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Burlington synagogue will unveil the Lost Mural’s restoration – Burlington Free Press

Posted By on July 2, 2022

A historic work of Lithuanian Jewish folk art, forgotten behind a false wall for decades, has been restored and will be unveiled Tuesday at a Burlington synagogue.

The artwork that has come to be known as The Lost Mural will be revealed to donors to the restoration project in an event at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, at the Ohavi Zedek Synagogue. The public is invited to an event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, that will include Yiddish music and dance courtesy of the Nisht Geferlach Klezmer Band.

Non-donors can view the 4:30 p.m. unveiling via a livestream on the Lost Murals Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lostshulmural. That event will include appearances by former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin, U.S. Rep Peter Welch, D-Vt., and Karen Mittelman, executive director of the Vermont Arts Council.

According to a news release announcing the unveiling, the Lost Mural is a rare survivor of an Eastern European decorative folk-art style nearly obliterated during the Holocaust. Project conservator Rick Kerschner discovered the hardening varnish was endangering the mural, prompting the volunteer-led restoration project.

The Chai Adam congregation in Burlington commissioned Lithuanian immigrant artist Ben Zion Black in 1910 to paint the mural in its synagogue in the prevalent style of the wooden shuls of Eastern Europe. Decades later, the synagogue was sold and converted into apartments; the 155-square-foot mural was covered by a false wall and forgotten for almost 30 years before the volunteer group moved the mural to the Ohavi Zedek lobby.

The full story in previous coverage:

The mural tells us a remarkable story of a thriving Jewish immigrant community from Lithuania and the successful efforts of their descendants to preserve their cultural legacy today, Audra Plepyte, ambassador of Lithuania to the United States, said in the news release. The preservation of this masterpiece is an encouraging example that it is possible to restore the memory of our past and bring communities and people together.

Contact Brent Hallenbeck at bhallenbeck@freepressmedia.com. Follow Brent on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/BrentHallenbeck

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Burlington synagogue will unveil the Lost Mural's restoration - Burlington Free Press

Project to preserve and re-use Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights gains momentum, focus and nearly $3M in st – cleveland.com

Posted By on July 2, 2022

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio The future of Park Synagogues Conservative Jewish congregation lies in Pepper Pike, where it is expanding a new religious and educational campus established in 2007 at Shaker Boulevard and Brainard Road.

But an effort to plan a new, long-term future for the congregations old main building in Cleveland Heights, a globally-admired, mid-century modern masterpiece by architect Eric Mendelsohn, is gaining traction and focus, thanks in part to nearly $3 million in new grants from the state of Ohio.

In June, the state announced that the synagogue had received $1 million from its capital budget to repair and upgrade electrical and mechanical systems in the Mendelsohn building. Last week, the effort received another $1.8 million for the removal of lead and asbestos.

The latter grant came through the states Department of Development through its new Ohio Brownfield Remediation Program. It was one of 25 grants totaling more than $50 million awarded to Cuyahoga County projects, which accounted for 26% of the statewide total of $192 million in brownfield grants.

Im encouraged by the support from the state and it gives me hope that funding a very large, complicated project is possible, said Naomi Sabel, a partner of Cleveland-based Sustainable Community Associates, the real estate development firm engaged by the congregation in 2021 to explore new options for the building and the parklike 28-acre property surrounding it.

Mendelsohn quartet

Built in 1950 at 3300 Mayfield Rd., the Mendelsohn building is one of four synagogues in the U.S. designed by the German-Jewish architect after he fled Nazism in 1933. The other examples are in St. Louis, Saint Paul, and Grand Rapids.

Photos of the landmark Eric Mendelsohn Building at Park Synagogue's 28-acre campus in Cleveland Heights.Courtesy Park Synagogue, Ardon Bar-Hama

Park is known for having a sanctuary shaped like the prow of a ship, with a massive copper dome on top that gives the building a distinctive silhouette. It is also showing signs of age, including leaks and crumbling mortar in parts of its cream-colored brick facades.

Last year, the congregation listed it for sale, raising alarms among preservation advocates over the possibility that it could have fallen into unsympathetic hands.

The congregation allayed those fears last September when it partnered with Sustainable Community Associates to come up with a plan to preserve and adaptively reuse the building and, possibly, add new development on the surrounding 28 acres.

Founded in 2002, the firm has completed $100 million worth of projects in Oberlin and Cleveland over the past two decades, with an emphasis on reviving urban neighborhoods by renovating or building new apartments mixed with retail.

