Note: the next newsletter will be on September 14. Today we’re diving into:
Inside the U.S.: Rabbi among Ida’s dead; Louis Armstrong’s Jewish home destroyed; Senate delegation to Israel; Hitler photo in officer’s locker; and Seinfeld on Netflix
Inside Israel: Rosh HaShanah greetings from Herzog, Biden; Knesset approves budget; CENTCOM adds Israel; Bahrani ambassador takes up post; Israel stops new oil drilling; and Israeli children begin school despite COVID
Israel’s Neighbors: Pregnant Palestinian terrorist released on bail; Palestinians save Jewish woman; and Bennett to meet Sisi
Inside Europe: Greece appoints health minister who defended his father’s antisemitism; Le Pen on trial; and Warsaw Ghetto survivor dies
Celebrate & Remember: Israel study helps cancer diagnoses; and remembering the beginning of the Second World War
INSIDE THE U.S.
Rabbi among Ida’s dead
Source: @intelligencer / Twitter, September 1, 2021
Rabbi killed by Ida: Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Weissmande was one of over 45 people killed on Wednesday evening by the destructive path of the remnants of Hurricane Ida across the northeast. Weissmande, who was 69 and from Mount Kisco, NY, was caught in the furious floodwaters while trying to drive home. The storm’s devastation, which was no doubt exacerbated by climate change, is still being cleaned up across the South and in the North and will likely have implications for weeks, if not months and years to come. In New York, nearly 500 vehicles were abandoned on flooded highways, garbage bobbed in streaming streets and water cascaded into the city’s subway tunnels, trapping at least 17 trains and disrupting service all day.
Armstrong’s Jewish home destroyed: Mother Nature in the form of Hurricane Ida also destroyed the home of the Jewish family where renowned jazz musician Louis Armstrong lived and learned to play the trumpet. The home of the Karnofskys in New Orleans, which Armstrong called his “second home,” was completely washed away from the Category 4 storm, leaving behind only a scattered base. The Jewish family who took Armstrong in instilled in him not just a love of music and singing, but also for Jewish tradition, culture, and food, like matzah, which he loved. Armstrong was fluent in Yiddish and wore a necklace of the Star of David. The death toll from Hurricane Ida in the South rose to at least 13 by Thursday evening.
Senate delegation to Israel: Four Democratic senators—Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jon Ossoff (D-GA), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)—two of whom are Jewish (the latter two), are visiting Israel and the West Bank this week. The senators released a statement reading in part: “We look forward to speaking directly with key actors in the region, especially the new Israeli government and Palestinian leadership.” The quartet will meet with Prime Minister Bennett, President Herzog, and Foreign Minister Lapid, in addition to Palestinian leadership. Beyond Israel, the senators are visiting Lebanon as it faces mounting and overwhelming crises. Of the senators, Murphy is notable for being the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and someone with President Biden’s ear. Earlier in the year, Murphy was sent by Biden to Ethiopia to attempt to deescalate its war with insurgents and Eritrea. Murphy said on Twitter: “Visiting Lebanon and Israel over the next few days… to work on a solution to the political and economic crisis in Lebanon and to build bridges with the new Israeli coalition government.”
Hitler photo in officer’s locker: A Massachusetts town recently said it does not have the authority or grounds to fire a police officer that kept a picture of Adolf Hitler in his locker room for two decades. The officer claims he hung the photo 20 years ago to make fun of a fellow officer who resembled Hitler. The chair of the Williamstown, MA town board, Andrew Hogeland, said in a letter: “Though we understand the pain and fear that underlie the advocacy of some of our residents for termination, our understanding of the facts and applicable law is that the Select Board has no jurisdiction to [fire the officer]. So there is no doubt: we understand, and agree, that an officer having a photo of Hitler in a police locker is unacceptable and is highly offensive to the community. He has explained that it was presented to him about 20 years ago as a joke in reference to a departing colleague who had a haircut and mustache that resembled Hitler.”
Seinfeld on Netflix: The preeminent Jewish show (at least according to us!) Seinfeld is moving to Netflix on October 1st. Seinfeld had previously been on Hulu, but Netflix acquired the show’s rights in 2019. In his signature sarcasm, Jerry Seinfeld said: “Larry [David] and I are enormously grateful to Netflix for taking this chance on us.”
