Weekly roundup of world briefs
December 13, 2019
Washington’s Sixth & I synagogue vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti
By Josefin Dolsten
(JTA)—The Sixth & I synagogue in downtown Washington, D.C., was vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.
Michelle Eider, the synagogue’s communications manager, said the vandalism contained swastikas and anti-Semitic language and was discovered on Monday morning.
In an email to congregants, the synagogue’s three rabbis said the damage was minimal and would be quickly fixed.
“In these moments, it’s important to remember that it is not a shame but an honor to be a Jew,” said the email. “It is no small irony that it was our doors, symbols of welcoming and inclusivity, onto which someone spewed hatred and bigotry.”
In addition to hosting services and Jewish programming, the non-denominational synagogue hosts events featuring well-known entertainers, thinkers, writers and politicians.
There will soon be a movie about WeWork and its founder Adam Neumann
By Josefin Dolsten
NEW YORK (JTA)—Two production companies are teaming up to make a film about WeWork and its founder, Adam Neumann.
Universal and Blumhouse Productions have fast-tracked a film written by Academy Award-winning screenwriter Charles Randolph, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
It is based on an upcoming book by journalist Katrina Brooker, who conducted in-depth reporting on the company and its recently ousted Israeli-American founder.
The film will examine Neumann’s relationship with Masayoshi Son, the CEO of the Japanese holding company Softbank, which recently took over the struggling company.
Neumann, 40, was forced out as chief executive of WeWork in September as the company’s value has plummeted.
SoftBank, which had invested billions in WeWork in 2017, closed a deal in October that gave it 80 percent ownership of the company. But the deal, which Son called “a mistake” last month, ended up costing SoftBank billions.
Neumann was heavily involved in the Kabbalah movement and made the mystical tradition, which draws from Jewish teachings, part of the office culture, including scheduling meetings on the 18th day of the month, seen as a more auspicious time. Vanity Fair reported recently that Neumann helped President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and Jewish son-in-law Jared Kushner on his Middle East peace effort.
Thousands of Brazilians join Israeli musicale for YouTube performance
By Marcus M. Gilban
SAO PAULO (JTA)—Thousands of Brazilians, Jews and non-Jews, joined a popular Israeli musicale held for the first time in Latin America.
Some 3,000 people gathered Sunday at one of Sao Paulo’s main symbols, the Estaiada Bridge, to sing as part of Koolulam, the infectious initiative that has garnered over 50 million views on YouTube.
“It’s a collective catharsis. Without exaggeration, we can say that Koolulam’s presentation is a life experience,” producer Jussara Gontow told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The show includes a mass rehearsal led by a conductor of one song, performed by the audience, which receives music sheets with the lyrics and is divided into different voices. The performance is filmed, edited and made available for free on the internet.
“Koolulam’s main goal is to bring together strangers who have no singing experience and provoke an innovative, creative, sensory and unforgettable musical moment. Children, youth, adults and the elderly become artists,” Gontow said.
The Brazilian audience sang “Tempos Modernos,” or “Modern Times,” a famous Brazilian song from the 1980s composed and sung by Lulu Santos.
“Participants go through a creative process surrounded by a sense of unity and belonging rarely achieved in our daily lives,” conductor Ben Yaffet said.
Koolulam is a mashup of the English word “cool,” the Hebrew words “kulam” (everyone) and “kol” (voice), and “kululu,” the celebratory ululation of Middle Eastern and North African Jews.
Established in 2017, Koolulam has been performed in Israel, the United States, Canada and South Africa.
British Labour Party omits Jews from campaign video that promotes rights for all
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—The Labour Party failed to mention Jews in an elections campaign video that champions diversity and the rights of over 20 groups.
The 68-second video released this week features images of British people, towns and cities, along with a September speech by Dawn Butler, who holds the party’s Women and Equalities portfolio.
