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Supreme Court blocks Covid shul restrictions • David Dinkins’ Jewish legacy in full • James Wolfensohn dies

Supreme Court blocks Covid shul restrictions • David Dinkins’ Jewish legacy in full • James Wolfensohn dies

A first-ever First Temple-era gold granule bead was discovered by a nine-year-old sifting earth from the Temple Mount. (Times of Israel)
A first-ever First Temple-era gold granule bead was discovered by a nine-year-old sifting earth from the Temple Mount. (Times of Israel)

The Supreme Court blocked government restrictions on houses of worship imposed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in a late-night ruling Wednesday.

The 5-4 ruling was a victory for Agudath Israel of America, the charedi Orthodox group, which brought the suit on behalf of two area synagogues, Agudath Israel of Kew Garden Hills and Agudath Israel Madison in Brooklyn.

The court ruled that restrictions placed on New York’s “red zones” with high Covid test positivity rates unfairly discriminated against houses of worship. The decision was the first in which Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who was confirmed last month, gave the conservatives a majority.

“It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques,” Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion.

The liberal justices argued that the restrictions did not constitute religious discrimination, with Chief Justice John Roberts noting in a dissent that it would be “a significant matter” to overturn restrictions meant to safeguard public health during a pandemic.

Reactions: Eric Rassbach, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, a conservative religious advocacy group that served as counsel to the plaintiffs: “Governor Cuomo should have known that openly targeting Jews for a special Covid crackdown was never going to be constitutional.”

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel: “This is an historic victory. “This landmark decision will ensure that religious practices and religious institutions will be protected from government edicts that do not treat religion with the respect demanded by the Constitution.”

Gov. Cuomo said Thursday: “It’s a different court, and they wanted to make a statement that it’s a different court. That’s the statement they’re making, I understand that.”

Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern: “It’s now open season on COVID restrictions at the Supreme Court. Churches around the country will challenge these rules and win. The days of COVID limits on church attendance are ending—just as we enter a dangerous new phase of infections.”

Adam Liptak of The New York Times: “Wednesday’s ruling was almost certainly a taste of things to come…. In coming cases, too, Justice Barrett will almost certainly play a decisive role.”

Friends and allies of the late Mayor David Dinkins say there was more to his legacy than his handling of the Crown Heights riots.

Former Jewish Week reporter Adam Dickter remembers the complicated legacy of the city’s first African-American mayor, who died this week at age 93.

It “pained him deeply that his sole legacy might be about” the 1991 Crown Heights riots, former aide Herb Block told him. Block notes that, like many a New York politician, Dinkins knew the “alphabet soup”of Jewish organizations, knew his way around customs and holidays and had a solid track record on Jewish issues.

Irwin Cotler, a former Canadian justice minister and a human rights activist, was named Canada’s first envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

Cotler, a lawyer who belongs to Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberal Party, has long been a leading figure in human rights advocacy. He has worked for a number of prisoners of conscience, including Natan Sharansky.

More than a month after it pledged to remove content that denies or distorts the Holocaust, Facebook has yet to do so.

Searches for the term “Holohoax” still get plenty of hits, JTA reports. And when it made the announcement, Facebook pledged that it would direct users to resources that provide credible information about the Holocaust. Those resources have yet to appear on the site.

“Detecting hate speech is not only a difficult challenge, it’s an evolving one,” a company spokesperson told JTA.

A gold granule bead from the First Temple era was discovered by a nine-year-old.

Jerusalemite Binyamin Milt uncovered the perfectly preserved minute cylinder, created by four layers of tiny gold balls, while sifting through dirt gathered at the Temple Mount site, the Times of Israel reports.

Project co-director Zachi Dvira said that it is extremely rare to find gold jewelry outside of graves or treasure troves.


James Wolfensohn, the World Bank president and philanthropist who helped shepherd Israel’s exit from the Gaza Strip as an envoy appointed by George W. Bush, died at 86. The family foundation he set up, administered by his children, gave to a broad array of Jewish causes.

Shabbat Shalom

Like Jacob, we all have a place that we desperately try to avoid, writes Rabbi Jonathan Leener about this week’s Torah portion. But confrontations with the past, while painful, “begin the capacity to heal.”

More wisdom: Rabbi David Wolpe describes three ways Israel just might be a miracle.

Candlelighting, Torah Reading

Friday, Nov. 27, 2020
Kislev 11, 5781

Light Candles at 4:12 pm

Saturday, Nov. 28
Kislev 12, 5781
Torah Reading: Vayetze: Genesis 28:10 – 32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 11:7 – 12:14

Shabbat ends 5:14 pm

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