After surveying Cleveland Heights residents, the Sustainable Community partners, Naomi Sabel, Josh Rosen, and Ben Ezinga, say theyre focusing on converting the synagogue building into an arts and cultural education facility.

Future options

The surrounding property, flanked by residential neighborhoods to the east, west, and south, and by Mayfield Road to the north, could become a site for intergenerational and senior housing for residents looking to downsize from single-family homes in the community.

Photos of the landmark Eric Mendelsohn Building at Park Synagogue's 28-acre campus in Cleveland Heights.Courtesy Park Synagogue, Ardon Bar-Hama

Were hearing from a lot of folks that they are not wanting to own their old home in Cleveland Heights anymore but they desperately want to stay in the community, Rosen said. They want to continue being Cleveland Heights residents, they want to continue being Cleveland Heights taxpayers, and there are not enough housing options for them.

Adding new housing to the synagogue property could boost the citys tax base, Rosen said.

Cleveland Heights lost 37% of its commercial, industrial, and residential tax base between 1960 and 2018, declining from $1.3 billion to $838 million in inflation-adjusted figures according to data compiled for cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer by Cleveland State University researchers. It was one of the top 10 tax base losers among 226 Northeast Ohio communities analyzed in the study.

A map based on inflation-adjusted, assessed property tax values for 226 communities in seven Northeast Ohio counties shows gains and losses channeled by highway-induced suburban development between 1960 and 2018. County auditor information was gleaned by Cleveland State University researchers through the Ohio Department of Taxation.Northern Ohio Data & Information Service, Cleveland State University

New housing could potentially be inserted on the old Park main property along Mayfield Road, now used as a parking lot for school buses, Rosen and Sabel said.

We want to keep as much of the parklike atmosphere as possible, but there are really great opportunities to add density, Sabel said.

The consultants have hired Raymond Bobgan, the executive artistic director of Cleveland Public Theatre, to explore cultural and educational uses for the Mendelsohn building that would avoid duplicating other facilities in and around Cleveland.

Precedents for using a synagogue as an arts facility include the recent conversion of the Temple-Tifereth Israel in University Circle into Case Western Reserve Universitys Maltz Performing Arts Center, and the earlier conversion of Bnai Amoona, the Mendelsohn synagogue in St. Louis, as the home of the nonprofit COCA, the Center of Creative Arts.

Images of the newly completed expansion of the Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at Case Western Reserve University, which incorporates the historic Temple-Tifereth Israel synagogue.Roger Mastroianni for Case Western Reserve University

Raising a profile

While Park Synagogue is revered by architectural historians, it is less widely appreciated in Northeast Ohio, in part because it isnt visible from Mayfield Road. Its set far back from the road on a hillside flanked by trees because Mendelsohn wanted to emphasize a spiritual immersion in nature.

The Sustainable Community partners aim to raise the buildings visibility by applying to have it listed as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places.

Architectural historians in U.S. Germany, Ireland and Israel have also launched an effort to list at least two of Mendelsohns postwar synagogues in the U.S., including Park, as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

I find it surprising that the Cleveland [Heights] building has such a low profile, Kathleen James-Chakraborty, a professor of art history at University College Dublin, said in a recent interview. The others are better known and more appreciated in their community.

James-Chakraborty called the project to reuse Bnai Amoona in St. Louis one of the most successful community arts centers in the country.

Photos of the landmark Eric Mendelsohn Building at Park Synagogue's 28-acre campus in Cleveland Heights.Courtesy Park Synagogue, Ardon Bar-Hama

Sabel and Rosen said that while theyre increasingly focused on the idea of building an intergenerational neighborhood with new housing around a synagogue repurposed as a cultural facility, they will continue consulting with elected officials and residents through the summer and into the fall. And they plan to apply for Ohio historic preservation tax credits next spring.

They also said they want to provide an example of real estate development that harmonizes with community aspirations in Cleveland Heights, in contrast to bitter controversies that dogged recent projects, including new apartments in the Cedar-Lee-Meadowbrook neighborhood, and the Top of the Hill project at Cedar-Fairmount.

Were trying to break out of the mold of negativity around development projects, Rosen said.

The congregation, meanwhile, is happy with the progress so far.

Park Synagogue is so pleased with the collaborative efforts of Sustainable Community Associates to preserve and repurpose our historic Mendelsohn building as we transition our activities to our eastern campus, congregation President Susan Ratner said in an email.

