Weekly roundup of world briefs
February 14, 2020
Yad Vashem apologizes for ‘unfortunate errors’ in films screened at Auschwitz commemoration
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—Yad Vashem apologized for what it said were inaccuracies in some Holocaust films shown at a ceremony it hosted last month.
The apology, sent Monday by email to several prominent Holocaust scholars, noted “a number of inaccuracies that resulted in a partial and unbalanced presentation of the historical facts.”
Specifically, the statement noted the films did not mention the 1939 division of Poland between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union or the conquest of Western Europe in 1940. “In addition, the maps show incorrect borders between Poland and its neighbors and erroneously identify concentration camps as exterminations camps,” Dan Michman, the head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, wrote in the statement.
Hosted by Yad Vashem but organized by the World Holocaust Forum, the Auschwitz commemoration was held under a cloud of controversy as Russia and Poland traded accusations over their respective culpability in the Holocaust in the run-up to the event. Polish President Andrzej Duda eventually declined to attend the event in Jerusalem because he said he had been denied a marquee speaking slot while Russian President Vladimir Putin was given one.
The apology amounted to an acknowledgment that the museum had allowed itself to be dragged into the continuing political squabbles over wartime records.
“We apologize for the unfortunate errors in these short films, which do not represent Yad Vashem’s approach to the historical issues portrayed,” Michman wrote. “As Israel’s and the Jewish People’s national memorial and research institution on the Holocaust, we reiterate our ongoing commitment to historical truth, and to research that stands opposed to efforts at obfuscation and distortion by the political discourse in various countries.”
Pee-wee Herman is back with a tour, and possibly much more
By Curt Schleier
(JTA)—Thirty-five years after his breakthrough film “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure,” and 29 years after that notorious incident in a Florida adult movie theater, Paul Reubens is back.
The comedian known as Pee-wee Herman is embarking on 25-city, two-month tour that will take him across the country. Each performance on the tour will be followed by a screening of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.”
But get ready for even more of everyone’s favorite innocent man-child bedecked in a suit two sizes too small, with the signature red bow tie and Schwinn bike: Other possible Pee-wee projects are in the works.
This was in The Hollywood Reporter last week:
He’s at work on a radio project—something akin to a Pee-wee podcast—and is in talks to develop an animated series centering on Pee-wee and the puppets from his old TV show’s Puppetland. Most intriguing of all, he’s been pitching studios on “The Pee-wee Herman Story,” a very un-Pee-wee-sounding screenplay that takes his puckish TV persona into dark and unexpected territory (Pee-wee gets sent to a mental hospital for shock treatment for his alcoholism, no joke).
The latter part of that could be inspired by Reubens’ real life darkness, which includes two arrests—in 1991 for public indecency and in 2002 for owning child pornography.
While he had some celeb defenders—including Bill Cosby—the arrest essentially ended his career. Reubens made occasional public appearances, but became more of a cult figure.
Reubens—whose father was one of the founding members of the Israeli Air Force—reprised the Pee-wee character in a 2016 Netflix film.
“People have argued I have done everything consciously or unconsciously to destroy [the character], but it’s a brand that won’t die,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg is engaged nearly 5 years after husband’s sudden death
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, is engaged nearly five years after the death of her husband.
Sandberg will marry Tom Bernthal, the founder and CEO of the Los Angeles-based strategic consulting agency Kelton Global, People first reported, citing a Sandberg rep.
The couple were engaged on Saturday following a mountain hike and picnic lunch at Vermejo Park Ranch, according to the magazine. Media mogul Ted Turner owns the nearly 600,000-acre ranch in northeastern New Mexico and southern Colorado.
Sandberg, 50, posted a photo of the couple on Instagram and wrote: “Engaged!!! @tom_bernthal, you are my everything. I could not love you more.”
Her former brother-in-law Rob Goldberg set up the match. Sandberg, the second-in-command at Facebook behind founder Mark Zuckerberg, has two children. Bernthal, 46, has three. Both are Jewish.
Sandberg’s late husband, Dave, who was the CEO of Survey Monkey, died in 2015 after sustaining a head trauma when he fell off a treadmill while on vacation in Mexico with his family.
She wrote a heartfelt essay which she posted to Facebook to mark the shloshim, or end of the 30-day Jewish mourning period after the burial of a close relative.
Swedish-Jewish woman, 60, fights off 3 purse snatchers
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—A Jewish woman about 60 years old was robbed of her Star of David pendant and insulted for being Jewish after fighting off three purse snatchers near an ATM in Sweden.
