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Roald Dahl’s family apologizes • Biden’s Jewish picks to battle Covid • Prince Charles honors Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
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Roald Dahl’s family apologizes • Biden’s Jewish picks to battle Covid • Prince Charles honors Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Included in a new exhibit of Hebrew manuscripts at the British Library is a response by Rabbi Jacob Rafael of Modena to a question about biblical divorce law posed by King Henry VIII. (Arundel MS 151, ff. 190-191v./British Library Board)
Included in a new exhibit of Hebrew manuscripts at the British Library is a response by Rabbi Jacob Rafael of Modena to a question about biblical divorce law posed by King Henry VIII. (Arundel MS 151, ff. 190-191v./British Library Board)

Thirty years after Roald Dahl’s death and months before the expected release of a new movie about his life, the family of the children’s author has apologized for his anti-Semitic comments.

The author of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and other classics was openly anti-Semitic during his life, telling the New Statesman in 1983 about the Jews, “Even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

The family’s undated, unsigned, 86-word apology was first revealed by the Sunday Times this weekend, and neither it nor further comments to the New York Times mention Jews specifically. It says Dahl’s “prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories.”

The apology has not fully satisfied Jewish groups in Dahl’s native England, which were not consulted or informed about the statement, the Jewish News reports.

Jeff Zients, tapped to lead the Biden administration’s Covid-19 response, is co-owner of a chain of Washington eateries that offer “‘Jew-ish’ deli favorites.” 

A former Obama economic adviser and a leader of the Biden transition team, Zients is well known for his work as director of the National Economic Council and acting director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama years.

His Call Your Mother deli, which operates in four locations in the capital as well as a number of local farmer’s markets, specializes in wood-fired bagels, JTA reports.

Related: Biden has picked Rochelle Walensky to rebuild the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walensky, a member of Temple Emanuel of Newton, Mass. who has served on the board of Camp Yavneh in New Hampshire, is chief of the infectious diseases division at Massachusetts General Hospital and is also a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Somewhat related: JTA profiles Rabbi Levi Shemtov, a DC-area Chabad rabbi who has weathered Republican and Democratic administrations, and counts Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump as congregants. “Sometimes I’ll be asked to participate in something [that] can appear partisan, and I will only do so if there’s agreement that I can do the same with the other side,” he says.

Jewish Twitter criticized a New York Times op-ed by an author who explains why she no longer celebrates Chanukah. 

Sarah Prager, whose father is Jewish and who attended a Unitarian Universalist meeting house as a child, says Christmas was the most important holiday in her home. As a parent herself, she no longer lights the Chanukah candles. “I am not Jewish and it doesn’t feel authentic to celebrate a Jewish holiday religiously,” she writes.

Critics asked why The Times would mark the holiday with an essay by someone who says she is not Jewish and doesn’t observe it.

“Truly impossible to imagine @nytopinion allowing a random white person to appropriate the religion of any other minority — and purely for the purpose of discarding it. Gross — and revealing — on so many levels,” tweets Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor of the Forward.

“To check my memory, I searched @nytimes for last decade’s #Hanukkah op-eds,” tweeted Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah. “Almost all made fun of holiday, declared [it] ‘hypocrisy,’ or ‘discovered’ that the childhood story wasn’t ‘true.’ Can NYT not find anyone with actual Jewish knowledge to write a thoughtful piece?”

Britain’s Prince Charles called former British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks a “light unto this nation” at a tribute marking the end of Judaism’s 30 days of mourning since Sacks’ death.

Charles eulogized Sacks, who died at 72 on Nov. 7, on a prerecorded video broadcast Sunday that was viewed by thousands of spectators from around the world. The ceremony also featured speeches also by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Lord Jacob Rothschild.

“Through his writings, sermons and broadcasts, Rabbi Sacks touched the lives of countless people with his unfailing wisdom, with his profound sanity and with a moral conviction which, in a confused and confusing world, was all too rare,” Charles said.

Related: A new exhibit of Hebrew manuscripts at the British Library in London includes a 16th-century rabbi’s marriage advice for Henry VIII. Responding to a request by the king, Rabbi Jacob Rafael of Modena rejected the monarch’s justification for annulling his 20-year marriage to Catherine of Aragon, the Times of Israel reports.

New cases of the coronavirus have nearly doubled in two weeks, Israeli Health Ministry data showed Monday morning.

The report also flagged the rising number of patients being hospitalized in serious condition. The Health Ministry said there were 331 patients in serious condition Monday morning, up from 260 a week ago. Ministers were set to reconvene to hash out possible new restrictions or a halt to plans to open up more parts of the economy, Times of Israel reports.

Streaming Today

The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy presents a four-part workshop on Zoom for those want to write their life stories — either to just preserve memories, or for their family to read. Attendees will enjoy a wide variety of writing exercises, music and prompts to get the words flowing. Instructor: Janet R. Kirchheimer, a prize-winning poet and a teaching fellow at Clal–The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership. Price is $99 per person. 10:00 am.

Moving Traditions presents a webinar on Zoom mitzvahs, car mitzvahs, and other creative ways that the Jewish community is letting go of long-held expectations about the bar and bat mitzvah experience and embracing the unique possibilities of the moment. Moderated by Rabbi Daniel Brenner and Pam Barkley, CSW, the coordinators of Moving Traditions’ B’nai Mitzvah Family Education Program, and including Deb Levy, author of the widely circulated The New York Times article “Becoming a Man, Virtually,” and educators working with Moving Traditions. Register here. 1:00 pm.

American Jewish Committee, in celebration of the 15th anniversary of AJC’s Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs, presents a conversation with Iván Duque Márquez, president of Colombiam oderated by Dina Siegel Vann, director, AJC Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute for Latino and Latin American Affairs. Register here. 3:00 pm.

Bildner Center for the Study of Jewish Life at Rutgers University presents Michal Raucher in conversation with Avital Chizhik-Goldschmidt about Raucher’s book, “Conceiving Agency: Reproductive Authority among Haredi Women,” which explores the ways Israeli charedi Jewish women make decisions about their reproductive lives. Raucher is an assistant professor and Undergraduate Director in the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. Chizhik-Goldschmidt is the life editor at The Forward. Register here. 7:00 pm.

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