First Read For May 2
News RoundupThe headlines American Jews are talking about today.

First Read For May 2

Michael Solomonov wins prestigious chef’s award; Protests erupt at joint memorial event in Israel; WH says no announcement on Gorka; Prayer for South African president changed.

Chef Michael Solomonov talks with guest during The Impossible Reservation: Philadelphia presented by Audi on April 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Getty Images
Chef Michael Solomonov talks with guest during The Impossible Reservation: Philadelphia presented by Audi on April 16, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Getty Images


Israeli chef wins James Beard food award

Israeli-born super chef Michael Solomonov yesterday won the top U.S. chef prize from the James Beard Foundation, Israeli media reported. Solomonov, who grew up in Pittsburgh and works in Philadelphia, owns Zahav (“gold” in Hebrew), which features Israeli and Jewish cooking.

Solomonov, 38, “has played an important role in heightening awareness of modern, sophisticated Israeli cuisine internationally,” the paper reports. He is also the star of a new documentary about Israeli Jewish and Arab cuisine.


Israeli-Palestinian memorial ceremony draws protests

An “unruly scene” unfolded Sunday at a Yom HaZikaron ceremony in Tel Aviv, according to Israeli media. The ceremony featured bereaved families of Israeli and Palestinian combatants – “far right activists” disrupted the event, shouting curses and threats at attendees.

Some 4,000 people participated in the Israeli-Palestinian Remembrance Day ceremony at the Shlomo Group Arena in the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds. The ceremony was organized by Combatants for Peace Movement in cooperation with the Parents’ Circle- Families Forum..

The protesters threw sand at some participants and verbally attacked others.

White House: No personnel announcement on Sebastian Gorka

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump administration has no announcement regarding the job of Sebastian Gorka, a counterterrorism adviser under fire from some Jewish groups and lawmakers for his ties to far-right Hungarian groups.

“There’s no personnel announcement at the time,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters Monday at the daily briefing. “I have no belief he is currently leaving the White House.”

News media reported over the weekend that Gorka was planning to move out of his National Security Council portfolio to another role in the administration. Some media said his failure to obtain a security clearance was the reason for the move.

Sebastian Gorka, center, at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland, Feb. 24, 2017. JTA

Gorka wore a medal associated with Vitez Rend at one of President Donald Trump’s inauguration balls. The movement was founded by Miklos Horthy, Hungary’s leader before and during World War II. Horthy was an avowed anti-Semite and a sometime Nazi collaborator.

Gorka has said he wears the medal at times to honor his late father, a noted figure in the resistance against Hungarian communist regimes. He has said that his father received the award in 1979 when the Vitez was identified more with anti-communist resistance than it was with Horthy. There is no record of Gorka, formerly an editor at Breitbart News, making anti-Semitic remarks.

Democratic Jewish lawmakers and some Jewish groups have called on the White House to look into Gorka’s ties with the Hungarian far right, and some have called for his removal.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who had called for Gorka’s firing, said in a statement Monday that if Gorka was indeed on his way out, it was the “correct response.”

Ed Asner honored at L.A. Jewish Film Festival

Veteran actor Ed Asner, an 87-year-old liberal activist, was the center of attention this week at the opening gala of the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival, the city’s Jewish Journal reports. The event honored Asner — star of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “Lou Grant,” and, more recently, “Elf” and “Up” — with the Lifetime Achievement Award, in recognition of his “commitment to Jewish values and humanitarian causes.”

Actor Edward Asner (L) and Yvette Rachelle arrive at American Film Institute’s 44th Life Achievement Award Gala Tribute to John Williams on June 9, 2016 in Hollywood, California. Getty Images

Is Duterte going to Israel?

(JTA) — The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, told President Donald Trump that he may not be able to visit the White House because he is “supposed to go to” Israel and Russia.

Responding to Trump’s invitation on Saturday to visit the United States, Duterte said Monday, “I cannot make any definite promise. I’m supposed to go to Russia; I’m also supposed to go to Israel,” The New York Times reported.

Also Monday, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said there was no set date for Duterte’s visit, which he reportedly had been planning since last month, The Times of Israel reported.

Philippine presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte speaking at a campaign rally on May 1, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. JTA

Trump drew criticism for inviting Duterte, who is accused of ordering extrajudicial killings as part of his war on drugs.

“Celebrating a man who boasts of killing his own citizens and inviting him to the White House, while remaining silent on his disgusting human rights record, sends a terrifying message,” said John Sifton, the Asia director of Human Rights Watch, according to Reuters.

In September, Israeli leaders and Jewish groups condemned Duterte for comparing his campaign to eliminate drug use in his country to the Holocaust, saying he would like to kill millions of drug dealers and users. He later apologized for his remarks.

South African chief rabbi changes presidential blessing

South Africa’s chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, has added a phrase seen as a veiled criticism of President Jacob Zuma a phrase to the blessing traditionally recited in synagogues on Shabbat on behalf of the country.

According to the South African Jewish Report, the new prayer includes the words, “Bless us with a President who is morally worthy of this nation of heroes, a President and government of integrity and honesty, dedicated with selfless devotion to the service and upliftment of all the people of South Africa.”

Zuma has come under heavy criticism at home for actions seen as an abuse of power.

“Given the circumstances of what is happening in South Africa right now,” Rabbi Goldstein said,  “it is important that we as take a stand against the immorality of corruption and state capture. We believe in the power of prayer to change the world and so our prayers must say what we want. This prayer reflects our aspirations and dreams for South Africa. The new prayer captures what we want the most.”

The prayer was last changed in 1994 in South Africa to mark the new democratic order.

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