be sunk perpetually into a swamp of debt should I require anything more extreme, my inclination was to go ahead and go the Angelina Jolie route: preventetive masectomy. The possibility of having my ovaries removed (the gene increases risk of ovarian cancer, too) I wasnt ready to face, because the prospect of bringing on early menopause is a little daunting.

I got my email result a few days ago. It was such a simple, almost casual way to find out the answer, and I clicked on the link that would give me my answer with almost as little trepidation as Id felt when taking the Pottermore Sorting Hat quiz (Im Slytherin, by the way).

Negative. My test results were negative. Which, paradoxically, in this case is a positive thing. Ive been walking around a little more lightly since then. It feels as though I somehow dodged a curse, but it also makes me sad, to think of those who didnt.

Propounders of anti-semitic theories like to point to the suffering of the Jews as a curse for killing Christ, even though Christ was killed, historically, due to the collaborations of rigid religious leaders with colonizing imperial powers and, theologically, by all of us. The curse on the Jews arises not from a special guilt born by our people, but because the spirit of sin and anti-christ continues to attack Jesus in his own person in his own people.

But when I think about hereditary disease, and those who have not been as lucky as I am to escape carrying it, it does look a lot like a curse. Not the kind of curse that falls on you as a punishment, but the kind that descends for no reason, or because you made an innocent mistake: you plucked the white rose instead of the red. You opened the forbidden door. You fell asleep and let the candle burn down.

Stories of curses in fairy tales, and of fate in myths and legends, may seem superstitious to the rational modern, but they touch upon a reality that exists for everyone, even though in a liberal enlightenment civilization we are reluctant to admit it: this element of existence that is beyond our control, that we are given gifts for no good reason, not because of anything we have done to deserve them. Those who are suffering from illness, whether physical or mental, are often told to be stong. Be a fighter. This can be encouraging.or not. Because sometimes you realize that no amount of fighting will get you to the survival point.

Hereditary disease, or lack thereof, forces one to face this truth that much of who we become, what we do, how well we succeed, depends on things that are not only out of our hands, but may even be invisible or unknown to us. When my grandmother, a beautiful dark-haired young woman, a descendent of the ancient priestly tribe of Levi, met my grandfather for the first time, one lovely New York day on the Williamsburg Bridge he was crossing with his friends from the Manhattan side, she with hers from the Brooklyn side there was no sign to suggest that she was carrying her early death-sentence with her already. I am older now than she was when she died, and this is not due to anything I have done right. I have done pretty much everything wrong, as a matter of fact. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.

The science of genetics explains so many things about us: why we like cilantro, for instance (my mother hates it, but I love it, so maybe theres a link there?). Some might feel terrified that as we learn more about genetics, this will undermine our concept of free will. But perhaps we have fetishized free will? Only God can ever be perfectly free, after all. The idea of freedom is really only applied to God analogously, so far is the divine from anything we label as freedom in human experience. We are contingent beings, limited in many ways. There are so many respects in whch our freedom is only up to a point, or respects in which no amount of exertion of the will can make a difference. The idea that we operate with a pure, scintillating freedom of the will except for in very special circumstances is actually rather hubristic. Certainly our intellects do not function that well. We understand only through shadows and glimpses of light; we rarely aspire to the Kierkegaardian purity of heart that wills one thing. I think Pope Francis understands this well, with his emphasis on our need for mercy, and his approach of gradualism in dealing with sinners who find themselves unable to snap their fingers and make themselves perfect. To know this is a fine antidote to Pelagianism. To know that much that we are, is what we have been given both the joyful and the bleak can be hard. But this, too, can be a gift.

image of her maternal grandmother, Shirley Solomon Lindell, from authors collection

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genetic testing and hereditary disease: some gifts we can not control – Patheos (blog)

Vionnet RTW Fall 2017 – WWD

New Guineas multicolor birds-of-paradise, all 39species of which were first photographed in the wild in 2013, served as the inspiration for Goga Ashkenazis fall collection.For her first runway show at Milan Fashion Week, which was hosted at the prestigious Casa degli Atellani where Leonardo da Vinci livedwhile painting The Last Supper, the designer reworked all the signature houses codes, including draping and pliss, for a lineup that was both beautifully crafted and elegant.The birds flamboyant plumage echoed in the hints of bright colorsgreen, turquoise and fuchsiapaired with neutrals on the sumptuous evening gowns that combined pliss chiffon with floating silk charmeuse panels.

Illustrations of birds-of-paradise from the Encyclopedia Britannica were reproduced on a silk fabric with lamthatwas crafted into chic dresses, including a floor-length one-shoulder style cinched at the waist with a long ribbon.Slipdresses, including a printed tulle style, were layered over lightweight turtleneck sweaters, while a draped silk gown embellished with flocked birds was cut from a pattern conceived by Madeleine Vionnet herself.

Althoughthe collection was heavy on evening attire, daytime options included impeccable suiting, including a blazer with an incorporated capelet, as well as oversize shearling biker jackets infused with a cool, urban attitude.In keeping with hersummer runway show,Ashkenazi introduced a few denim pieces, including a maxiskirt, which actually featured the same artisanal construction of her gowns.The collection exuded luxury and high-end craftsmanship, demonstrating that relocating the show to Milan, where the Vionnet atelier and headquarters are based, mayhave been a winning strategic move for the brand.

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Vionnet RTW Fall 2017 – WWD