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First Read For Jan. 17
News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are waking up to today.

First Read For Jan. 17

Who’s boycotting the inauguration?; A new prayer for the President; PA welcomes Kushner as peace envoy; More.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) (Getty Images)
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) (Getty Images)

Who’s going, and who’s boycotting?

Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday, that is.

As the number of members of Congress who will skip the swearing-in grows (41 as of latest count), angered by the President-elects list of offensive gaffes, and out of respect for civil rights icon John Lewis (D-Ga.), who came under fire in Trump’s tweets in recent days, two Jewish representatives joined the list of no-shows, according to Arutz Sheva.

Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who called Trump’s behavior “a threat to the institutions and values of our democracy,” and Steve Cohen (D-TN), citing Trump’s “un-presidential remarks,” will be part of the boycott.


On the subject of Trump, one Orthodox rabbi is amending the prayer for the government and a nation’s leaders that is traditionally recited in synagogue during Shabbat services.

According to Arutz Sheva, Shmuly Yanklowitz, dean of the Valley Beit Midrash in Phoenix, has rewritten the blessing to actually blessing the new President.

Rabbi Yanklowitz, who founded the Uri L’Tzedek Orthodox Social Justice organization, on Monday publicized an alternative prayer, dropping the blessing for the success of America’s president and instead accusing the incoming president of promoting white supremacy. “I felt that it was not enough to simply avoid the U.S. President in the prayer for the government but to remind myself of the billions of vulnerable people who are at risk under his rule, and challenge myself each Shabbat to build up the strength for another week of spiritual resistance,” he said.

The prayer itself reads in part: “Guide the incoming leader of this country away from his basest instincts, thwart his plans to target certain groups and strengthen white supremacy; for You know, God, that all were created in Your image.”


An official of the Palestinian Authority on Monday cautiously welcomed news that Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s Jewish son-in- law, will serve as the president- elect’s Middle East peace envoy, the Jerusalem Post reported.

According to the paper, Husam Zomlot, PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s adviser for strategic affairs, expressed hope that Kushner will maintain a fair balance regarding the ongoing conflict with Israel. “We hope that Mr. Kushner will be the US peace envoy and will be able to do what all of his predecessors have tried to do, and will finally achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This is a position that requires a firm commitment to the US’s long-held policies.”

Zomlot said it was encouraging that Trump announced the appointment even before taking office, a possible indication that he was committed to working on a peace deal between the sides.

“It’s a good sign that President- elect Trump early on appointed one of his closest people, his son-in-law, to take this task,” Zomlot added. “We don’t just see the glass half-empty, but also half-full. We see the commitment by President-elect Trump to intervene as early as possible and spend political capital to resolve this issue.”


The father of a U.S. citizen who has denied his wife a “get,” a Jewish writ of divorce, for more than 14 years will avoid a jail sentence, the Supreme Court of Justice ruled on Monday, although his ban from leaving Israel will remain in place.

The Vos Iz Neias website reported on the case, which involves an American haredi couple with two children who came on a family trip to Israel 14 years ago, during which the wife suffered a stroke that left her permanently disabled, and her husband subsequently abandoned her and their children in Israel, returning to the States.

The husband US has refused to grant her a divorce ever since.

The Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court ruled almost three years ago that the man was obligated to grant her a get, but he ignored the ruling.

When the rabbinical court and its investigative department began to investigate the man’s motivation for refusing his wife a get for such a long period of time, it discovered that the man’s father – a well-known and wealthy haredi businessman – was supporting and backing his son in his refusal to grant a divorce.


Two prominent musicians are planning to perform in Israel.

Barring any last minute changes, English singer-songwriter Robbie Williams is set to do his act at Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park in September, Ynetnews reported. perform in Israel at Yarkon Park on September 16th for the second time since his last performance two and a half years ago. And Jean-Michel Jarre, best known for his groundbreaking, electronic music live shows featuring fireworks, will perform in April at the foot of Masada, according to the Times of Israel.

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