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Familiar names in Biden cabinet • David Dinkins dies • Survey shows ‘vast’ gap among Orthodox
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Familiar names in Biden cabinet • David Dinkins dies • Survey shows ‘vast’ gap among Orthodox

Tony Blinken, who addressed the 2015 American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington, above,  is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state. (YouTube)
Tony Blinken, who addressed the 2015 American Jewish Committee Global Forum in Washington, above, is President-elect Joe Biden’s choice for secretary of state. (YouTube)

President-elect Joe Biden is announcing his cabinet picks, including some top officials familiar to readers of the Jewish media.

Tony Blinken, Biden’s choice for secretary of state, is the stepson of a Holocaust survivor whose stories shaped his worldview and subsequently his policy decisions, including in the Middle East.

“He is intimately familiar with the full scope of the President-elect’s foreign policy views, as well the issues of utmost concern to the Jewish community, including full-throated support for the U.S.-Israel relationship, widening the growing circle of Arab-Israel peace, the fight against global antisemitism, and the danger posed by Iran and its proxies,” said David Harris, CEO of the American Jewish Committee, in a statement.

Alejandro Mayorkas, nominated as Homeland Security secretary, is a Latino Jew who has emphasized the heightened threat facing American Jews. Mayorkas, 60, the deputy secretary of Homeland Security under President Barack Obama, was born in Cuba to a Cuban Jewish father and Romanian Jewish mother. His mother survived the Holocaust.

As deputy secretary, Mayorkas worked closely with Jewish groups. He is a member of the board of HIAS, the Jewish immigration agency, which congratulated him in a statement.

Janet Yellen, who Biden appears set to nominate as secretary of the treasury, would be the first woman in the role and the third Jewish treasury secretary in a row, after President Trump’s choice Steven Mnuchin and President Obama’s second term pick Jack Lew.

Yellen featured in a 2016 Trump campaign ad that many observers saw as trafficking in anti-Semitic dog whistles about “global special interests.”

A post-election survey of Orthodox Jewish voters found a “vast” gap in priories between Trump and Biden supporters, reflecting the kind of polarization found among all Americans.

The survey of Orthodox voters found less than a handful of issues that both Trump voters and Biden voters agreed were top priorities, with sharp differences on some major issues. Trump voters ranked Israel as their number one concern, the survey found, while Biden voters ranked the coronavirus pandemic as their top issue.

Mark Trencher, president of Nishma Research and the study’s lead researcher, told The Jewish Week that the results indicated that “Modern Orthodox world is even more split than people thought.”

“Not only was there a lot of disagreement between the two groups, in many cases their views were diametrically opposed,” said Trencher in a phone interview.

David Dinkins, who led New York in the early 1990s as its first and so far only African-American mayor, died Monday night at 93.

Dinkins, who defeated incumbent Ed Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary and beat Republican Rudy Giuliani in the general election, would be criticized for his slow response to the 1991 Crown Heights riots, a notorious flashpoint in Black-Jewish relations.

A Jewish man was killed and many others injured during the mayhem; Dinkins later regretted not mobilizing the NYPD more quickly, but denied accusations that he encouraged the violence.

With the virus surging nationwide and Thanksgiving coming up, Jewish schools that have stayed open for in-person classes must cope now with a new challenge — and decide whether trusting parents is enough to keep students and teachers safe this winter.

In New York City, the Rodeph Sholom School has asked families to stay home for the holiday and not gather outside their bubble, JTA reports.

Alina Adams, whose daughter attends Rodeph Sholom, said she wouldn’t worry about what other parents were doing because it was ultimately out of her control. “They have asked people not to travel or attend large gatherings outside,” Adams said of the school’s guidelines for Thanksgiving. “I’m going to trust that this is a community that’s going to look out for each other.”

For other parents, the reliance on fellow parents in the school community has actually reinforced their belief in the values of the school and feelings of community around those values.

