Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Articles written by Andrew Lapin


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  • 'Israelism' gets digital release with Watermelon Pictures

    Andrew Lapin|Jun 21, 2024

    (JTA) - They wanted to capture a growing Jewish generational divide over Israel. The Jewish makers of "Israelism" accomplished that - and then some. Over the last seven months, the documentary critiquing the American Jewish relationship to Israel has become something closer to a foundational text for the campus pro-Palestinian movement. It's been screened at more than 100 colleges, including several encampments. It has toured overseas and won support from an array of Jewish groups on the left,...

  • Columbia settles suit with Jewish student over encampments, promising additional security

    Andrew Lapin|Jun 14, 2024

    (JTA) — Columbia University has settled a lawsuit brought against it by a Jewish student alleging a hostile environment as a result of the pro-Palestinian encampment movement. The settlement is a major development in Jewish groups’ efforts to hold universities accountable in light of a reported increase in campus antisemitism since Oct. 7. As part of the settlement, Columbia has promised to provide walking escorts and safe campus entrances at all hours of the day, as well as accommodations for students who were unable to complete exams owi...

  • Some pro-Palestinian encampments want their schools to cut ties with Hillel, Chabad

    Andrew Lapin|May 31, 2024

    (JTA) — Pro-Palestinian encampment protesters at dozens of universities have called for their administrations to divest from Israel. But on two campuses, activists are asking their schools to split from organizations closer to home that they say are complicit in Israeli crimes. At Drexel University in Philadelphia and the University of California, Santa Cruz, pro-Palestinian protesters have demanded their universities cut ties with, or “terminate” the presence of, the schools’ Hillel chapters. The Drexel protesters also demand that the univers...

  • In a rarity, Cornell pro-Palestinian encampment disbands with neither arrests nor deal

    Andrew Lapin|May 24, 2024

    (JTA) – The student encampment at Cornell University is disbanding, in a rare instance of a campus pro-Palestinian protest dissolving on its own. Encampments at a series of other schools have ended only after schools made agreements with protesters or called in police. Police action has led to thousands of arrests, chaotic scenes of violence and accusations of suppressing free speech. Agreements with protesters have incurred the wrath of many in the organized Jewish community, who argue that the encampments should face consequences for e...

  • Jewish author Nathan Thrall, Reuters and New York Times win Pulitzers for controversial Israel reporting

    Andrew Lapin|May 17, 2024

    (JTA) — Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that have become steeped in controversy since their publication, including a nonfiction book by Jewish author Nathan Thrall and breaking-news reporting and photography of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks by Reuters and The New York Times. The Pulitzer board also presented a special citation to journalists covering the war from Gaza, noting that “an extraordinary number have died” while doing so. Thrall, a Bard College professor based in Jerusalem whose work is often h...

  • '50 Completely True Things,' a Palestinian-American's call for compromise, strikes a chord on social media

    Andrew Lapin|May 17, 2024

    (JTA) — Last fall, Mo Husseini wrote a series of propositions — what he called “50 Completely True Things” — about the Israel-Hamas war and posted it on the social media site Threads. Identifying himself as “a Palestinian American who is tired of stupid people,” Husseini set out to puncture myths on both sides of the conflict, suggesting that neither Palestinians nor Israelis had a monopoly on truth, justice or the moral high ground. “This isn’t an essay in Foreign Affairs, you know? This is an idiot shit posting on the internet in tryin...

  • Columbia cancels commencement amid pro-Palestinian protests

    Andrew Lapin|May 10, 2024

    (New York Jewish Week) – Columbia University announced Monday that it would be canceling its commencement ceremony following weeks of pro-Palestinian protest, campus turmoil and hundreds of student arrests. Beginning nearly three weeks ago, the pro-Palestinian encampment at Columbia sparked a protest movement at dozens of campuses across the country. The Ivy League school, like other colleges, has struggled to contain the demonstrators. “These past few weeks have been incredibly difficult for our community,” Columbia said in a statement Monda...

  • Unrest on American campuses: Inspired by Columbia example, pro-Palestinian encampments spring up at colleges nationwide

    Andrew Lapin|May 3, 2024

    (JTA) – A pro-Palestinian protest at Yale University allegedly turned violent with dozens of arrests. The University of Southern California canceled all its planned commencement speakers. Encampments have sprung up at campuses from Boston to Ann Arbor and Chapel Hill. It’s not just Columbia. The unrest that has overtaken the Ivy League university in New York City, and upended life for Jewish students and everyone else, is spilling over into the rest of the country. The spread of the demonstrations is being promoted and celebrated by pro...