We are thrilled that the State of Ohio recognizes the value of this landmark building and its importance to the Jewish and non-Jewish community, she added. We look forward to the next steps as the planning process continues for the creative re-use of one of Clevelands most significant buildings.

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Project to preserve and re-use Park Synagogue in Cleveland Heights gains momentum, focus and nearly $3M in st - cleveland.com

Synagogue service times: Week of July 1 | Synagogues – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on July 2, 2022

ConservativeAgudath B'nai Israel

Meister Road at Pole Ave., Lorain

Ritual Director Mark Jaffee

440-282-3307

abitemplelorain.com

750 White Pond Dr., Akron

Rabbi Jeremy Lipton

330-864-2105

bethelakron.com

27501 Fairmount Blvd., Pepper Pike

Senior Rabbi Hal Rudin-Luria; Stanley J. Schachter, Rabbi Emeritus; Cantor Aaron Shifman

216-831-6555

bnaijeshurun.org

Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo Congregation

27500 Shaker Blvd,

Pepper Pike, OH 44124

Joshua Skoff, Senior Rabbi; Sharon Y. Marcus, Associate Rabbi; Rosette Barron Haim, Guest Rabbi; Milton B. Rube, Rabbi-in-Residence; Misha Pisman, Cantor; Gadi Galili, Ritual Director

216-371-2244; TDD # 216-371-8579

parksynagogue.org

26811 Fairmount Blvd., Beachwood

Rabbi Scott B. Roland; Cantor Beth Schlossberg; Gary Paller, Cantor Emeritus

216-765-8300

shaareytikvah.org

3246 Desota Ave., Cleveland Heights

Rabbi Michael Ungar

216-320-9667

bethelheights.org

Montefiore Maltz Chapel

One David N. Myers Parkway., Beachwood

Rabbi Akiva Feinstein; Cantor Gary Paller

216-360-9080

30799 Pinetree Road, #401, Pepper Pike

Rabbi Eddie Sukol

216-509-9969

rabbieddie@theshul.us

theshul.us

1700 S. Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights

Rabbi Boruch Hirschfeld

216-932-6064

25400 Fairmount Blvd., Beachwood

Rabbi Ari Spiegler; Rabbi Emeritus David S. Zlatin

216-556-0010

Beachwoodkehilla.org

23711 Chagrin Blvd., Beachwood

Rabbi Moshe Gancz

216-647-4884

clevelandjewishlearning.com

2437 S. Green Road, Beachwood

Rabbi Binyamin Blau; Melvin Granatstein, Rabbi Emeritus

216-381-4757

GreenRoadSynagogue.org

14270 Cedar Road, University Heights

Rabbi Raphael Davidovich

216-382-1958

hjcs.org

1771 S. Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights

Rabbi Yehuda Blum

216-321-1033

27100 Cedar Road, Beachwood

Associate Rabbi Joseph Kirsch

216-831-6500

23749 Cedar Road, Lyndhurst

Rabbi Noah Leavitt

216-382-6566

office@oz-cedarsinai.org

oz-cedarsinai.org

2004 S. Green Road, South Euclid

Rabbi Yossi Marozov

216-235-6498

5570 Harper Road, Solon

Rabbi Zushe Greenberg

440-498-9533

office@solonchabad.com

solonchabad.com

1970 S. Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights

216-321-4875

2479 S. Green Road, Beachwood

Rabbis Shalom Ber Chaikin and Shmuli Friedman

216-282-0112

info@ChabadofCleveland.com

wccrabbi@gmail.com

Hebrew Academy (HAC), 1860 S. Taylor Road

Beachwood (Stone), 2463 Green Road

Rabbis Naphtali Burnstein and Aharon Dovid Lebovics

216-382-5740

office@yigc.org

2203 S. Green Road, Beachwood

Rabbi Alexander Charlop

216-407-7398

Rabbi Steve Segar

216-320-1498

connect@kolhalev.net

kolhalev.net

7599 Center St., Mentor

Spiritual Director Renee Blau;

Assistant Spiritual Director Elise Aitken

440-255-1544

23737 Fairmount Blvd., Beachwood

Rabbis Robert Nosanchuk and

Joshua Caruso; Cantor Vladimir Lapin; Associate Rabbi Elle Muhlbaum; Cantor Laureate Sarah J. Sager

See the rest here:

Synagogue service times: Week of July 1 | Synagogues - Cleveland Jewish News

After Roe: How Jewish groups in states with abortion bans are responding – Forward

Posted By on July 2, 2022

This map produced by the Guttmacher Institute shows abortion access by state as of June 30, 2022. Graphic by Guttmacher Institute

By Stewart AinJune 30, 2022

Reeling from last weeks Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, a synagogue inMissouri, one of nine states where abortion is now totally banned, set up a fund to help peopleneeding to travel to terminate pregnancies. Within hours of it being established on Sunday, awoman asked for help, and members of the congregation volunteered to drive her to a clinic inneighboring Illinois.

