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Weekly roundup of world briefs from JTA


Mayim Bialik: Being religious isn’t trendy in Hollywood

(JTA)—People of faith working in Hollywood are often out of step with the entertainment industry, American actress Mayim Bialik said.

“I think in general it’s never going to be trendy to be observant or religious in Hollywood circles,” Bialik, 39, told Fox411 in an interview broadcast over the weekend. “There are people I know of faith and we tend to congregate together. I study Jewish texts weekly. That’s something really positive to me when you’re a person of faith, it stays with you all the time.”

Bialik is known in Hollywood as an observant person. She said she gets a lot of flack for being a modest dresser, including getting labeled as a prude.

“Being a modest dresser, that for me is a certain amount of my religious faith—privacy and chastity. Just because I have a body, doesn’t mean it means to be on display,” she said.

Bialik also spoke about the “negative attention” she received on the Internet for her recent visit to Israel. “It really doesn’t matter what I support or believe the fact that I’m Jewish and go there is enough—that should be alarming to most people,” she said.

Bialik, who has written for the JTA-affiliated Jewish parenting site Kveller for the last five years, plays Amy Farrah Fowler on the popular sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” She recently launched a new website, GrokNation.com.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announces support for Iran nuclear deal

(JTA)—Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced his support for the Iran nuclear deal.

Reid (D-Nev.) called the deal the “best way” to curtail Iran’s military ambitions in an interview Sunday with the Washington Post.

“This is the best way, the only way, to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon,” Reid said.

Reid also told the newspaper he would “do everything in my power to make sure the deal stands.”

Reid reiterated his position in a tweet posted Sunday afternoon, in which he said: “I strongly support the historic agreement with Iran and will do everything in my power to ensure that it stands.”

Reid is the 27th Senate Democrat to publicly endorse the plan, in which the United States and five other world powers offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for scaling back its nuclear program, according to the Post. His current term ends in January 2017 and he has said he will not seek reelection.

Meanwhile, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), a Democrat who often votes with Republicans and is undecided on the Iran deal, told the daily Star Tribune that he received a call from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu detailing his concerns about the deal. He told the newspaper he has not received a call from the White House.

Congress will vote on whether to approve the deal in September. Obama has vowed to veto any legislation aimed at blocking the deal.

FBI informant relieved Jared Fogle case resolved

(JTA)—One of the FBI informants who helped expose former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle’s alleged sex crimes said she is relieved the case has come to an end.

Rochelle Herman-Walrond said in an interview with ABC that she worked with FBI investigators for four years, including secretly recording Fogle. She was one of several informants, according to reports.

Herman-Walrond told CNN she first met Fogle at a school in Florida in 2007, where she was covering a health event for a local television station. She said during that first meeting he made off-color remarks about young girls. Over time the comments got more detailed, including talking about sex with underage children, she told CNN.

Fogel’s wife, Katie, reportedly has filed for a dissolution of their marriage following revelations last week that the former pitchman paid for sex with minors while on trips to New York and was in possession of child pornography. As part of a plea deal, Fogle will serve between five and 12.5 years in federal prison, according to the Indianapolis Star. He will also pay 14 victims $100,000 each as part of the agreement.

Fogle allegedly traveled to New York and had sex with at least two minors, ages 16 and 17, between 2010 and 2013, according to the Star. In addition, the Star reported that Fogle received child pornography from Russell Taylor, who served as executive director of his charity, The Jared Foundation.

Taylor was arrested in April on preliminary child pornography charges and Fogle’s home was searched by police last month. Subway suspended its relationship with Fogle following the search.

Fogle became Subway’s spokesperson in 2000, after dropping nearly 250 pounds on a regimen of eating two Subway sandwiches a day.

Matisyahu performs ‘Jerusalem’ in Spain amid Palestinian protests

(JTA)—American Jewish singer Matisyahu sang his song “Jerusalem” as protesters waved Palestinian flags at a music festival in Spain.

Matisyahu performed a 45-minute set early Sunday morning at the Rototom SunSplash Festival, two days after the festival apologized for canceling his performance in the face of pressure from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement.

Some in the audience expressed disapproval when the artist took the stage, including chanting “out, out,” but many others applauded the singer, whose given name is Matthew Miller.

“Whoever you are and wherever you come from raise a flag and wave it in the air,” Matisyahu said before his closing song. “Let music be your flag.”

Later he posted on his Facebook page: “Tonight was difficult but special. Thank you to everyone who made it possible! Every chance to make music is a blessing.”

Matisyahu is not Israeli, but was apparently singled out by BDS activists because he was the only Jewish performer on the festival’s roster. Last week, after he ignored requests that he issue a statement declaring his support for Palestinian statehood, the festival cancelled his appearance. That sparked condemnation from Jewish organizations, the government of Spain and Matisyahu himself, who wrote on his Facebook page Monday that the festival organizers’ behavior had been “appalling and offensive.”

In a lengthy apology posted on Facebook Wednesday, festival organizers wrote, “Rototom Sunsplash rejects anti-Semitism and any form of discrimination towards the Jewish community.”

The festival said it had cancelled Matisyahu’s performance under pressure from the BDS movement, citing a “campaign of pressure, coercion and threats” against it that stoked fears the festival would be disrupted and “prevented the organization from reasoning clearly.”

Menorah on U of Illinois campus upended for second time this year

(JTA)—A nine-foot menorah at the University of Illinois was knocked over in an act of vandalism.

Rabbi Dovid Tiechtel of the Illini Chabad Jewish Center in Champaign, Illinois, said he is raising money to replace the menorah vandalized on Wednesday with a larger and sturdier one, The Associated Press reported.

The menorah was knocked over in April as well.

University police are investigating the vandalism, which was caught on surveillance video. So far they do not have any suspects.


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