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Brooklyn rabbi writes ‘Seinfeld’ Haggadah • Lawmakers want Cuomo out • Riverdale mourns a Passover hero
Daily Update

Brooklyn rabbi writes ‘Seinfeld’ Haggadah • Lawmakers want Cuomo out • Riverdale mourns a Passover hero

In “The Haggadah About Nothing,” Rabbi Sam Reinstein, the rabbi at Congregation Kol Israel in Brooklyn, finds connections between "Seinfeld" and the Passover story. (Courtesy)
In “The Haggadah About Nothing,” Rabbi Sam Reinstein, the rabbi at Congregation Kol Israel in Brooklyn, finds connections between "Seinfeld" and the Passover story. (Courtesy)


More than 55 Democratic lawmakers want Gov. Cuomo to resign over sexual harassment claims and his handling of COVID-19 data.

“In light of the governor’s admission of inappropriate behavior and the findings of altered data on nursing home COVID-19 deaths he has lost the confidence of the public and the state legislature, rendering him ineffective in this time of most urgent need,” they said in a letter Thursday.

Signers included Assembly members Harvey Epstein, Andrew Hevesi, and Daniel Rosenthal of Queens; Simcha Eichenstein of Brooklyn; Richard Gottfried, Dan Quart and Linda Rosenthal of Manhattan, and Amy Paulin of Westchester. State senators included Shelley Mayer of Westchester.

Cuomo said last week that he would not resign, but his office pledged to cooperate with an attorney general’s investigation.

JTA remembers John Brown, a real estate agent who helped dozens of local Orthodox congregations celebrate Passover by buying their “hametz.”

Every year, rabbis would gather at the Young Israel of Riverdale and sell Brown millions of dollars worth of bread, pasta and other leavened products. The seemingly mundane transaction with someone who isn’t Jewish is a highly symbolic requirement of the Passover holiday.

“He took pride in the transaction and in his connection with the Jewish people,” said Rabbi Shmuel Hain of Young Israel Ohab Zedek of North Riverdale/Yonkers, who sold his synagogue’s hametz to Brown for more than a decade.

This year, someone else will have to pick up the tradition: Brown died in February at age 88.

A New York federal court has dismissed a $110 million lawsuit against the New Israel Fund that accused the liberal group of violating U.S. tax laws.

The lawsuit, brought by an activist who regularly sues on behalf of right-wing Israeli causes, alleged that the nonprofit “electioneered” in violation of its tax-exempt status by supporting grantees in Israel who are vocal on political issues.

Neither side “admits any liability or wrongdoing” in respect to the suit’s allegations, the ruling in Manhattan District Court said. It also said the New Israel Fund will take “reasonable steps” to ensure that it is complying with New York state, U.S. and Israeli laws.

Why it matters: Jewish and civil liberties groups said the lawsuit, had it been successful, would have inhibited nonprofit work.

Meet a Vienna-born Holocaust survivor who muscled her way into a boy’s club during the Golden Age of comic books.

In the 1940s, Lily Renee Phillips drew the character “Señorita Rio,” a Hollywood starlet by day and Nazi-fighting secret agent by night. In the New York offices of Fiction House, the comic book publishing firm, she worked her way up from erasing pencil marks to drafting her own heroines.

On the eve of her 100th birthday, her drawings will be on view in an exhibition “Three with a Pen,” opening Thursday at New York’s Austrian Cultural Forum.

Netflix is producing “My Unorthodox Life,” a documentary series about Julia Haart, the prominent fashion designer who grew up in a haredi Orthodox home in Monsey.

Born Talia Leibov, Heart was the creative director for the Italian luxury fashion brand La Perla and in 2019 became the CEO of the Elite Model Management agency

Netflix says the series will show how Haart helps her own children “reconcile their Orthodox upbringings with the modern world.”

RelatedThe FX TV network is producing an adaptation of Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s acclaimed novel “Fleishman Is in Trouble” that will concurrently stream on Hulu. Brodesser-Akner, who grew up in an Orthodox family in Brooklyn, is a prominent New York Times culture writer. The novel follows the dating and other travails of Toby Fleishman, a 40-something Jewish New Yorker recently separated from his wife.

The NYC Department of Education has tapped Hidden Sparks, an agency serving families of struggling students in mainstream Jewish day schools, to open a Parent Education Center in Queens.

The program, partnering with 20 Queens Jewish day schools, will be the first PEC in the borough to serve parents within the Jewish day school community.

Opening in the 2021-2022 school year, the center will offer parents counseling and workshops if they have a child who receives DOE services for struggling students.

A new Haggadah takes its cues from “Seinfeld.”

In “The Haggadah About Nothing,” Rabbi Sam Reinstein, the rabbi at Congregation Kol Israel in Brooklyn, finds connections between the famed ’90s sitcom and the Passover story, sometimes citing multiple episodes to make his points.

Find a roundup of new Passover Haggadahs here, and watch Reinstein speak about his Haggadah in an event with MyJewishLearning here.


The hot new social media app Clubhouse offers “drop-in audio chat” on an endless array of topics, including Judaism. Rabbi Wendy Pein, director of congregational learning at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, took the app for a test drive, and says it “provides an intriguing virtual platform for dialogue…. Participants on Clubhouse reflect a wide range of ages and demographics, a more diverse population than is typically found in Jewish institutions.”

The authors, including two Brooklyn physicians, of a new study on COVID-19 transmission in the Orthodox community write that “the high rate of early infections left our communities with an invisible power: information in our bodies about this new and mysterious disease.”

People and Places

The Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust announced three new Board of Trustee members, all grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Film producer Jane Oster Sinisi is executive producing the upcoming major motion picture “Stowaway,” about a group of Jewish Holocaust survivors and their plans for revenge. Her parents Ann and Abe (z’l) Oster helped found the museum. Edward Rabinowitz is the grandson and great grandson of Holocaust survivors, and has been connected with the Museum since June 2019. Stacey Saiontz is a lawyer and founding member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s New York Next Generation Board. Her children were featured in the HBO documentary “The Number on Great Grandpa’s Arm.”

Shabbat Shalom

Betzalel, the architect of the Tabernacle in this week’s Torah portion, was not only an artisan but a teacher. True leadership, writes Rabbi Charlie Savenor, means having skills and integrity, but also sharing these qualities with your community.

More wisdom: Rabbi David Wolpe explains why we are commanded to stand during the Amidah, Judaism’s central prayer.

Streaming Today

Lab/Shul and the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care invite you to Zen Shabbat, a shared experience of sacred space and time, harmonizing Jewish and Zen traditions in the celebration of Sabbath spirit. Register here. 6:30 pm.

The City Congregation For Humanistic Judaism presents a Shabbat service and cultural program on The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and its consequences, with Warren Shaw, a lawyer and New York City historian. RSVP here. 7:30 pm.

Candlelighting, Readings

Friday, March 12, 2021
Adar 28, 5781

Light candles at 5:42 pm.

Saturday, March 13
Adar 29, 5781

First Torah: Vayak’hel-Pekudei: Exodus 35:1 – 40:38
Second Torah: Parshat Hachodesh: Exodus 12:1-20
Haftarah: Ezekiel 45:18 – 46:15; Samuel I 20:18; Samuel I 20:42

Shabbat ends at 6:41 pm.

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