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Haredi family kicked off flight • A bombshell ruling on conversion • Rabbis reflect on a year of pandemic
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Haredi family kicked off flight • A bombshell ruling on conversion • Rabbis reflect on a year of pandemic

Gerontologist/RN Cathy Byrne administers the Covid-19 vaccine to Jakob Rybsztajn as State Senator Todd Kaminsky lends a hand at the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst, Feb. 28, 2021. (Gural)
Gerontologist/RN Cathy Byrne administers the Covid-19 vaccine to Jakob Rybsztajn as State Senator Todd Kaminsky lends a hand at the Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst, Feb. 28, 2021. (Gural)


70 Faces Media’s week of special reflections and conversations to mark “one year in” to our collective pandemic experience continues today at 3:00 pm with “Grief & Mourning During the Pandemic,” a Zoom panel exploring how COVID-19 has changed Jewish mourning practices and what we can learn from our collective grieving.

A haredi Orthodox family headed to New York says Frontier Airlines unfairly kicked them off a flight Sunday from Miami.

Frontier says the family was violating mask requirements; the family denies that.

The Anti-Defamation League’s New York-New Jersey office called for a “full & transparent investigation” of the incident, which includes videos of passengers celebrating the family’s eviction.

In a bombshell ruling, Israel’s Supreme Court said the state must grant citizenship to Jews who converted to Judaism in Israel under non-Orthodox auspices.

Why it matters: Monday’s 8-1 ruling was a major victory for the Reform and Conservative movements, who have long fought the Orthodox monopoly on conversion in Israel. The ruling could ignite another round in the long-running battle over whom the state should recognize as Jewish.

What it does: Previously, Jews who converted outside of Israel under non-Orthodox authority were considered Jews in Israel, provided they live in a recognized Jewish community. Monday’s decision extends the right to citizenship to those who converted to Judaism under non-Orthodox auspices in Israel itself.

Local reaction:”I personally worked on this issue with Israeli colleagues for decades,” said Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan, the former director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA). “All who love Israel and care about democratic values, all who seek the unity of the Jewish people, and all who want to strengthen the bonds between Israel and world Jewry should rejoice today.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) joined the leadership of the House anti-Semitism task force.

She and Ted Lieu of California, another Democrat, are both Taiwanese-American and replace two Jewish members from New York, also Democrats, in leadership positions: Nita Lowey, who retired, and Eliot Engel, who lost his primary last year.

Meng and Lieu represent districts with substantial Jewish populations. Each succeeded a Democratic Jewish lawmaker: Lieu followed Henry Waxman, who retired in 2014, and Meng replaced Gary Ackerman, who retired in 2012.

UJA-Federation of New York sponsored a Covid-19 pop-up vaccination site for 150 Long island seniors, including 60 Holocaust survivors.

Sunday’s vaccination effort was a partnership with The Marion & Aaron Gural JCC in Cedarhurst and Northwell Health. Healthcare providers from Northwell Health administered doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the community residents.

Gural JCC and UJA worked with a number of community partners including Self Help, additional Long Island JCCs, and local synagogues to identify survivors and vulnerable seniors.

New York magazine is trying to make “Zizmorcore” happen as the name of a new trend of wearing iconic New York-branded clothing.

Dr. Jonathan Zizmor is the New York dermatologist whose insistent subway ads papered city subways in the ’80s and ’90s. Writer Stella Bugbee says Zizmorcore is “about wearing merch from places that feel truly authentic to New York”: Russ & Daughters t-shirts, a Zabar’s reusable tote, a B&H photo store beanie, a Barney Greengrass fish cap.

Zizmorcore, writes Bugbee, “is a rejection of that urge to make every city feel the same. It is an embrace of hyperlocality.”

Ben Lesser survived the notorious Buchenwald-to-Dachau “death train”; now 92, he has found a new way to tell his story: in song.

A four-song EP called “Choose Love,” done in collaboration with top songwriters, draws on his experiences to offer messages of resilience and hope.

