WASHINGTON (JTA) — Many of his supporters see Bernie Sanders as a hero, but this comic book publisher took that idea to a new level.
The left-leaning comics outfit that brought you “Barack the Barbarian” and “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And The Freshman Force” is back, this time with “Talk Bernie to Me.”
Buyers get their choice of three covers: A smiling Sanders, which most resembles him; a young Sanders being arrested at a University of Chicago sit-in for racial integration; and a barely clothed yet fighting trim “BarBERNian.”
Publisher Josh Blaylock drew all three covers, and the stories anthologized inside are by a variety of writers and artists. Part of the proceeds goes to the American Civil Liberties Union and to a group providing legal services to migrants.
Sanders, 77, who likes to note that he was a long-distance runner in his youth, is not the only 2020 contender who gets the superhero treatment. Ben Garrison is a cartoonist who depicts his hero, President Donald Trump, as a football player, a knight and a ladies man.
Sanders, when he challenged Hillary Clinton in 2016 for the Democratic presidential nod, was the first Jewish candidate to win major party nominating contests.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Trump administration is offering up to $10 million for information that would disrupt Hezbollah’s financing.
The State Department posted the reward on Monday, listing some ways to get the money: providing the names of donors to the Lebanese terrorist militia; Hezbollah-owned businesses and front companies; the names of brokers who facilitate Hezbollah transactions; and criminal schemes run by Hezbollah.
The reward notice comes as the Trump administration is ramping up pressure on Hezbollah’s main sponsor, Iran. Also Monday, the administration announced that next month it would end sanctions waivers for five major buyers of Iran’s oil: China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey.
That policy, aimed at reducing Iran’s oil exports to zero, is likely to frustrate U.S. allies that counsel a carrot-and-stick approach with Iran, but it earned the praise of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in a statement that it was “of great importance in increasing the pressure on the Iranian terrorist regime.”
The Trump administration wants Iran to kill entirely its nuclear program, as well as end its backing for terrorism and interventions in neighboring conflicts. Of particular concern is the support that Iran and Hezbollah have lent the Assad regime in Syria, where an 8-year civil war is winding down. Israel wants Iran and Hezbollah removed from Syria.
In announcing the suspension of the oil sanctions waivers, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said squeezing Hezbollah dry was one of the administration’s main aims in its ongoing policy of targeting Iran with economic pressure.
“We have watched Iran have diminished power as a result of our campaign,” he said. “Their capacity to wreak harm around the world is absolutely clearly diminished. I talked about it with respect to Hezbollah not being able to make payroll in a timely fashion.”
(JTA) — My seders, like most, drew to a close with the annual cringe-fest known as “Sh’foch Hamatcha,” in which everyone stands up and urges the Almighty to “Pour out Your fury on the nations [goyim] that do not know You.” The section is a justifiable reflection of historic Jewish anger and wishful thinking, especially during the Middle Ages when the biblical verse was added to the Haggadah. But PC it is not.
The word “goyim” sits there like a stray bone in the homemade gefilte fish, inevitable and undigestible. In this case the word means nothing other than “nation,” counting the Jews as one among many “goyim” out there. But the verse plants the seeds for how we’ve come to think of “goy” and “goyim”: as designations for any individual or collective who simply are Not Us.
But is goy necessarily disparaging? I saw the point being debated on Twitter last week. The writer Ariel Sobel insisted in a tweet, “Goy isn’t a slur. If you think it is, you are a goy.”
She fleshed that out in a separate tweet: “Being called not Jewish is not a slur. The absence of Judaism does not make someone vulnerable. Having a term to describe it is not a slur, it just discomforts people because it subverts them as the labeless norm.”
A lot of the Jews who responded begged to differ, saying that while some Jews use the word as a fairly neutral or even affectionate term for a “non-Jew,” the word has taken on disparaging connotations. Others pointed out that it creates a binary that is particularly hurtful to interfaith families and converts.
“As a Jew married to a Jew by choice, I definitely see goy as a slur — seldom used as a compliment, and never used in the presence of a non-Jew,” wrote Nahma Nadich, the deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. “That’s a good litmus test: if you wouldn’t use a word in the presence of someone you’re describing, good chance it’s offensive.”
Sobel explained that she was reacting to white supremacists who have embraced the word “goyim,” partly to accuse Jews of promoting their own brand of ethnic chauvinism and partly as a badge of twisted honor. But she also thanked those who responded for changing her thinking about the term.
“Goy can be weaponized to hurt interfaith families, converts, and patrilineal Jews,” she wrote. “We all have unique relationships to the term shaped by our experience. So grateful to have had so many people jump in on the conversation and tell me about theirs.”