The Expressen report on Friday afternoon’s incident in Nybro named neither the woman nor described the three male assailants, but it did say they were in their 20s.
After the woman fought off the attackers, one of them tore off the pendant and “mocked her religion,” according to the police description of the incident based on the woman’s complaint. The men fled and entered a parked car nearby.
Police are treating the incident as a hate crime, Expressen reported.
The number of anti-Semitic hate crimes recorded in Sweden rose to a record high in 2018, jumping 53 percent over the 2016 figures, government statistics show.
The Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention listed 280 anti-Semitic hate crimes in 2018 compared to 182 in the previous surveyed year, which was 2016.
Sweden has about 20,000 Jews.
Paris metro passengers stop Arab men from harassing Jewish man
By Cnaan Liphshiz
(JTA)—Passengers aboard a metro train in Paris stopped four Arab men from pursuing a Jewish man they were harassing over his faith, the victim said.
The incident late Saturday night unfolded as the train approached the Jaures station in northeast Paris, the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, or BNVCA, reported Sunday.
The four men asked a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke for a cigarette, said the report based on the man’s testimony. When he said he didn’t have one, one of the men told him: “You Jews have enough money to buy some.”
The Arab men then cornered the man against the wall of the train car, but he escaped. The men pursued him but were blocked by other passengers.
Jews make up less than one percent of the French population, were they were targets of most of the documented racist hate crimes 2019. The French Interior Ministry published the data last month in a report that counted 687 anti-Semitic incidents last year out of a total of 1,142 racist hate crimes.
Red Hot Chili Peppers will headline a new Israeli music festival
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Red Hot Chili Peppers announced that they will perform in Israel this summer.
The performance in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park scheduled for June 10 will come in the middle of the band’s European tour.
The group will headline Funkyard, a new Israeli music festival.
The Red-Hot Chili Peppers last appeared in Israel in 2012, at a concert that brought tens of thousands of fans to Yarkon Park.
During that concert, the band talked about the Israeli-born Hillel Slovak, their Jewish founding guitar player who died from a drug overdose in the early 1990s. Band leader Anthony Kiedis talked about Hillel on stage and yelled, “Hillel Slovak forever!”
New emoji is Israelis’ way of saying ‘wait a minute’
By Marcy Oster
(JTA)—A symbol of pinched fingers—ubiquitous among Israelis saying “wait a minute” or “have patience”—has been included in the 2020 list of approved emojis.
But the nonprofit Unicode Consortium, the organization that approves new emojis, is calling the emoji showing all fingers and thumb held together in a vertical orientation the “Italian hand gesture,” or “finger purse.” Italians use the symbol to show disagreement.
Try telling that to Israelis. They will only be able to think of it as the symbol for “rak rega,” or just a minute.
Meanwhile, the Arab world also claims the gesture, with the Twittersphere celebrating the new emoji by calling it the “Arab mom’s favorite emoji.”
At least Israelis and Arabs can agree that they are happy with the new character.
The Unicode Consortium’s main function is to develop a universal character encoding scheme, allowing people around the world to use digital devices in any language. But it is more commonly known for selecting the emoji icons used by the world’s smartphones based on submissions from individuals and organizations who present their case with evidence for why each one is essential.
The organization last week announced the approval of 117 new emojis for 2020. Among the new symbols are people hugging, a gender neutral Santa and a father feeding baby. Oh, and an anatomical heart.
Sefaria, the online free Jewish library, last year designed a Torah emoji that it planned to submit to the consortium for consideration. In May, the Conference of European Rabbis called on the consortium to add new emojis to represent Jews — namely, a man wearing a kippah and a woman wearing a head covering.
There are now about 3,000 approved emojis.
Israeli pop star Noa Kirel joins the Israeli army
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—The Israeli teen pop star Noa Kirel is a soldier now.
Kirel, who joined the Israeli army on Sunday, became a viral hit on YouTube in 2015 and has gone on to star in Israeli movies and television series.
She will serve in the orchestra corps, which performs in parades, official military and state ceremonies, graduation courses and to entertain troops. Kirel will have her own band rather than join an already established army band.
Several Israeli stars in recent years have evaded being drafted into the Israeli military, most notably model Bar Refaeli, who married a family friend in order to avoid service.
Kirel said she is looking forward to performing for the soldiers.
“It is a crazy and a huge privilege,” she told Israel’s Channel 12 news.
The Israel Defense Forces has had to establish special guidelines in dealing with the star, including forbidding fellow soldiers from taking selfies with her or photographing her on the base, Channel 12 reported.