Shes a local person who knows our congregation to be generous and supportive, said Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose of Congregation Bnai Amoona, a Conservative synagogue in St. Louis. We are a blue city in a red state, he added. The fund we set up is now coming from my discretionary fund and well find a donor to endow it.

Five hundred miles away in Oklahoma City, Rabbi Abby Jacobson of Emanuel Synagogue said her community was sad and scared about the impact of the ruling but unable to take any direct action because of a state law passed in May that allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps people obtain abortions.

We could be prosecuted for even saying in a newspaper that we would assist someone to get an abortion, Rabbi Jacobson said. In Oklahoma, the Jews represent 0.0013% of the population. We are joining with strong interfaith communities to do what we can to help people through this time and continuing trying to fight decisions made for the purpose of religion.

Some 83% of American Jews think abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to the Pew Research Center, compared to 61% of the U.S. population overall. The largest Jewish communities are in New York and California, states that are moving to shore up abortion rights and provide services to people beyond their borders. But there are also significant Jewish populations in many of the 26 states where abortion is expected to soon be outlawed or severely restricted.

The National Council of Jewish Women, which helped establish what eventually became PlannedParenthood clinics in the U.S., has partnered with the National Abortion Federation, raising $200,000 since May 15 for its new Jewish Fund for Abortion Access. Other national organizations, including the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance and the Reform, Reconstructionist and Conservative movements, have issued strong statements opposing the courts ruling and are encouraging people to support NCJW.

Jody Rabhan, chief policy officer of NCJW, said the money raised would go directly to paying for travel costs, including hotels since many states have waiting periods of up to 72 hours between an abortion consultation and procedure, as well as for child care and lost wages.

She said the group is also working on a strategy of legislative responses at the state level.There are things we can do, this is not over, Rabhan said. This is not just a womans issue, it impacts everybody.

NCJW and the Israel on Campus Coalition have decided to cover travel expenses for employees or their dependents to obtain abortion services, eJewishPhilanthropy reported earlier this week, and Hillel International is considering doing so. Jewish Federations in the states with abortion bans have so far taken a cautious approach, eJP reported, though there is discussion in Alabama of filing a lawsuit challenging the ban on religious-freedom grounds, since Jewish law allows abortions in some cases, a strategy already underway in Florida.

The Supreme Court has thrown it to every state to decide, so we will see battles in every state, said Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. She noted that in her state, Pennsylvania, there is state legislation pending that would severely restrict abortions and a gubernatorial election in November in which a Jewish Democrat who supports abortion rights faces a Christian nationalist who is staunchly anti-abortion.

Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg, who sits on the Rabbinical Assemblys gender and power committee and is scholar-in-residence at NCJW, spoke of a multi-pronged approach that includes working to get out the vote, lobbying in state legislatures, and helping people who need to travel to get the services they need.

We are going to fight to get our right to abortion access back, Ruttenberg said. We have to be fighting on every prong. We need all hands on deck and there is a lot of deck.

Meanwhile, individual rabbis are crafting individual responses. Rabbi Barry Black of Congregation Bnai Israel in Little Rock, Arkansas, said he is planning to offerhis discretionary fund to help people travel to the closest abortion clinic, which is 344 miles away in Wichita, Kansas.

It is going to be costly for low-income women, women of color, and people with a uterus who dont identify as women will be especially vulnerable and may have a hard time accessing a safe and legal abortion, Black said. I have had many people thank me for publicly declaring that I would make myself available to assist people who need to travel to obtain a safe and legal abortion.

Kansas currently allows abortion up to 22 weeks, and the states Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the state constitution guarantees the right to abortion. But there is an initiative on the Aug. 2 ballot that would amend the constitution, and thus add restrictions or outright ban abortions.