Butler lists various population groups, including people who are LGBT+, straight, Roma, black, white, Asian, disabled, “struggling to pay rent” or “wear a hijab, turban, a cross.” She assures that “a Labour government will value you, just be your true authentic self.”
While Jews make up 0.37 percent of the United Kingdom’s population, leaders of major Jewish groups suggested the omission was not connected to the minority’s limited electoral strength.
Rather, they say, it is linked to the anti-Semitism problem in Labour’s ranks following the 2015 election of Jeremy Corbyn as its leader. Corbyn, a far-left politician, has supported boycotting Israel and called Hamas and Hezbollah his friends.
Jewish Leadership Council Chairman Jonathan Goldstein told the Jewish Chronicle that the omission of Jews from the video was “extraordinary and chilling” and “shows they don’t regard the Jewish community or anti-Semitism as equal to other communities or racism of other types.”
The Board of Deputies of British Jews said that in the video, “The Jewish community is ‘erased’ as a minority group worthy of their support.”
Labour’s media team did not immediately reply to requests for comment from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
KFC relaunching in Israel for the 4th time—but this time it’s not kosher
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—KFC is relaunching in Israel for the fourth time, but this time its restaurants will not be kosher.
The first branch is set to be open this month in the Arab city of Nazareth, in northern Israel, Israel’s Mako news reported.
Negotiations are underway for dozens of other branches throughout the country, according to the report. None of them are slated to be kosher.
KFC announced late last year that it would relaunch in Israel for the fourth time.
Kentucky Fried Chicken opened and closed in Israel in the 1980s and the ’90s, and then remained open between 2003 and 2012.
In KFC’s last incarnation in Israel, franchise owner Udi Shamai’s eight locations went kosher after the company allowed him to switch the milk powder in the crispy coating to soy and to use chickens slaughtered by kosher methods instead of those provided by the company.
“The moment we switched to kosher, sales began to plunge and it was no longer economically viable,” Shamai told Globes in February. “The product was less good, whereas things had gone fine with unkosher chickens.”
KFC has 23,000 outlets in at least 141 countries. It has six outlets in three West Bank Palestinian cities.
Trump campaign will not allow Bloomberg News reporters to cover its rallies and events
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign said it will no longer allow reporters from Bloomberg News to cover Trump rallies and campaign events.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, the founder of the Bloomberg LP business media empire, officially declared himself a Democratic candidate for president late last month.
After Bloomberg entered the race, Bloomberg News editor-in-chief John Micklethwait said the media company would not investigate the candidate and his family or his business, and would extend the same courtesy to the other candidates for the Democratic nomination. But he said the organization would continue to investigate the Trump administration “as the government of the day” and would cover the Trump campaign “fairly.”
Brad Parscale, Trump 2020’s campaign manager, released a statement Monday saying that “The decision by Bloomberg News to formalize preferential reporting policies is troubling and wrong.”
“Since they have declared their bias openly, the Trump campaign will no longer credential representatives of Bloomberg News for rallies or other campaign events. We will determine whether to engage with individual reporters or answer inquiries from Bloomberg News on a case-by-case basis,” Parscale said.
Micklethwait responded: “The accusation of bias couldn’t be further from the truth. We have covered Donald Trump fairly and in an unbiased way since he became a candidate in 2015 and will continue to do so despite the restrictions imposed by the Trump campaign.”
Shelly Morrison, who played Rosario the maid in ‘Will & Grace,’ dies at 83
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Shelly Morrison, a Jewish actress best known for her role as a maid on the long-running comedy series “Will & Grace,” has died.
Morrison, who retired in 2017 after a 50-year acting career, died Sunday of heart failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She was 83.
She played the Salvadoran maid Rosario Inés Consuelo Yolanda Salazar on the NBC comedy from 1999 to 2006. The part had been written as a one-episode walk-on, but Morrison ended up performing in 68 episodes over eight seasons.
Morrison was born Rachel Mitrani in New York to Jewish parents from Spain, and her first language was Spanish.