Read the Jewish Week’s profile of Lesser, and hear him tonight at 7:00 pm in a Zoom event sponsored by UJA-Federation of New York.

In Other News

A longtime executive at AEPi, whose affiliation with a far-right group sparked controversy at the Jewish fraternity, is stepping down.

Israel will start vaccinating Palestinian workers in its official territory and the West Bank within days, its military announced.

A Michigan university fired a professor last week for using anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic and other inflammatory language on social media.

One Year In

One year and 500,000 U.S. Covid deaths later, local rabbis looked back at the terrible and hopeful lessons learned.

Three New York rabbis took part Monday in a panel discussion hosted by 70 Faces Media, sharing their thoughts on how the pandemic has transformed their work, reshaped their relationships and brought new awareness of racial disparities and everyday resilience. Highlights:

Rabbi Emily Cohen, West End Synagogue: “Yes, I want us to go back to a place where we can hug one another, where you don’t have to have a laugh track for the Purim spiel because everybody’s there in person. But I’m also really hopeful that some of the pieces that have come to light during this last horrific year will lead us to create a better world, not just for those of us who are lucky enough to be in a good situation, but for everyone.”

Rabbi Menachem Creditor, scholar in residence, UJA-Federation: “I’m hopeful that our descendants will look back and say that we were good ancestors. The Talmud says that Jews are notorious for forgetting older problems because we always have newer ones. I think it’s really, really important to not fall into that trap. It’s really seductive and there’s a healthy kind of forgetting that we do when we go through pain. I know. But what gives me hope is that we’re gonna defy the odds and achieve more justice for more people and not take each other for granted and be good neighbors, and make sure that the members of our society that don’t believe in science, begin to respect science a little bit more.”

Rabbi Mira Rivera, Romemu: “My hope is that we learn from our ancestors. We are alive right now because of their resilience, plain and simple. Find whatever chutzpah you need. And what gives me hope, even in leadership, is that we don’t have to do this alone. Partnership with our people, with our clergy teams, with our leadership teams: This is really for me the key. At this moment, if one person says, ‘I know how to do this alone,’ I’m not too sure about that. But partnership!”

Watch the whole conversation here.


Aharon David Gordon (1856-1922) was one of Zionism’s most original and major thinkers, and yet is relatively unknown today. The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies in cooperation with the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry, both at Brandeis University, present a three-part symposium on his ideas and legacy on three consecutive Tuesdays: March 2, 9 and 16. Please register individually for each event. Noon.

Sara Gelbard, author of “The Sound of Her Voice,” and Rachel Biale, author of “Growing Up Below Sea Level,” tell their very personal stories of growing up on the early kibbutzim in Israel in this event sponsored by Sutton Place Synagogue. Author readings followed by discussion and question/answer period. Register here. 4:00 pm.

Beth Sholom Congregation in Teaneck presents an evening with novelist and essayist Nessa Rapoport. She will discuss her new novel, “Evening.” It is the story of two sisters in their 30s and their secrets, set in a shiva house as one sister grieves for the other. Moderated by award-winning journalist Sandee Brawarsky. Register here. 7:00 pm.

Architect Daniel Libeskind will join the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust for a conversation with Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic and contributing editor at Vanity Fair, for a talk about Libeskind’s life, legacy, and Polish-Jewish heritage. Register here. 7:00 pm.

On March 9 at noon, The Folio: A Jewish Week/UJA Cultural Series presents the North American launch of “The Slaughterman’s Daughter,” a new novel by Yaniv Iczkovits. This tale of two sisters, set in the old world of late 19th-century Russia, was praised by David Grossman for its “boundless imagination, wit and panache.” Iczkovits will be joined by Gal Beckerman, author of “When They Come for Us, We’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry,” who will share a historical perspective. Moderated by award-winning journalist and author Sandee Brawarsky. Register here.

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