Everybody here is focused on that, said Rabbi Doug Alpert of Congregation Kol Ami, a 60-family synagogue across the state line in Kansas City, Missouri.

In Dallas, Rabbi Nancy Kasten of a group called Faith Commons, said she attended an interfaith vigil at a local church after Shabbat services the night of the Supreme Court ruling and that people there talked about creating a fund, like the one at the St. Louis synagogue, to support people needing to travel to obtain legal abortions.

Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy of Congregation Kol Emet in Yardley, Pennsylvania, said she wouldabsolutely use her discretionary fund to help someone who needed an abortion or other necessary medical care.

Another rabbi in Pennsylvania, who spoke on condition of anonymity to maintain her privacy, said she discovered from personal experience that even when abortion is legal, it is not always easy to obtain. When she discovered she was pregnant again shortly after giving birth about five years ago, she was overwhelmed by the thought of having another child so soon.

She said she drove to a Planned Parenthood clinic an hour from her home to get information about her options. But Pennsylvania law barred them from offering medical advice. Instead, the rabbi said, she was told she would be required to first watch a video and then return 48hours later if she wanted have an abortion. So she drove to a clinic in New Jersey.

Ultrasound revealed I had had an early miscarriage, because there was no heartbeat, the rabbi recalled, and the embryo did not spontaneously abort. The doctors removed the dead fetus.

Stewart Ain, an award-winning veteran journalist, covers the Jewish community. Follow him on Twitter@AinStewart or emailstewartain@gmail.com.

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After Roe: How Jewish groups in states with abortion bans are responding - Forward

Jewish cemetery in Winnipeg, Canada, finds 70 tombstones toppled to ground – JNS.org

Posted By on July 2, 2022

(July 1, 2022 / JNS) The Winnipeg Police Service in Canada is investigating what some in the Jewish community are calling a case of major vandalism after some 70 gravestones at the citys largest Jewish cemetery were found toppled to the ground on Wednesday.

The Shaarey Zedek Cemetery dates back to the early 1900s. It is affiliated with Congregation Shaarey Zedek, a Conservative synagogue there.

In a message to the synagogues membership about the incident, executive director of Congregation Shaarey Zedek Ran Ukashi wrote: There was no graffiti on any of the stones or cemetery property. Associates from local monument companies are working to reinstall the headstones, and cemetery staff are recording any damage for repair. Next of kin noted on plot contracts will be notified if there was any damage to a headstone.

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Canada tweeted: Were horrified by the despicable vandalism that occurred at the cemetery of Congregation Shaarey Zedek. This act shows sheer disrespect toward members of Winnipegs Jewish community whose loved ones final resting place was desecrated.

Some 70 gravestones at the citys largest Jewish cemetery were found toppled to the ground on June 29, 2022. Source: Screenshot.

An estimated 14,000 Jews live in the city. According to Gustavo Zentner, president of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, you would be hard-pressed to find a Jewish person in Winnipeg who doesnt have a friend or relative buried there.

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It is hard to comprehend that anyone would put this amount of effort into such a despicable act, and it is something that most communities would struggle to cope with if they were faced with a similar attack, he said.

Zentner added that the incident has caused much distress among Jewish residents but was heartened by the response of the community at large, which has expressed their revulsion to the incident.

The last time a Jewish cemetery was vandalized in Winnepeg was in 2014, according to the Federation.

Winnipeg is not immune to the trend of increasing anti-Semitic incidents taking place across Canada; however, we do not know if the perpetrators were motivated by anti-Semitism or if this was simple vandalism, he said. We are hopeful that the police will identify this as part of their investigation.

In more positive news, Zentner said we are pleased to announce that all of the headstones have been reinstalled to their normal placement. The location of the vandalism was in sections 1 and 2we are in the process of cataloging the damage and contacting families. The Winnipeg Police investigation continues, and we hope for justice in this matter. We will provide additional information should this be resolved.

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Jewish cemetery in Winnipeg, Canada, finds 70 tombstones toppled to ground - JNS.org

The 125 greatest Jewish movie scenes of all time (1-25) – Forward

Posted By on July 2, 2022

Scenes from "Inglorious Basterds," "Funny Girl" and "Der Dybbuk" capture a Jewish je ne sais quoi. Photo by Angelie Zaslavsky

By PJ GrisarJuly 01, 2022

For as long as there have been moving pictures, there have been Jews.

