The community lost a fine young man this week. Doug Mascott was taken from us way too early. His funeral will be Monday at 10. Our deepest condolences go out to his father Karl, his sister, Wendy and to his many loving friends and family.
My valentine to American Jewish men
By Suzanne Levy
(JTA) — On Valentine’s Day, I’d like to sing the praises of American Jewish men. I’m aware it’s a rather large group, but that’s the point: The United States is a sea of plenty for Jewish men. Whereas in Britain, where I grew up, there are only about 300,000 Jews. If you remove married men, women and children, you’re left with enough eligible Jewish bachelors to inhabit a synagogue or two.
There are, however, millions of men in the U.K. who look like Benedict Cumberbatch or Hugh Grant. Lovely chaps, all of them, but none embodied the stocky, dark, curly-haired Jewish types I longed for when I was growing up in the 1970s. Think Paul Michael Glaser, the guy who played Starsky. Or Tony Curtis. There were some in my Hebrew school class in London, but few had that sass, that chutzpah I was after. They were aiming to be languid and vaguely ironic, like Jeremy Irons.
My first encounter with a real-life Jewish American boy came when I was 16. I was on a summer Israel tour, that rite of passage, and one night, on the shores of the Kinneret, I met Lance from Michigan. I’d never met a Lance before. Only Jeremys, Howards and Simons. It was thrilling. He was stocky, with a "Jewish nose" and thick hair. We flirted, I fell in love, he left on an Egged bus.
I was left with the confirmation that yes, such beings do exist in real life, and a deep knowledge that one day we would meet again and marry. (That knowledge proved to be illusory, but if anyone knows a Lance from Michigan who went to Israel in 1979, please pass on this story. Maybe our children could marry.)
I’m sure my attraction to American Jewish men was a factor 10 years later when, at 26, I decided to move to New York. I’d like to say it was because I had taken a job at the BBC’s New York bureau. But in fact it was just that I knew I’d be living in a world inhabited by Jewish guys. And so I was. I would walk down the street on the Upper West Side (with a particular viewing point outside Zabar's) and clutch myself in excitement at the Jewish Adonises around me with their deep, soulful eyes on their expressive faces. Could you be my prince? How about you?
My dating pool suddenly expanded. Jewish men were everywhere: waiters, dentists, squash instructors. It constantly amazed me. I would meet a guy at a bar or a party and their last name would be Rosenbaum or Cohen. Definitely not Clemington-Smythe. My bubbe would have been proud. I was ecstatic.
It’s not like I hadn’t dated -- or even been in love with -- non-Jewish men in England. But I just found there was a level of comfort and warmth -- heimischeness, if you will -- with my Jewish tribesmen. And the American Jews also had an exotic assertiveness that thrilled me. They have a confidence in their manliness, in their heritage. They’re descended from the Jews who made it through harsh winters and pogroms in the shtetls. They’re risk takers and life embracers.
While it’s true that British Jewish men are descended from the same stock, more than a century of keeping your head down, fitting in and hoping no one will notice you’re avoiding the ham sandwiches at work doesn’t exactly make you want to stand out in a crowd. British society is wonderfully tolerant of multiculturalism -- as long as you don’t make a fuss.
Jewish American men don’t try to assimilate. They don’t seem to rein in their mannerisms. They’re out and proud (at least in New York or Los Angeles). And they have broad shoulders and are, as my mother would say, “shtarkers” -- they’re strong.
Of course, there's the stereotype that Jewish men are nebbishy Woody Allen types -- and some are! But what these men may lack in brawn, they make up for with their scintillating smarts. The few Jewish intellectuals in the U.K. stand out because of their rarity (Alain de Botton, Harold Pinter), while here you can find bespectacled Jewish men passionately expressing their views or fluently spinning bewitching tales everywhere in the media. Talk wonkery to me, Ezra Klein! Give me a driveway moment, Ira Glass! Paul Krugman, fill me with your finance talk! (Paul doesn’t wear glasses, but you get my point.)
One day seven years ago, after many years of happily wading through New York’s large Jewish dating pool, I was out for drinks with coworkers when one of the company's vice presidents admitted to the crowd that he’d once considered becoming a rabbi.