  • USC Shoah Foundation distances itself from pro-Palestinian valedictorian whose speech was canceled

    Andrew Lapin|Apr 26, 2024

    (JTA) – A Holocaust research center founded by Steven Spielberg has gotten embroiled in a drama over campus Israel speech that is dividing the University of Southern California, where it is housed. The USC Shoah Foundation is downplaying its role in the school’s academics after the university’s valedictorian, a pro-Palestinian student who earned a minor in “resistance to genocide,” touted her ties to the center. After USC announced last week that Asna Tabassum would be the valedictorian, pro-Israel groups mounted a campaign against her, citi...

  • School district will let students opt out of Holocaust lesson

    Andrew Lapin|Apr 5, 2024

    (JTA) – A school district in suburban Virginia is drawing backlash for announcing that middle school students could opt out of a talk by a Holocaust survivor on Monday. Critics of the school connected the announcement with widespread reports of spiking antisemitism in K-12 schools following the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war. But the school and the local Jewish Community Relations Council denied those claims, later announcing that the opt-out was specifically intended to help Jewish students. Fairfax County Public Schools, in a populous a...

  • Police in Newton, Massachusetts, investigating string of vandalism targeting pro-Israel homes as hate crimes

    Andrew Lapin|Apr 5, 2024

    (JTA) – Authorities in Newton, Massachusetts, said they are investigating a string of seven recent instances of vandalism targeting homes with pro-Israel signs as individual hate crimes. In one incident this week, more than 100 posters displaying Israeli hostages who are being held in Gaza were destroyed, in what the Jewish homeowners said had been a site of communal memory since shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. Most of the reported incidents in the heavily Jewish Boston suburb over the past month involve the defacement or removal...

  • 'Origin' story: How Ava DuVernay's new movie connects the Holocaust, slavery and caste

    Andrew Lapin|Feb 9, 2024

    (JTA) - Early in the new drama "Origin," the Pulitzer Prize-winning Black author Isabel Wilkerson (played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) calls her cousin from Berlin to share that, as part of her research into American racism, she intends to learn more about the Nazis' treatment of Jews. Her cousin is unimpressed. "Leave Jewish folks alone," Marion (Niecy Nash) advises Isabel. "They don't need you. Write about us." But this movie's version of Wilkerson can't abide by that. In her mind, the fates of...

  • 'Barbenheimer,' 'Maestro' and 'The Zone of Interest' lead large crop of Jewish-inspired Oscar nominations

    Andrew Lapin|Feb 2, 2024

    (JTA) – The year’s biggest movie phenomenon was a one-two punch of blockbusters with Jewish roots — and they both came up big at Tuesday’s Oscar nominations. “Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s biopic of the Jewish “father of the atomic bomb,” led the year’s nominations with 13, including best picture and director, and is favored by many prognosticators to win the big prize. The film’s rendition of J. Robert Oppenheimer covers a fair amount of Jewish ground, including his personal animus toward the Nazis; his recruitment of expelled European...

  • Citing risk to Elie Wiesel's 'Night,' Iowa judge blocks key parts of state book ban law

    Andrew Lapin|Jan 12, 2024

    (JTA) – A federal judge in Iowa has blocked much of a state law forbidding school libraries from stocking books depicting “sex acts,” in part because he said it was keeping a classic Holocaust memoir off shelves. U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher granted a preliminary injunction against the law, Iowa Senate File 496, on Friday, just before a Jan. 1 deadline for schools to begin enforcing it. The “staggeringly broad” law, he wrote in his opinion, would prevent public schools from stocking “non-fiction history books about the Holocaust....

  • Claudine Gay resigns from Harvard

    Andrew Lapin|Jan 12, 2024

    (JTA) – Harvard University President Claudine Gay has resigned in the wake of plagiarism allegations and months-long criticism of her response to allegations of antisemitism at the school. Gay is the second Ivy League university president to step down following congressional testimony on campus antisemitism last month that drew intense criticism. University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned her post on Dec. 9. Gay had also faced criticism over the school's initial statement on Hamas'...

  • Florida district pulls many Jewish and Holocaust books, including Saul Bellow's 'Herzog' and 'Black, White and Jewish'

    Andrew Lapin|Jan 5, 2024

    (JTA) — A global bestseller by a Jewish Holocaust victim; a novel by a beloved and politically conservative Jewish American writer; a memoir of growing up mixed-race and Jewish; and a contemporary novel about a high-achieving Jewish family are among the nearly 700 books a Florida school district removed from classroom libraries this year in fear of violating state laws on sexual content in schools. The purge of books from Orange County Public Schools, in Orlando, over the course of the past semester is the latest consequence of a conservative m...