This isnt really saying much, as the medium of film is millennia newer than the People of the Book. And yet, while Jews had an outsized role in shaping Hollywood, Jewish content wasnt always visible onscreen. The major stars of the silent and pre-code era typically werent of Hebrew stock and, if they were, pretty reliably changed their names along with Jewish directors. In building what Neal Gabler dubbed An Empire of Their Own, moguls recognized the bulk of their audience was Christian, and picked their projects accordingly.

But there were always exceptions that proved the rule. Some Jews, both in America and abroad, couldnt help but slyly insert some Yiddishkeit into their films. Austrian screenwriter Henrik Galeen, drawing from Jewish mysticism, helped define the horror genre with Der Golem. William Wyler got John Barrymore to say gonif in Counsellor at Law and the Brothers Marx spoke of their plan to pass over a Jewish neighborhood in Cocoanuts. The first talkie, 1927s The Jazz Singer, followed the son of a cantor and the generational rift between Old World observance and assimilation.

While Ben Hecht wrote the original Scarface, an Italian gangster flick for Yiddish theater veteran Paul Muni (n Frederich Meshilem Meier Weisenfreund), Yiddish film thrived in Europe and the U.S. With the rise of the Third Reich, Hollywood welcomed a crop of European Jewish talent (directors like Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger and Fritz Lang) whose work would enrich the landscape of American film. But their films werent necessarily Jewish at least not yet.

By the 1960s, studios, once reticent to touch on Jewish topics out of disinterest, fear of an alienated audience or the threat of German boycott throughout the 1930s were happy to roll the dice on actors named Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand. Filmmakers like Mel Brooks, Mike Nichols, Elaine May and Woody Allen would kick off a renaissance of Jewish humor in the movies, fully committing to what their predecessors only hinted at. Paul Mazursky and Sidney Lumet would capture the counterculture and document the life of survivors. Otto Preminger would make Exodus with Paul Newman. Hollywood was Jewish and so, in many instances, was the film scene in Europe, South America and a new state in the Levant called Israel. Hearing the words mazel tov or schlep or seeing a bride and groom lifted aloft on chairs as Hava Nagila plays was no longer uncommon at the cinema.

If you were to edit the greatest Jewish scenes into a montage, how long would it last? Perhaps not the whole Parsha cycle, but it would be a real commitment to watch the entire thing. This list, which features some surprises, many obvious choices and surely just as many accidental omissions, is an attempt to capture the diversity and scope of Jewish moments in the film canon. Some highlight ritual, others language and still others a worldview or perspective that resonates with the shul-going, shiva-sitting, saw-you-at-Zabars set thats been kicking around since Sinai.

To assemble this list, we relied on a panel of experts, including critic Leonard Maltin and film historian Olga Gershenson. The contributors to this list are senior editor Adam Langer (AL), writer and comedian Jess Zeidman (JZ), The Hebrew Hammer writer and director Jonathan Kesselman (JK), Comedy by the Numbers co-writer Gary Rudoren (GR), author and pop culture historian Dan Epstein (DE), music historian and inaugural director of the YIVO recorded sound archive Henry Sapoznik (HS), film critic Simi Horwitz (SH), staff writer Irene Katz Connelly (IKC), staff reporter Mira Fox (MF), film critic Carrie Rickey (CR), former Forward executive editor Dan Friedman (DF), Forward contributing art critic Jackson Arn (JA) and New York historian and tour guide Andrew Silverstein (AS). You will also find essays that take a closer look at Haredi life captured on film, a tour de force takedown of Hitler, what makes movie sets Jewish and more.

The list ranges from the silent era to the Safdie Brothers, includes animated mice, Yiddish, Inquisition-themed synchronized swimming and yes, even the Neil Diamond Jazz Singer remake. Please read, enjoy and, if the spirit moves you, watch.

In a less sophisticated twist on the Maus formula, Don Bluths animated immigration tale imagines Old World mice as Jews, and Cossacks as cats. In a musical number, main character Fievel Mousekowitzs father sings a song of hope for their new home. There are no cats in America, he insists, as an ensemble of bearded and head-wrapped rodents join hands and leap over the promise of streets paved with cheese. Naturally, theyre wrong in the end: There arecats in America. Its a good lesson for young Jews, whether theyre named Moskowitz or Katz: Prejudice can thrive anywhere.