She later posted a photo of herself on Instagram in her uniform.
Israeli lawmaker donates kidney to a stranger
By Marcy Oster
JERUSALEM (JTA)—A Knesset lawmaker is recovering in the hospital after donating his kidney to a stranger.
Yehiel (Hili) Tropper, 41, of the Blue and White coalition in a widely reported announcement to his friends and supporters on Monday said he had the surgery the day before at Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital.
“The surgery went well, and the kidney was transplanted successfully,” Tropper said. “For the next few days, I will stay in the hospital and then I will go home for recovery. I will of course be available for any matter, only a little further away for the upcoming period of time. I hope to get back to things fully soon.”
Tropper, a father of four, told Ynet that he will meet the donor next week.
The Jerusalem Post reported that Tropper is the first Knesset member to donate a kidney in Israel.
The transplant was arranged through Matnat Chaim, a nonprofit organization based in Jerusalem that works to encourage kidney donations.
Tropper entered the Knesset with the Blue and White coalition after the April elections last year and was re-elected in September. He is 12th on the coalition’s list for the March balloting.
In HBO’s first ‘The Plot Against America’ trailer, Jews are under attack
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA)—The first trailer for HBO’s adaptation of the Philip Roth novel “The Plot Against America” was released on Thursday.
The series, co-created by David Simon and based on Roth’s 2004 novel of the same name, premieres on March 16. It stars John Turturro (as a rabbi), Winona Ryder, Zoe Kazan and Morgan Spector (best known for his role on “Homeland,” the American adaptation of the Israeli series “Hatufim”).
Fans of the Roth novel should be excited, as the trailer shows that the miniseries is faithful to the book’s plot. In the novel’s alternate history, Charles Lindbergh, the aviator-turned-anti-Semitic-populist, becomes president and stokes anti-Jewish fear throughout the U.S.
“There’s a lot of hate out there, and he knows how to tap into it,” Spector’s character Herman says of Lindbergh in the trailer.
Jerry Seinfeld writing new book tracing 45 years of his stand-up routines
By Marc Brodsky
NEW YORK (JTA)—Get ready with the “yada yada” references, Jerry Seinfeld is coming out with another book about comedy.
More than 25 years after he sold a million copies with “Seinlanguage,” the star of the megahit “Seinfeld” and “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” will present the best of his stand-up material from nearly a half-century honing his craft.
Simon & Schuster said the as-yet untitled book will be out in early October.
“Whenever I came up with a funny bit, whether it happened on a stage, in a conversation, or working it out on my preferred canvas, the big yellow legal pad, I kept it in one of those old-school accordion folders,” Seinfeld, 65, said in a statement, The Associated Press reported. “So, I have every piece of stand-up comedy I thought was worth saving from 45 years of hacking away at this for all I was worth.”
According to reports, the book will show how Seinfeld’s comedy has evolved since he broke into the comedy biz in the 1970s as a college student.
“Seinlanguage,” from 1993, was among the top sellers that year. Seinfeld also is the author of the children’s book “Halloween” from 2002.
Tom Stoppard explores his Jewish heritage for the first time in new play ‘Leopoldstadt’
By Gabe Friedman
(JTA)—Tom Stoppard, the winner of multiple Tony Awards and an Oscar, and the author of plays such as “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” and “Travesties,” is often described as one of the best living playwrights.
He’s not often described as Jewish, which he is, perhaps in part because he has never explored Jewish themes in his work.
That could change after his latest play, “Leopoldstadt,” debuts at Wyndham’s Theater in London on Feb. 12.
The story involves multiple generations of a wealthy intermarried family in Vienna’s old Jewish quarter in the early part of the 20th century. The Jewish Chronicle reports it involves a seder, a “hilarious” bris and discussions of assimilation.
Leopoldstadt was the name of Vienna’s Jewish ghetto during World War II, and it’s symbolic of how far the Jewish family involved in the plot has come.
Stoppard told the Chronicle that the story is not autobiographical, but he feels close to the theme of not feeling connected to one’s Jewishness. Stoppard, born Tomas Straussler, didn’t know he was Jewish until a relative told him in the 1990s. His family fled their native Czechoslovakia during World War II to Singapore, and then left to India after Japan began attacking there. Stoppard’s father was killed by a Japanese bomb.
Stoppard’s mother married an English man and gave her children his surname.
Stoppard’s son Ed, an accomplished actor in his own right, plays a part in “Leopoldstadt.”
“I’ve never felt more connected to my heritage,” Ed Stoppard told the Guardian.