  • A new 'Color Purple' adaptation hits theaters, returning author Alice Walker's history of antisemitism to spotlight

    Andrew Lapin|Jan 5, 2024

    (JTA) - The bright, colorful movie musical "The Color Purple," which opens in theaters on Christmas, tells a story that has by now become a familiar part of the American canon - of a young Black woman's self-empowerment and discovery of her own sexuality amid the horrific, abusive conditions of her life in the early-1900s rural South. It's far from the first time Americans have heard the story of Celie, the protagonist of Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple." Walker's novel debuted in 1982...

  • Feds to probe University of North Carolina's response to harsh anti-Israel speech

    Andrew Lapin|Jan 5, 2024

    (JTA) – Earlier this month, a lawyer acting on information from a pro-Israel group of North Carolinians told the federal government that their state’s flagship public university should be investigated for allowing anti-Israel rhetoric on campus. Now the government has acted on it. The U.S. Department of Education announced today that it has opened a new Title VI investigation into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, along with two others into George Mason University and Newark Public Schools, related to complaints of mis...

  • MIT federal civil rights investigations

    Andrew Lapin|Dec 29, 2023

    (JTA) – The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Davis, both of which have recently experienced widely publicized episodes of conflict around Israel, are among six new institutions facing U.S. Department of Education investigations. The department has indicated it is taking a newly aggressive approach to addressing it and Islamophobia on campus since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war and is announcing new investigations at a rapid clip, dramatically increasing the pace of civil rights inquiries that it o...

  • 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' HBO's especially Jewish comedy, to end after upcoming 12th season

    Andrew Lapin|Dec 29, 2023

    (JTA) - A decades-long era of Jewish comedy on television will come to an end next year, as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Larry David's HBO comedy, is set to end after its 12th season. The imminent conclusion of "Curb" has been rumored for several seasons now, but a poster and press statement from David this week confirmed that its 12th go-around, premiering Feb. 4, will indeed be the show's last. "As 'Curb' comes to an end, I will now have the opportunity to finally shed this 'Larry David' persona...

  • Harvard president will remain in office despite criticism of her response to antisemitism

    Andrew Lapin|Dec 22, 2023

    (JTA) – Harvard University’s board of directors will keep Claudine Gay as the school’s president despite pressure to force her out after she declined to say outright that calls for the genocide of Jews violated campus rules. The Harvard Corporation, the school’s board, met behind closed doors for hours Monday night before formally announcing it would “reaffirm our support for President Gay.” The board said its decision was unanimous, and the statement was signed by all 11 members, including its senior fellow and former Commerce Secretary P...

  • Norman Lear, Jewish creator of pioneering TV, dies at 101

    Andrew Lapin|Dec 15, 2023

    (JTA) - Norman Lear, the Jewish TV pioneer behind iconic comedies of the 1970s and 1980s that helped bring social commentary and Black characters into the mainstream, has died at 101. Lear's death was announced by a spokesperson for his family, according to The New York Times. The decorated creator of "All In The Family," "The Jeffersons," "Maude," "Sanford and Son" and a host of other groundbreaking TV sitcoms, Lear lived and worked through just about every era of Hollywood comedy. A lifelong...

  • Susan Sarandon and Melissa Barrera among Hollywood figures facing blowback for stances on Israel and Jews

    Andrew Lapin|Dec 8, 2023

    (JTA) — The star of a blockbuster horror franchise and an Oscar-winning veteran actress saw their careers take a hit this week over their public comments on Jews and Israel in some of the most high-profile examples yet of how the ongoing Israel-Hamas war has impacted Hollywood. Variety reported Tuesday that Melissa Barrera was recently fired from the upcoming seventh installment of the “Scream” series over pro-Palestinian social media posts that the film’s producers implied had crossed the line into antisemitism. The “In The Heights...

  • Jewish groups condemn shooting of 3 Palestinian students

    Andrew Lapin|Dec 8, 2023

    (JTA) – Jewish congregations, politicians and campus groups in the Vermont area and beyond condemned the shooting of three Palestinian college students in Burlington, an incident authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime. A 48-year-old Burlington man has been arrested in connection with the shooting of the students, whose names are Hisham Awartani, Kinnan Abdalhamid and Tahseen Ahmed. At least three area rabbis and four different Hillels were among the voices expressing shock and sadness over the shooting, the latest outbreak of v...

  • Elon Musk says he'll donate X ad revenue to hospitals in Israel and Gaza

    Andrew Lapin|Dec 1, 2023

    (JTA) — Elon Musk announced Tuesday that his social network X would be “donating all revenue from advertising & subscriptions associated with the war in Gaza to hospitals in Israel” and to a humanitarian organization operating in Gaza. The promise comes as he faces sharp criticism that his site is helping to spread Hamas propaganda and as advertisers stage an exodus over his recent endorsement of an antisemitic post. It was unclear how Musk was identifying or defining revenue “associated with the war in Gaza.” He named the Internati...

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