She was a regular on another television series, “The Flying Nun” starring Sally Fields, playing a Puerto Rican nun, Sister Sixto, who had trouble with English, from 1967 to 1970.
Among her some 25 film appearances and 200 television appearances, Morrison portrayed a maid or housekeeper on 32 occasions.
She appeared in movies with big-name actors including Dean Martin in “How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life,” and Barbra Streisand in “Funny Girl,” both in 1968, as well as Gregory Peck in 1969’s “Mackenna’s Gold.” She also appeared with Shelley Long in “Troop Beverly Hills” in 1989, and with Salma Hayek in “Fools Rush In” in 1997.
Her last official acting role was a voiceover in the 2012 animated film “Foodfight!”
Planning of new Jewish neighborhood in Hebron approved
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett approved the planning of a new Jewish neighborhood in the West Bank city of Hebron.
The neighborhood would double the number of Jews living in Hebron, according to the Defense Ministry, from about 1,000 in small enclaves amid some 215,000 Palestinians.
It will be built near the city’s old market, which has been owned by Jews since the early 1800s. A Palestinian market operated there first under the Jordanians, and then with Israel’s permission between 1967 and the 1990s.
The market buildings will be rebuilt and remain in Palestinian hands, The Jerusalem Post reported, citing the Defense Ministry. The property above the buildings on the ground floor must be “returned to Jewish hands,” the newspaper reported, citing a statement by Bennett’s spokesperson.
A massacre in Hebron in 1929 left 67 Jews dead and led to the evacuation of Jews from the city. Jews resettled there after the 1967 Six-Day War.
Bennett was named defense minister earlier this month by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who previously held the portfolio.
Relations with Israel are at a ‘dead end,’ Abbas tells UN representative
(JNS)—Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said on Saturday that relations between Israel and the P.A. have hit a “dead end,” and urged Europe to recognize a Palestinian state.
Speaking during a meeting in Ramallah with Spanish diplomat and U.N. High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations Miguel Moratinos, Abbas urged Europe to formally recognize a State of Palestine in the West Bank and parts of Jerusalem, the Palestinian Wafa news agency reported.
Such recognition was necessary, said Abbas, to “end the occupation and create an independent state of Palestine with eastern Jerusalem as its capital and within the pre-1967 borders.”
The meeting came following the Nov. 18 announcement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the United States no longer views Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria as illegal, a move the European Union subsequently denounced.
“Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace,” said Pompeo. “The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict, and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”
‘Game of Thrones’ star cancels Belgium appearance over parade with Jewish caricatures
By Cnaan Liphshiz
AMSTERDAM (JTA)—Carice van Houten, a Dutch actress known for her role in the hit series “Game of Thrones,” canceled a television appearance in Belgium over the use of caricatures of Jews at a parade there.
Van Houten, who portrayed Melisandre in the series, and her associate, Halina Reijn, who is married to a Jewish soccer player, both pulled out of the panel of the talk show “The Appointment” after learning it would host Christoph D’Haese, the mayor of Aalst, who has insisted on the legitimacy of caricaturing Jews at his city’s iconic annual carnival.
In March, the carnival featured a float with effigies of grinning Jews holding money, one carrying a rat on its shoulder. The float received widespread condemnation, including by Belgium’s UNIA watchdog on racism, which called it anti-Semitic.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, condemned the display as “racist and anti-Semitic” and scheduled a vote on whether to remove Aalst from its list of culturally significant events. On Sunday, D’Haese said Aalst would leave UNESCO and insisted again that the display falls within legitimate expression of satire in the context of the carnival’s promotion of edgy humor.
“No Halina Reijn and Carice Van Houten as advertised,” Phara de Aguirre, the Belgian show’s presenter, wrote Monday on Twitter. “Reijn is married to a Jewish man and doesn’t want to share a table with Aalst’s mayor.”
De Aguirre quoted Reijn as having called the mayor “an anti-Semite” and said Van Houten canceled out of solidarity.