But the word “goy” has too much historical and linguistic baggage to be used as casually as “non-Jew” or “gentile.” It starts with the obvious slurs – like “goyishe kopf,” or gentile brains, which suggests (generously) a dullard, or “shikker iz a goy,” a gentile is a drunkard. “Goyishe naches” describes the kinds of things that a Jew mockingly presumes only a gentile would enjoy, like hunting, sailing and eating white bread.
But even in its plain sense the word is a weapon in what the Yiddishist Michael Wex calls the “vocabulary of exclusion.” “Differences between yidish and goyish, sacred and profane, proper and improper, are built into the structure of the language,” he writes, using “yidish” to mean Jewish.
How that came to be is the subject of a fascinating discussion in the current online edition of the scholarly journal Ancient Jew Review (the best name of any Jewish publication ever). The occasion is the publication of a new book by the Israeli scholars Adi Ophir and Ishay Rosen-Zvi titled “Goy: Israel’s Multiple Others and the Birth of the Gentile” (Oxford University Press). In it they argue that while the word “goy” is common in the Torah, it was only in the later rabbinic literature (starting say, in the first and second centuries CE) that “goy” acquired the status of the absolute Other. From then until today, the word not only distinguishes what makes a gentile different than a Jew, but – and this is crucial — what defines a Jew as being different from a gentile.
The authors suggest that it was the lapsed Jew and Christian apostle Paul who got the ball rolling in his letters by emphasizing the distinctions between the Jews and the followers of Jesus.
Ophir and Rozen-Zvi note that the rabbis don’t just distinguish between ways of religious thinking, but divide the world into a binary Us and Not Us.
“In contrast to earlier attempts to grapple with threatening foreign groups, the generalized and abstract rabbinic Goy has no other quality besides his being a non-Jew,” writes Yair Furstenberg, of the Talmud Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a response to their book.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? We make distinctions all the time. Many of our identities are based as much upon what we are not as what we are. The challenge is what you do with those distinctions.
In another response to the Israelis’ book, Cynthia Baker, a professor of religious studies at Bates College, aligns with those who believe that Jew-goy divisions “distort, deform, and diminish the full personhood of most of this world’s human inhabitants.”
Ophir and Rozen-Zvi also suggest that the Us and Them thinking of the rabbis tends to reinforce a sense of superiority among the Jews, and assigns to goyim qualities that, as Baker writes, “mark their lack of worthiness – and … none that are genuinely positive.”
At the very least, the idea of undifferentiated goyim shows an incredible lack of curiosity of the ways that non-Jews might differ among themselves, let alone how they differ from Jews.
Jews are hardly alone in this exclusionary thinking. The Jew-goy distinction was born at a time when Jews were themselves excluded from the “nations,” and could barely imagine a society where people of various faiths and religions could live side by side on equal terms.
That doesn’t argue for getting rid of the “Pour out your fury on the goyim” section of the Haggadah. I’m a big believer in wrestling with the more difficult parts of the tradition rather than censoring them. But perhaps we should read such language with empathy for the Jewish condition at the time it was written — and acknowledge the ways our own conditions have changed.
Today we have the luxury and ability to think about the Other in ways that honor the Jews for their differences without disparaging others for theirs. We can do better than “goy.”
WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House is discouraging the use of the term “two-state solution” when describing possible outcomes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A senior White House official on Monday confirmed to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency a report that appeared over the weekend on Sky News Arabic, a satellite TV station, and picked up by the Times of Israel.
“The two-state solution term means different things to different people,” the official told JTA. “There is no point in using a phrase that never achieved peace. Our plan provides a clear, realistic and detailed vision of what peace could actually look like.”
The Trump administration plans to release a detailed peace plan as early as June. The plan’s lead architects are Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adivser; Jason Greenblatt, his top peace negotiator, and David Friedman, his ambassador to Israel.
Last month, speaking to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Friedman said that Israel would retain security control of the West Bank. Friedman did not elaborate, but Palestinian leaders see control of their own defense and foreign policy as a necessary component of statehood.
(JTA) — The Catholic Church in Poland condemned the burning of a Jewish effigy on Easter weekend in a small town in the country’s southeast.
“The Catholic Church will never tolerate manifestations of contempt towards members of any nation, including the Jewish people,” Bishop Rafal Markowski, chairman of the church’s Committee for Dialogue with Judaism, said on Monday, according to the AP.
On Friday, residents of Pruchnik beat and burned a doll with a black hat, sidelocks and a large nose meant to represent the biblical figure of Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus. Though Jesus and his disciples were all Jewish, some Christians have associated Judas in particular with Jews and used it as a reason for supporting anti-Semitism.
The ritual drew condemnation from Jewish organizations and Israeli politicians.
Polish Interior Minister Joachim Brudzinski also denounced the incident, calling it “idiotic, pseudo-religious chutzpah” and referring to the participants as “Satans.”
JERUSALEM (JTA) — The president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh will carry the torch set aside for Diaspora Jewry at Israel’s Independence Day ceremony.