I almost fell off my chair. This would have never happened in London. His name was Steve Holtzman. It was love at last name. The next day I rushed to talk to him. We compared notes on teenage years involved with Orthodox youth groups, and we’ve been together ever since.
Today, Steve shrugs off his Jewishness, but for me it continues to be part of the appeal. His maternal grandfather escaped the czar’s army by walking across Europe when he was 12. His father’s family comes from Pinsk. (I just like saying the word Pinsk). He’s smart, funny and cute. He has a big embrace. And a big heart.
So on this day of pagan/Christian celebration of love, I’d like to take this moment to make a toast to him -- and to all American Jewish men. May you all continue to thrill this nice Jewish girl from London. And all Jewish girls, from wherever they are, throughout the decades to come.
Suzanne Levy is a British-born writer and TV producer now living in Los Angeles.
ABRAHAM FOXMAN TO STEP DOWN IN JULY 2015 AS ADL NATIONAL DIRECTOR, CAPPING 50-YEAR CAREER
New York, NY, February 10, 2014 - Abraham H. Foxman today announced he will step down from his position as National Director of the Anti-Defamation League on July 20, 2015, bringing to a close a 50-year career in Jewish communal service.
“For almost five decades, ADL offered me the perfect vehicle to live a life of purpose both in standing up on behalf of the Jewish people to ensure that what happened during World War II would never happen again and in fighting bigotry and all forms of oppression,” Mr. Foxman said. “My years at ADL, particularly the 27 spent as National Director, could not have been more rewarding. ADL continued its growth as a highly respected and influential organization both here in the United States and across the globe. We have never lost sight of the fact that we are an organization whose first priority is to fight anti-Semitism and protect the Jewish people. I’m proud of all that we have accomplished.”
Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor who was hidden as a child during the war, and who later immigrated to America with his parents, began his career with the League in 1965 after graduating from the City College of the City University of New York and New York University School of Law. He rose through the ranks and, in 1987, was tapped as National Director. During his tenure, the League continued to grow as the premier organization fighting anti-Semitism bigotry and discrimination with 30 regional offices across the United States and an office in Israel. The League celebrated its centennial year in 2013.
Mr. Foxman has become world-renowned for his passion in taking courageous stands on behalf of the Jewish people, for his leadership in confronting the forces of anti-Semitism and intolerance, and for his warm embrace of global leaders who see eye-to-eye with the League’s mission of standing up to intolerance.
“Abe Foxman is a unique leader in American Jewish life. No one brings the combination of passion, experience, insight and courage to the Jewish community like Abe,” Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, wrote in a letter to ADL’s National Commission. “His experience as a hidden child and the son of Holocaust survivors imprinted on his consciousness a deep pride in his Jewishness and the need to stand up for Jews wherever and whenever they were treated badly.”
He continued: “From its beginnings, ADL combatted anti-Semitism. Under Abe the added dimension has been the self-confidence about being Jewish, which manifests itself in a willingness to take courageous stands on behalf of the Jewish people. … In a word, it’s all about inspiration. Abe has inspired us all and we are so much the better for that, as individuals, as an organization, as a community.”
Mr. Foxman announced his retirement to members of the League’s National Executive Committee during its annual meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, and shortly thereafter in a letter to members of ADL’s National Commission.
ADL’s Succession Committee will be conducting an extensive nationwide executive search for Mr. Foxman’s successor under the guidance of Succession Committee Chair Barry Curtiss-Lusher and Committee Co-Chairs Howard P. Berkowitz and Robert G. Sugarman, who both previously served as ADL national chairs. The search is being conducted by BoardWalk Consulting, an executive search firm that specializes in nonprofit organizations.
