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SNL asked to apologize for Israel joke • Oil spill closes Israeli beaches • Comedians celebrate Purim
Daily Update

SNL asked to apologize for Israel joke • Oil spill closes Israeli beaches • Comedians celebrate Purim

Michael Che makes a joke about Israel's vaccine rollout on "Saturday Night Live" on Feb. 20, 2021. (YouTube)
Michael Che makes a joke about Israel's vaccine rollout on "Saturday Night Live" on Feb. 20, 2021. (YouTube)


Judge Merrick Garland, President Biden’s nominee for attorney general, will use his confirmation hearing today to emphasize the fight against “extremist attacks on our democratic institutions.”

In his opening statement, Garland said the Justice Department will pursue domestic extremists without “ever taking its eye off the risk of another devastating attack by foreign terrorists.”

The Jewish angle: Accepting the nomination last month, Garland recalled his immigrant grandparents: “My grandparents left the Pale of Settlement at the border of western Russia and Eastern Europe in the early 1900s, fleeing anti-Semitism and hoping to make a better life for their children in America,” he said, choking up.

Redemption: Garland’s March 2016 nomination to the Supreme Court was blocked by Senate Republicans, who refused to hold hearings while President Obama was in office.

The National Council of Young Israel elected an entirely new board of directors after a period of political and internal turmoil.

The new president of the board of the Modern Orthodox synagogue association told eJewishPhilanthropy that the previous leadership’s political advocacy had overshadowed its service to local congregations.

Background: In 2019, JTA reported on a small-scale rebellion in the 107-year-old association, which counts more than 100 Orthodox synagogues nationwide among its members. A group of Young Israel rabbis protesting the group’s far-right political positions and statements in support of then President Trump.

Quotable: “We will continue to speak out on Israel,” said incoming board president David Warshaw of Oceanside, L.I., “but the purpose of NCYI is not to be an advocacy organization.”

A Bronx schools superintendent said she was demoted because she is over 40, and Jewish.

In a $150 million lawsuit, 30-year Department of Education veteran Karen Ames said she was unfairly targeted by Chancellor Richard Carranza’s efforts to boost diversity in the school system, the New York Post reports.

In the legal filing, Ames says was grilled about her “ethnic background,” chastised by a colleague when she shared her Holocaust survivor grandparents’ story during a training session, and “admonished” when she declined to perform the “black power” salute from the superhero film “Black Panther.”

Jewish groups want “Saturday Night Live” to apologize for a joke about Israel.

The joke: “Israel is reporting that they’ve vaccinated half of their population, and I’m going to guess it’s the Jewish half,” Michael Che, the co-host of SNL’s news parody, “Weekend Update,” said on the Feb. 20 broadcast.

The reaction: American Jewish Committee, the head of the Reform movement, Israel’s ambassador to Washington and others called the joke a modern twist on classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jewish clannishness. The joke also echoed recent criticism of Israel that it had not done enough to share Covid-19 vaccinations with the Palestinian Authority — Israel says it was not obligated to, and the PA didn’t want the help.

In Other News

Israel closed its Mediterannean beaches to deal with what its officials say may be the worst oil spill in the country’s history.

Orthodox businesses say a new Amazon policy discriminates against companies that observe the Jewish Sabbath.

Israel is subsidizing the delivery of Russian coronavirus vaccines to Syria as part of a prisoner exchange, according to reports.


Shlomo Hillel, who died Feb. 8 at 97, helped smuggle Iraqi Jewish immigrants into pre-state British Mandate Palestine and then brought in more during the state’s first years. His family fled Iraq’s horrors and he married a woman fleeing Europe’s horrors. His son married an Ethiopian Israeli who came to the country under a policy Hillel championed as a minister in the Israeli government.

Cornelia Vertenstein, a 93-year-old Holocaust survivor who gave virtual piano lessons from her home in Denver during the pandemic, died Feb. 12. John Branch, who wrote a front page story last year about Vertenstein in The New York Times, wrote that “she left a lasting impression on me and countless others whom she never met, judging by how widely and quickly her story spread.”


Artists and performers from around the world join National Yiddish Theatre Folksbiene (NYTF) to celebrate Purim virtually from February 22-25. The celebration begins today at 1:00 pm with NYTF Artistic Director Zalmen Mlotek’s Living Room Concert, featuring a selection of Yiddish Purim Songs. Each event is available “on-demand” from its start time at

Dr. Shira D. Epstein , dean of the William Davidson Graduate School of Jewish Education at the Jewish Theological Seminary and assistant professor of Jewish education explores the Vashti narrative from the Book of Esther through the lens of power dynamics, status shifts, performing of gendered emotions, and as an example of reading the resisting woman as “Other.” Register here. 2:00 pm.

Met Council presents “Purim: Funny Story,” a virtual live read of the Purim story by comedians, film writers and social media stars. With Bob Saget as the evil Haman, Howie Mandel as the pious Mordechai, Jeff Garlin as King Achashverosh, Jeff Ross, Elon Gold, Susie Essman, Judy Gold, Eli Leonard, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Claudia Oshry, social media’s Violet Benson and Montana Tucker, and columnist Bari Weiss as Queen Esther. The virtual table read will be broadcast at and all proceeds will go towards Met Council’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund. 8:00 pm.

Streaming Today

YIVO presents 2019 Jan Karski & Pola Nirenska Award recipient Professor Daniel Grinberg analyzing the changing character and perception of Jews in both the United States and Poland as seen in films of the 1920s and 1930s. Register here. 1:00 pm.

Temple Emanu-El presents culinary historian and anthropologist Michael Twitty in conversation with Prince Davis, a programmer and advocate for diversity and education in the Jewish community. Twitty is the author of “The Cooking Gene” and is currently tracing his personal journey as an African-American Jewish man in his forthcoming “Kosher Soul.” Register here. 6:00 pm.

Maya Wiley, Senior Vice President of Social Justice and Professor of Urban Policy at The New School, joins 92Y CEO Seth Pinsky for a one-on-one conversation about her mayoral run. Register for free and submit your own questions. 7:00 pm.

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