Jeff Finkelstein has led the Jewish community’s efforts to cope and rebuild following the shooting attack on the Tree of Life synagogue building that left 11 worshippers dead. In the wake of the terror attack on two mosques in New Zealand, he established a fund for its victims on behalf of the Jewish community.
Finkelstein has served for over a decade as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh federation.
Miri Regev, Israel’s minister of culture and sports, and the chairwoman of the Ministerial Committee on Symbols and Ceremonies, said in a statement that Finkelstein “represents ‘the tree of life,’ the growing spirit of brotherhood and human togetherness, and the great soul of our Diaspora brothers and sisters. In his blessed work, Jeff Finkelstein expresses the spirit of greatness and social cohesion among our people as well as concern to spread the light of love of all humanity.”
Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, congratulated Finkelstein on his selection to represent “the resilience and spirit of the Pittsburgh Jewish community” at the ceremony.
“Jeff’s leadership in the aftermath of the horrible Tree of Life shooting can serve as an inspiration for other Jewish leaders,” he said.
Other announced torch lighters include Gil Shlomo, a secondary school student from Sderot and one of the activists who organized November’s youth march from the Gaza border communities to Jerusalem; filmmaker Avi Nesher, whose teenage son was killed in a Tel Aviv hit-and-run earlier this year; Lt. Col. Shai Siman Tov, who was critically injured in the 2014 Gaza battle in Shejalya and now uses a wheelchair; singer Yehudah Poliker, who is known for songs delving into the identity of the children of Holocaust survivors; Iris Yifrach, Bat-Galim Shaer and Racheli Fraenkel, the mothers of three Israeli teenagers who were kidnapped and murdered in 2014; and Moran Samuel, a paraolympian rower who she works with a nonprofit that raises awareness for disabled people and their challenges.
(JTA) — A church in Winnipeg is organizing an interfaith vigil to show support for a kosher café that was the victim of a violent anti-Semitic incident — the fourth in five months.
The Westworth United Church has scheduled the vigil for Thursday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.
“It is our Christian responsibility to stand strongly in solidarity beside anyone who is the target of violence and to address the fear and hate that drives this intolerance. There is no room in our city of Winnipeg for hate, terror or violence directed against Jews or any other group of people,” Westworth United Church Rev. Loraine MacKenzie Shepherd said in a statement.
“It’s very comforting to see other groups taking on this initiative to hold a vigil to express their feelings about it rather than us doing it ourselves,” Belle Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, told the CBC.
She said the attack is “the most violent and vicious anti-Semitic attack” ever in Winnipeg.
“In all the years I’ve been doing this job I’ve actually never seen an incident quite like this,” Winnipeg Police Constable Rob Carver, a 26-year veteran of the force, told reporters Friday.
(JTA) — A Washington state man out on bail after being charged with two felonies for posting plans on Facebook to commit a mass shooting against Jewish targets has posted more violent messages and threats against Jews.
Dakota Reed, 20, had been out of jail on $50,000 bond since December. But in the wake of the new social media posts he was jailed again on April 8 and his bail raised to $500,000, the Washington-based Herald.net reported.
His new posts referred to killing the “ZOG,” or Zionist Occupied Government, a far-right conspiracy theory that Jews control the U.S. government,
“I’m shooting for 30 Jews,” Reed wrote in November. “No pun needed. Long ways away anyways. See you Goys.” Other posts referenced a plot to shoot up a synagogue in 2025.
JERUSALEM (JTA) — Dozens of Orthodox rabbis in Israel signed a letter offering support to a transgender girl who has been prevented from attending school over violence and threats to her life.
Osher Band, 15, remained home from her Ashkelon school since the beginning of the term, when she was attacked verbally and physically, Haaretz reported. Upon returning to the ORT Henry Ronson High School more than a week ago, she was attacked by a classmate and hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury.
Addressed to Osher and sent to the Education Ministry and the school principal, the letter reads: “We, Orthodox rabbis and rabbis’ wives, are shocked and pained to hear of the violence against you because of your identity as a transgender girl. This is not the way of the Jewish people. The Torah teaches us ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ and the ancient Jewish sages teach us that the Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred. We are commanded to respect every person, and moreover we are commanded to care for the ‘stranger, the orphan and the widow’ – that is, every man, woman, girl or boy who lives among us and is in a fragile social state, such as transgender people.”
The letter called Osher’s case “symbolic” and suggested that it would raise the cause of transgender students and how to integrate them.
The school told Haaretz that the teen’s behavior was “provocative” and that she had been posting “crude, flaunting pictures” on Instagram. The principal also said that Osher had not shown up regularly for school and when she did, she used “harsh, defiant language with the teachers and students.”
The Education Ministry told Haaretz that it investigated Osher’s case and determined that the school’s staff “made every effort to help the student and provide her with the required solutions.”