After surviving an attack from a large lupine creature on the Yorkshire moors, Jewish American David Kessler (David Naughton) lands in a London hospital. Consulting his chart, one of the nurses claims to know his religious affiliation, having looked at more than just his papers. Her co-worker, Alex (Jenny Agutter) says without ever uttering the word circumcision that it is common practice nowadays. While Alex claims that her colleagues sheet-peeking behavior was not proper, shes soon offering David a full body exam for non-medical purposes.

Perceiving himself through the eyes of his upper crust WASP hosts, Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) morphs into a Hasid, sporting a long coat, broad-brimmed hat and payot. It is Easter dinner, ham is on the menu and antisemitism is never far from the surface. Grammy Hall eyes their Jewish guest with unabashed distaste. The family is sedate and refined, talking about boating and swap meets (a New England tradition where locals trade used goods). Breaking the fourth wall, Alvy addresses the audience, noting they are nothing like my family, you know. In a split screen we see the Singer family at a dinner table, all crowded up against one another, pushing, shoving, reaching for the food, speaking at once, interrupting, arguing. Its an extraordinary snippet of affection coupled with self-loathing. (SH)

Shloime Mikhoels and Yiddish poet Itzik Feffer, who spearheaded the Jewish Anti-Fascist League in 1941, star in this short film made in collaboration with Sergei Eisentein. Made to rouse the awareness of world Jewry, it does not fail when it comes to shock value. In an indelible moment, Mikhoels, speaking directly into the camera, makes the sensational and since disproven assertion that soap is being made from murdered Jews. (HS)

At the films exact midpoint, hustling protagonist Duddy (Richard Dreyfuss) screens a pretentious art film, Happy Bar Mitzvah, Bernie, co-produced with a scrap-metal yard. It kicks off with Beethovens Fifth and unnecessarily baroque shots showing details of the shul as the bar mitzvah boy makes his way to the bimah and a narrator portentously explains that this rite is older than the banks of the Nile. Somehow we pivot from Bernie a Hebrew babe kissing the Torah mantle and reading his portion to flashbacks to his bris juxtaposed alongside goose-stepping Nazis, a Native American tribal dance and a man eating razor blades. A zayde faints. But as if daring the viewers to dispute this films merit, the short ends with the rabbi explaining the long history of Jewish genocides. In a remarkably subversive nod to the commoditization of both this sacred initiation and tragic memory, the rabbi then signs a copy of his book, Why Im Glad to Be a Jew, and hands it to Bernie as a gift. When the film fades to black on a faux cantorial prayer, we hear stony silence. But then, a round of applause. Who would boo a film that ends with an invocation of the Shoah?

The Hebrew Actors Union, the worlds first theater union, paid to have a promotional short made of its vaunted (read dreaded) secret audition. The slapdash and chaotic 20-minute short documents the authoritarian and exclusivist union as it slowly chokes the life out of the Yiddish American theater. The most eye-popping of the half-dozen auditions belongs to Dadaist poet/Yiddish radio personality Victor Packer who, sporting Grand Guignol-like makeup meant to be appreciated from a theaters back row, gives an over-the-top gymnastic performance from Jacob Gordins 1900 play, Got, mentsh un tayvl (God, Man and the Devil). (HS)

We all know this scene. Extended family squeezed around the Thanksgiving table that itself extends through two rooms of the house. Everyone wants to eat, but the patriarch says wait. Tradition! Well in this funny-cuz-it-feels-so-true family scene from Barry Levinsons tale of generations of Jewish immigrants in Baltimore, that tradition finally gets busted when the annually late Uncle Gabriel played by the lovably cantankerous actor Lou Jacobi (he of perfect timing) announces that hes leaving because they cut the turkey without him. The movie is anything but a turkey. (GR)

I am a Jew, an Egyptian soldier shouts at a pivotal moment in Rafi Bukais 1986 dramedy, controversial for its focus on fighters on the other side of the 1967 War. Haled (Salim Daw) has wandered through the Sinai and is thirsty but he also knows his Shakespeare. In an effort to get Israeli soldiers to lend him and his companion their canteens, he launches into Shylocks most famous monologue, pleading his humanity. Hes got his roles confused, barks one Israeli, unimpressed.