Effective July 20, 2015, Mr. Foxman will become ADL Director Emeritus, and he will continue his participation in advancing the League’s mission by serving on both the ADL National Commission and the ADL National Executive Committee in addition to serving in a part-time consultancy.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry. Follow us on Twitter: @ADL_News
From Temple Beth Avodah
By now, many of you are aware of the death of Roee Grutman, a Newton South junior. Our temple community is deeply pained; many of our own TBA students and parents knew Roee. We will be at Temple Beth Avodah tonight, Thursday evening, February 6, from 5:30-7:30 pm for TBA students, parents, families to come by to talk, cry, ask questions, share memories, or just to be together in an informal, familiar and supportive setting. We will begin with a short service together in the sanctuary. There is no need to RSVP; just come. And, of course, should you need more immediate and personal attention, please do reach out to us by calling Temple Beth Avodah and asking for one of us 617-527-0045 or via email.
Rabbi Keith Stern
Rabbi Lisa Eiduson
Temple Beth Avodah
45 Puddingstone lane
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What Jewish Leaders Want to Hear at Obama's State of the Union Address Tonight
Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations and the Iran nuclear program are at the top of the Jewish community’s agenda ahead of tonight’s annual State of the Union address.
Like presidents before him, President Barack Obama has traditionally used this address before Congress to lay out an ambitious agenda—and he probably still will—but it would be difficult to do so without acknowledging the saga endured by the plans he touted in his State of the Union address last year.
One of his highest priorities, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, has been plagued by errors and delays. Undoubtedly, the president will point to the success stories resulting from the legislation, while reminding the public that the errors and missteps—some of which he attempted to solve through executive order—are to be expected from any monumental, but fledgling, government program.
Judging from statements emanating from the White House, however, even recalcitrant Republicans might not hinder Obama, who has previously shown his willingness to use his executive authority to enact regulations without the backing of Congress. Today, the office of White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced that while the president in tonight’s speech will tout raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10, through Congressional passage of the Harkin-Miller bill, he also plans to commit himself to using “executive authority to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for those working on new federal contracts for services.”
Other accomplishments that Obama might review in the State of Union include his recent reforms in accountability and transparency, instigated by the revelations that the Internal Revenue Service was putting extra scrutiny into their auditing of Tea Party and right-wing-affiliated groups, and that the National Security Agency was collecting information beyond what many Americans believe is acceptable.
What appears to interest the Jewish community most, however, is the president’s stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict negotiations being facilitated by Secretary of State John Kerry, and the P5+1 conferences in Geneva aimed at reducing Iran’s nuclear capability. If the subject comes up tonight, the president will likely hail the Joint Plan of Action initiated earlier this month as a major breakthrough in relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran—a nation that the U.S. had not had diplomatic relations with in 30 years. At the same time, he will urge the public to have patience and faith in the process and urge lawmakers to not support the Menendez-Kirk bill and avoid interfering with the diplomacy currently underway.
To preview the speech, JNS.org asked various leaders in the Jewish community to identify what they think should be included in the president’s address. Here are their responses:
William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America:
“Jewish Federations urge President Obama to reiterate his commitment to ensuring Iran does not develop a nuclear weapons capacity, while keeping ‘all options on the table.’ Federations also urge the President to continue promoting the critical importance of charities in our society, speak out in support of Senate passage of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and to advocate for assessable long-term care for older Americans and services for their care-givers.”
Sarah Stern, president and founder of the Endowment for Middle East Truth:
“I would like the President Obama to clearly state that the United States and Israel are engaged in a shared and existential struggle with radical Islam and that the greatest threat facing the United States, Israel and most of Europe is a nuclear Iran.
“I’d be encouraged to see him say that ‘yes, we’d like to see two states living in peace side by side, but it is unlikely to come about, as long as the Palestinians continue to teach their children that one day all of the land will be theirs. In order to achieve the lofty goal of peace, the Palestinians must end their incitement, which is based on an unjustifiable hatred that is unacceptable. If and when that day comes America will be ready to assist the Israelis and Palestinians in peace.’
“On the topic of negotiations with Iran, I’d like to see the president assert that it is necessary to use all means to defeat a nuclear Iran, including negotiations, sanctions and the military option. I’d like to see the president say, ‘I have taken notice of the Iranians’ claim that the negotiations do not impede their goal of nuclear capability. I differ in that view, but if that is their view, then they have proceeded to negotiate in bad faith, and it is reasonable to prepare new sanctions, and I support such efforts.’”