Rosh HaShanah greetings from Herzog, Biden
Source: President Isaac Herzog / YouTube, August 31, 2021
Presidents wish a happy Rosh HaShanah: Both presidents of Israel and the United States separately wished Jews a happy new year ahead of next week’s Rosh HaShanah holiday. In his message to diaspora Jewry, Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog said he prays for his “extended family: the people of Israel and the Jewish People at large.” He also said: “Israel is your home away from home — and we are all looking forward to seeing you in our beloved country.” U.S. President Joe Biden, though, spoke directly to American Jews, commenting on the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship, his past ties to Jewish and Israeli leaders, as well as the need to combat antisemitism in the wake of such tragedies as the Pittsburgh Tree of Life shooting. Biden’s call with American Jewish religious leaders was attended by the heads of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements.
Knesset approves budget: In a major milestone for the new government coalition yesterday evening and for the first time in three years, the Knesset approved the 2021-2022 state budget in its first readings, passing four separate bills making up the legislative package. The failure to pass a budget was the principal reason for the quadruple recurrence of elections over the past two years. All bills will now head to the parliament’s Finance Committee and must pass second and third readings in the plenum to become law. Following the vote, Prime Minister Bennett said: “After three years without a budget, we approved tonight in its first reading an excellent budget. This is a budget that cares for citizens and not for political interests.” Bennett said he was “proud of the way that disagreements were solved through goodwill and real partnership.”
CENTCOM adds Israel: The U.S. military has officially and formally moved Israel into its Central Command arena after having placed it under the European Command’s purview since Israel’s founding. The move reflects Israel’s strengthening relationship with Arab regimes, because countries within a given Command often work together militarily. Central Command, which covers the Middle East and parts of Central Asia like Afghanistan and Pakistan, said: “The U.S. Government’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security remains enduring and ironclad.” The move was welcomed by pro-Israel lobbyists in Washington as well as by the Israeli government.
Bahrani ambassador takes up post: Following last year’s Abraham Accords which normalized relations between Israel and Arab states including Bahrain, the first Bahraini ambassador to Israel has arrived in the country to take up his position. Ambassador Khaled Yousif al-Jalahmah said: “The opportunity to fulfill His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s vision of peaceful coexistence with all nations is a privilege that I will hold in high regard.” Al-Jalahma was personally congratulated in-person by Foreign Minister Lapid.
Israel stops new oil drilling: Israel will no longer issue permits for the exploration of oil on land, specifically terrestrial oil. Israel’s energy minister announced: “Oil is a highly polluting fuel that has no place in a country that is doing everything to reduce the use of coal and understands that [fossil fuel] gas is also only an intermediate solution until we can rely on renewable energies.” Minister Karine Elharrar also implicitly criticized her predecessor of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, saying that positions in the ministry will now be appointed based on merit rather than connections.
Israeli children begin school despite COVID: After much ado over the issue of school reopenings in Israel, 2.5 million Israeli children began the school year in-person this week. For some, it is the first in-person, classroom instruction in well over a year. The government provided each child an at-home COVID-19 test and all individuals are required to mask in schools. However, due to a shortage of such COVID-19 rapid tests, 250,000 students are unable to get tested and therefore unable to start school this week. Additionally, another 90,000 students are currently in quarantine and will also be unable to start the school year. And teachers and other professionals like doctors will be required to prove vaccination status or otherwise produce a negative COVID-19 test. With Israel hitting record high daily COVID-19 cases, despite a drop in serious infections, the case numbers are expected to continue to rise in the short term due to the reopenings of schools. The COVID numbers have increased so dramatically in Israel that the EU is recommending Israel be considered unsafe due to the spread of the virus. Journalists have pointed out that the reason Israel has such a high case rate is because it’s testing far more than any country in the world.
Pregnant Palestinian prisoner released: Anhar al-Deek, a pregnant Palestinian prisoner who was charged by Israel in an attempted stabbing attack, was released on bail yesterday from an Israeli prison. Al-Deek would have been the first Palestinian detainee to give birth in an Israeli prison. Times of Israel journalist Aaron Boxerman said on Twitter, “According to the court’s ruling, al-Deek will be under 24-hour supervision while in her mother’s house. She will also have to show up at an Israeli police station once a week, among other conditions… Among other reasons for releasing her, the court noted that it was concerned for the welfare of her infant son (who would be raised behind bars after he was born), especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic.”
