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Brooklyn shul gets $100m+ gift, Sumner Redstone dies, Broadway star recovers from Covid-19
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Daily Update

Brooklyn shul gets $100m+ gift, Sumner Redstone dies, Broadway star recovers from Covid-19

Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, shown greeting supporters outside his home earlier this month, is recovering from surgery Wednesday for a herniated disc. One of the nurses present in the room at Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital has tested positive for the coronavirus, his ministry says, but was not close enough to Gantz for him to enter quarantine. (Pool Photo)
Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz, shown greeting supporters outside his home earlier this month, is recovering from surgery Wednesday for a herniated disc. One of the nurses present in the room at Sheba Tel Hashomer hospital has tested positive for the coronavirus, his ministry says, but was not close enough to Gantz for him to enter quarantine. (Pool Photo)

A little-known Brooklyn synagogue was given three million shares of Eastman Kodak stock by a prominent philanthropist, and now finds itself thrust into a developing story about possible insider trading.

According to a report in Mother Jones, those shares may have been worth as much as $180 million on July 29, the day Kodak board member George Karfunkel gave them to Congregation Chemdas Yisroel in Brooklyn. The gift came soon after Kodak stock surged on news that the Trump administration was lining up a $765 million loan for the company to produce chemicals for pharmaceuticals.

Karfunkel is a longtime donor to Orthodox causes through his foundation, Chesed Foundation of America, which primarily gives to synagogues and schools. How the synagogue would use what may be the single largest gift recorded to a religious group is not clear. “The Karfunkels’ donation could generate tens of millions of dollars in income-tax benefits for the couple, who property records show have homes in New York City and Florida,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into how the company disclosed the government loan and the timing of option grants given to Kodak’s executive chairman Jim Continenza. “This loan seems like a highly questionable use of public money and raises questions about self-dealing and insider trading,” Bharat Ramamurti, a member of the Covid-19 Congressional Oversight Commission, told NBC News.

The conversion of three hotels on the Upper West Side into temporary homeless shelters continues to divide the local Jewish community.

Rabbis and other residents on both sides of a furious debate spoke with The Jewish Week about an issue that touches on racism, safety, privilege and the interpretation of the Jewish edict to help the poor.

“We’re not bigots if we want kids to be safe,” said Rabbi Robert Levine, senior rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Sholom, who like many other residents worries about drugs, harassment and vagrancy.

“The idea that we, as residents of the Upper West Side, have the right to admit or deny entry to other people is a racist and uninformed position,” said Melissa Bender, who drafted a petition to support and advocate for the new homeless neighbors.

Vandals splashed white paint and left a vulgar, anti-Semitic note at the Upper East Side district office of State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright. 

“We will never be intimidated by this criminal act,” Seawright said in a statement Tuesday. She said police are investigating the Monday night vandalism as a hate crime.

Seawright hosted a virtual town hall on combating anti-Semitism last month. She held a similar forum last year after swastikas were found at the nearby  Asphalt Green fitness complex. She is a member of the Assembly’s Jewish Legislative Caucus.

NY architect and Holocaust survivor Stephen B. Jacobs has created a Holocaust memorial honoring Albanians who saved Jews during World War II.

Jacobs, 81, agreed to work on the memorial after learning that Albania was the only country in Europe that had more Jews after World War II than it did before, JTA reports. In addition to not handing over any Jews to the Nazis, hundreds of Jews fleeing other countries were offered shelter in the Muslim-majority country.

“I thought this was a very important story that needed to be told,” said Jacobs, who survived Buchenwald as a child and went on to dwsign the swanky Hotel Gansevoort and other NY icons.

Danny Burstein, known for his Tony Award-nominated role as Tevye in the most recent Broadway production of “Fiddler on the Roof,” is recovering from the coronavirus.

In a Hollywood Reporter essay, Burstein writes that months after being hospitalized in April, he still suffers from “terrible exhaustion.” Burstein, 56, is married to fellow Broadway performer Rebecca Luker — who is battling ALS and also caught the coronavirus. “Despite being dizzy and in a constant state of exhaustion, I was somehow able to care for her,” he writes.

Deaths

Sumner Redstone, the Jewish media mogul whose aggressive acquisitions and readiness to resort to litigation led to the creation of an empire that included CBS and Viacom, has died.

Redstone died Tuesday at the age of 97. Born Sumner Murray Rothstein in Boston in 1923, Redstone built the chain of movie theaters his father had started into a global media behemoth that would come to include CBS, Paramount Pictures, Simon & Schuster, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

Redstone served on the executive committee of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston and was a supporter of a number of other charities mainly focused on health care and higher education.

In his later years, Redstone found himself embroiled in a number of controversies as he fought to retain control of his empire. In 2006, his son Brent sued him for $1 billion and he clashed with his daughter Shari over control of Viacom and CBS.

Opinion

In his Jewish Week column Musings, Rabbi David Wolpe considers the pleasures of visiting Jerusalem. “Here we go not as tourists but as pilgrims,” he writes. “People are drawn to the remains of the ancient Temple less from curiosity than from reverence.”

Streaming

American Jewish University presents “Separating Fact from Fiction: Clarifying the Misunderstood Riot of Kishinev,” with Steven Zipperstein, author of “Pogrom: Kishinev and the Tilt of History,” along with Dr. Jeffrey Herbst, president of American Jewish University. They will discuss the 1903 pogrom in Tsarist-Russia Kishinev that has been called “nothing less than a prototype for the Holocaust itself.” August 13, 3:00 pm.

American Jewish Committee presents a conversation with Miguel Moratinos, High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations and former Foreign Minister of Spain,  on the many challenges of combating the world’s oldest hatred, and his plans to address themAugust 13, 12:00 pm.

Vibe Israel USA presents the Unboxing Israel 2020 Summit, a virtual summit intended for anyone engaging with young adults about Israel – including Jewish community leaders, educators, marketers and Israel travel professionals. It will teach attendees how to tell Israel’s story and equip them with practical tools and techniques for engaging the next generation with Israel. Co-sponsored by Hillel International, Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency for Israel, the Israel Consulate General of New York, the JCC Association of North America and the Israel Ministry of Tourism. August 13, 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm, $18.

Omanut: Jewish Uptown Arts kicks off The (Online) Uptown Jewish Film Festival 2020 this evening with “Outback Rabbis” (2019). On a road trip like no other, chasidic rabbis hit the Aussie bush looking for “lost Jews.” Featuring Q&A with Rabbi Ari and Mrs. Mushkie Rubin of Chabad of North Queensland. August 13, 7:30 pm.

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