Fred Zeidman, national chairman of Israel Bonds and vice chairman of the Republican Jewish Coalition:
“We all have a fair idea of what he might be saying on the domestic issues.
“The only thing I truly will be listening for is to what he says with regard to the security of the state of Israel and the relationship with Iran. I’m anxious to hear his comments. I’ve been less than satisfied with the approach that they’ve taken to date.
“I’m obviously not happy with the Iran deal and I would like to hear him say that if Iran doesn't meet all of the expectations, not only will the U.S. pull out, but they will at the same time ratchet up sanctions that they’ll impose in the Menendez-Kirk bill.
“And with regard to Israel, I don’t know exactly where we are in this peace process, but it certainly doesn’t sound like Secretary Kerry’s approach to date has been what’s necessarily in the best interest of Israel. I’d like to hear him further clarify what he’s going to do to secure Israel, especially as you look at what was going on this past week in the West Bank with terrorist attacks being planned.”
Alan Elsner, vice president of communications at J Street:
“I think that he will definitely address the two major issues: Iran and the Kerry initiative for the two-state solution.
“We know that the president is committed to this effort; what I think we would like to hear is a renewed commitment to Israel, to Israel’s security, and to the idea that this conflict with the Palestinians can be settled and it could be done now, this year. And that he will back to the hilt Secretary Kerry’s efforts, and that he will personally intervene at the right moment, and that this is a time for the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to show leadership and to take bold decisions for peace. But that the United States will always have Israel’s back and would never abandon that.”
Steve Rakitt, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington:
“I hope to hear President Obama reaffirm that the United States stands firmly with the people of Israel in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat and in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.”
Dina Siegel Vann, director of the Latino and Latin American Institute of the American Jewish Committee:
“I would like to hear the president say that comprehensive immigration reform is a top priority for his administration. This issue is in the national interest and the smart thing to do. Fixing our broken immigration system has to contemplate a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants, effective enforcement, increased visas for high and low-skilled immigrant workers to satisfy the labor needs of American businesses to remain competitive in a global economy, and support for family reunification.
“He should also say that he will spare no effort or resource and will invest whatever political capital necessary to make this a reality, hopefully with the concurrence of those in Congress and the majority of the American people, who are convinced, as I am, that this anomalous situation runs counter both to our values and our interests.”
Alan Ronkin, Washington, DC, regional director for the American Jewish Committee:
“The president should address the deep concern about Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons at a time when the Middle East is teetering between order and chaos. He should address the growing gaps between our society’s political extremes and call for a renewed American dialogue based on the values of civility, patriotism and the divine call to build a better world. And, finally, he should speak passionately about the Jewish value of welcoming the stranger—a value that leads us to embrace the immigrant and refugee and help them find their place in our country.”
Mark Olshan, associate executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International:
“One of the things I would love to hear in the State of the Union, though I don't think it’s going to come up although we would love to see it, is the commitment to senior citizens housing, in particular, but more nationally, the issues relating to refocusing our nation’s housing policy to persons who might need affordable rental housing.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion and rhetoric over the last number of years about homeownership and I’d love to see us have a little more of an emphasis back to affordable rental housing—in particular where older persons can receive community services at a place where they live, which is significantly cheaper and much easier and cost effective than having to go to institutional settings when they don’t really need it.
“In years past we’ve had a strong affordable housing policy, but that has changed over the years as the pie has gotten significantly smaller. So I’d love to see much more emphasis back on affordable housing for older persons, especially since the population is getting that much older.
“The nature of domestic spending has gotten significantly less over the years and with all the discussion that we heard on the Hill over the last couple of years, it is getting more and more difficult with the sequestration; all of that is less and less money for senior housing. So the affordable housing pot has just begun to get smaller and that has been difficult for those of us who are particularly interested in this issue.
“One of the other things would be with regard to health reform, which I’m sure he will mention in his speech. We’d like to see references in particular to the importance of continued outreach to the younger, more-healthy older population—those in their 50s and 60s who could not get insurance coverage before the health reform and affordable care was enacted, but now obviously can, and we strongly endorse and support that.
“Lastly, we want to reinforce our strong commitment in support of the state of Israel.”
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