“As I send my kids to school with like-minded, slightly more progressive but observant Jewish parents, I sort of make an assumption that they’re similarly like-minded about Covid practices,” said Shuli Karkowsky, who sends her son and daughter to the early childhood center at SAR Academy, a Modern Orthodox school in Riverdale, New York.

Meanwhile, in Israel: The government decided to expedite the reopening of the entire education system, which in most of the country now operates only up to grade 6, Times of Israel reports. Despite signs of a third wave and with the exception of virus hotspots, high-schoolers are now expected to return on Sunday and middle-schoolers a week later.

Prominent rabbis from five countries appear in a video praying for the health of the president of Ukraine, Vlodymyr Zelensky, who announced two weeks ago that he had contracted the coronavirus.

The election last year of the Jewish actor and comedian has been a source of pride for many Jews in Ukraine and beyond. Zelensky was hospitalized last week with a fever. He is feeling well, recovering and will soon resume work as usual, his staff told the news site Delo on Wednesday.

Around the Agencies

The Jewish Agency for Israel completed a new social housing project, in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv, that will provide a home for hundreds of Israel’s needy Holocaust survivors, many of whom are in poverty. Major support for the project came from New Jersey developer Mark Wilf, the chair of the Board of Trustees for the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Wilf Family Foundation.

Yachad, the Orthodox Union’s organization for individuals with disabilities, has launched a virtual support network for siblings of individuals with special needs. “The goal of our program is to make sure that siblings of those with special needs don’t feel alone and are able to discuss their feelings and challenges with others who understand their unique position,” said Yachad Associate Director Chani Herrmann in a statement. The group held its first session recently and has set monthly meeting dates through May of 2021. The participants in the first session ranged in age from 21 through 60, and joined from seven cities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Ohio and Canada.

The Jewish Sports Heritage Association and Temple Israel in Lawrence will honor Sir Ben Helfgott, a weight lifter and concentration camp survivor who participated in the 1956 and 1969 Olympics, with its 2020 Jewish Sports Heritage Association Lifetime Award. The virtual ceremony will take place on Sunday, Dec. 6; email alan.freedman@tilny.org for details.

Streaming Today

T’ruah and the New Israel Fund present two Israeli activists with firsthand experience of ongoing protests to demand democratic and social reforms in Israel. Neta Hamami Tabib Dror, T’ruah’s program manager, is an activist, educator and group facilitator of youth and adult groups dealing with issues of identity and social justice. Tzlil Rubinshtein is a community organizer for democracy, human and civil rights organizations at Shatil, NIF’s action arm in Israel. Moderated by Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, deputy director at T’ruah. Sign up here. 12:00 pm.

Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion presents Rabbi David Ellenson, HUC Chancellor Emeritus, and Rabbi Michael Marmur, associate professor of Jewish Theology, HUC/Jerusalem, drawing from their recently published anthology “American Jewish Thought Since 1934.” Ellenson and Marmur chart some of the major trends spanning generations, denominations, and ideologies and share insights that resonate with the current unfolding crisis in America. Register here. 1:00 pm.

Israel Policy Forum presents Ilan Goldenberg and Shaul Arieli in a discussion of how the Israeli government and the Trump administration might seek to change the situation in the West Bank before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. Goldenberg is Israel Policy Forum’s Policy Advisor. Arieli, also an IPF policy advisor, is Israel’s leading expert on the Israeli-Palestinian political process and mapping of the West Bank. Register here. 2:00 pm.

Yodeah presents a conversation with Max Weinberg — drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band — and his daughter, Ali Rogin, as they share their story of what it means to be a BRCA-positive man, passing that gene on to your child, and the life-saving choices they made regarding their health. With Dr. Elizabeth Etkin-Kramer, founder of Yodeah, who will discuss the increased risk of cancer in men and women with BRCA mutations, and Dr. Akshay Bhandari, who will discuss the elevated risk of prostate cancer in men who carry BRCA mutations, as well as the identification of prostate cancer in its earliest most treatable stage. Register here. 7:00 pm.

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