Palestinians save Jewish woman: Three Palestinians saved a Jewish woman driving near Hebron, who was hit by stone-throwers. The woman, a 36-year-old mother of six, said about the attack: “I was driving, and suddenly I found myself in the opposite lane with strong pains and blood flowing from my head.” “I went back into my lane, and It’s a miracle there wasn’t another car. “When I stopped the car, and I was dripping blood, I tried to see what happened. And that’s when I saw a huge rock that hit my foot… I started to cry and scream, those were difficult moments. I tried to call the police and ambulance, but there wasn’t any reception,” she said. “Suddenly three Palestinians arrived and tried to help. One of them told me he was a doctor and stopped the bleeding in my head, while another tried to call the rescue forces because he had a Palestinian network that had reception in the area. It went on like this for ten minutes with me just sitting there and them waiting with me.”
Bennett to meet Sisi: According to a report, Prime Minister Bennett and Egypt’s President Abdel-Fatah el-Sisi will meet publicly for the first time in Sinai soon. The meeting will be a rare public encounter between Israeli and Egyptian leaders. A meeting between the heads of government last took place in 2011 when former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met then-President of Egypt Hosni Mubarak in Sinai. (Mubarak was deposed later that year in an uprising that was part of the Arab Spring.) The meeting between Bennett and Sisi is likely to highlight Egypt’s role as a peacemaker between Israel and the Gaza-based terrorist organization Hamas. Further, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Sissi and Jordanian King Abdullah in Cairo Thursday. That conference comes on the heels of Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s meeting with Abbas earlier this week.
Greece appoints health minister who defended his father’s antisemitism
New Greek health minister apologizes: Following a cabinet reshuffle, a man who defended the antisemitic writings of his father in court was appointed as health minister in Greece. The new Minister of Health Thanos Plevris apologized for his past remarks on social media after the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece called on him to apologize. Plevris had been a defense lawyer for his father Constantinos Plevris when he was charged with incitement to racist hatred or violence over a 2009 book called “Jews: The Whole Truth.” The elder Plevris appeared to advocate for keeping Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp, “in good condition,” allegedly for the day it would again serve to kill Jews. Defending his father in court, Thanos Plevris contested that interpretation of the Auschwitz reference. Even if it were true, he added, “What kind of instigation is this? What incitement is this? Is it that one is not allowed to believe and want to believe that ‘I want to exterminate someone?’” he said. In his apology this week to the Jewish community, Thanos Plevris said, “I never wanted to insult the Jewish people, and I apologize if I did.”
Le Pen on trial: Jean-Marie Le Pen, the father of Marine Le Pen and the founder of France’s most formidable far-right party, is once again on trial over an allegation of inciting racial hatred against Jews. The trial pertains to comments he made in 2014 about sentencing a French-Jewish singer to a fate akin to the Holocaust. Marine, who now leads the organization her father started, called his comments at the time a “political error.” His lawyers contend that Le Pen was speaking figuratively.
Warsaw Ghetto survivor dies: Shalom Stamberg, one of the last survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto, died at age 96. Stamberg died from COVID-19, but he lived a long life that began in Warsaw in 1924. At 14, he was deported to the ghetto with his family and later transported to the Nazi concentration camps Dachau, Buchenwald, and Auschwitz. He also survived Nazi death marches among other horrors. Stamberg said in 2019: “I was hungry, I was in pain, I was everything, but I stayed alive. It’s not that I was a hero. I was like everyone else. A child.” After the war, Stamberg moved to Israel. In Israel, at age 93, he celebrated his bar mitzvah surrounded by family. His two daughters said: “Dad survived the great difficulties that exist in this world, including the hell of the Nazis, but unfortunately the coronavirus overcame him.”
Today we celebrate a new study out of Israel to help cancer diagnoses. A study from Tel Aviv University has shown that “silent mutations” in cancer genomes can show the type of cancer a person has and his or her probability of survival. The type of mutations referred to as silent do not produce any effect in a cell, but nonetheless make a change to DNA. However, researchers now show that the mutations may reveal previously unseen secrets of the cell. The study says: “by combining information from silent and non-silent mutations, classification could be improved for 68 percent of the cancer types.” The research may help make cancer diagnoses much more accurate and effectively lifesaving.
On this day in 1939, France and the United Kingdom declared war on Nazi Germany, forming the Allied Powers which would eventually bring defeat to the Nazis six years later. The declaration of war was preceded by Germany’s illegal invasion of Poland three days earlier on what is said to be the beginning of the Second World War.