Made during Yiddish theater impresario Boris Thomashefskys forgotten-but-not-gone period (he had recently taken to performing in a Romanian restaurant on the Lower East Side), this, the only film by the former stage heartthrob, is a sad coda to what was once a glorious and influential career. The films most memorable scene and a reminder of its stage provenance comes when the star, delivering a critical monologue to said bar mitzvah boy, looks directly into the camera, harkening back, no doubt, to an old tic, when he would gaze out over a theater of his adoring fans to gauge the effect of his performance. (HS)

Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) is a PTSD-afflicted Vietnam vet given to paranoia and violent outbursts. Born a Polish Catholic, he converted to Judaism when he married his former wife; and though theyre no longer together, Walters adopted faith remains even dearer to him than his beloved sport of bowlingwhich is why he flies completely off the handle when he learns that his league has scheduled its next tournament round for a Saturday. Saturday, he explains, his rage increasing exponentially by the second, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means I dont work, I dont drive a car, I dont fucking ride in a car, I dont handle money, I dont turn on the oven, and I sure as shit dont fing roll! Never say that converts arent as passionate about Judaism as those born into it! (DE)

Jewish cop Flip Zimmerman goes undercover to infiltrate the Klan in this Spike Lee joint, passing as the white face of his Black partner, Ron Stallworth. At first he denies having skin in the game. But when Ron gives Flip his Klan membership card, the once-defensive detective opens up about his relationship with his background. It wasnt part of my life, I never thought much about being Jewish, Zimmerman says. I was just another white kid. And now Im in some basement denying it out loudI never thought much about it now Im thinking about it all the time. Zimmerman realizes hes been passing his whole life. Nothing will make you feel more Jewish than a room of antisemites.

The most Jewish scene in Mel Brooks Western riff is its most uncomfortable (featuring the director in brownface as a Yiddish-speaking Native American who uses a racial slur). The fist-pumping apex of coalition when Jim (white Jewish actor Gene Wilder) and Bart (Black Christian actor Cleavon Little) rough up Klan members behind a rocky outcrop and walk out in their white robes. In a touch of extra Jewish verve, the backs of these new outfits are emblazoned with the Have a nice day smiley face endemic to Chinese food bags.

Journalist Borat Sagdiyev covers the faux Pamplona-inspired Running of the Jew ceremony, in which a giant, horn-laden, green Jew monster runs after antisemitic Kazakhs, before they capture and beat him with sticks. The sketch, ridiculing antisemitism and bigotry, is hysterical, subversive and completely over-the-top, particularly because Sacha Baron Cohens Borat gives the play-by-play in Hebrew. (JK)

So many elements of this short film about 13-year-old Birdies preparation for her bat mitzvah feel universal. If you ascended the bimah in the last 25 years, youll probably recognize the CD recordings through which Birdie memorizes her Torah portion, her vociferous complaints about said Torah portion, and even the awkward little bolero jacket she wears to cover her shoulders in shul. Yet the film illuminates a kind of Jewish experience rarely shown on screen: Birdie is a biracial Black and Jewish teen contending with rabbis who make her feel like an outsider always reminding me, Egypts in Africa, she quips. By the films end, Birdie is finally ready to enter the synagogue on her own terms. She strides into the sanctuary, a puffer jacket zipped over her shimmering dress, her hair bouncing confidently on her shoulders. Its a scene any Jewish teen can identify with and a moment when Birdie gets to be completely, uniquely herself. (IKC)

Four Jewish intellectuals are further delayed on their interminable journey to a funeral in Brooklyn when they collide with a taxi at the corner of Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue. Braced for a confrontation with the Black cabbie (Godfrey Cambridge), they are taken aback to discover that he is also Jewish, and far more interested in bonding with his fellow tribesmen than he is in fighting about the accident. Whats happening here involves the living, the cabbie admonishes the would-be mourners, who are in a hurry to settle things up and get to the funeral. Thats more important! (DE)

After a cabaret song in this Weimar-era saga compares marrying a Jewish girl to being in love with a gorilla, the movie graces us with a subplot that affirms Jewish love and humanity. Fritz Wendel, a minor character who has been hiding his Judaism for social and financial gain, must be true to his faith in order to be with Natalia Landauer, the Jewish heiress who loves him back but cant marry a gentile. In what could be missed in the blink of an eye, Fritz approaches his beloveds mansion, the gentle night breezes swaying the greenery in front of the imposing door, and knocks the gold lion knocker. When the door swings open, he says the three words Natalia wants to hear: Im a Jew. (JZ)

While nursing a bloody nose, Elio (Timothe Chalamet) tells his soon-to-be lover Oliver that he doesnt wear his Star of David necklace because My mother says were Jews of discretion. In a movie about queerness in the 1980s, this feels like a metaphor for more than just religion. (MF)

In a muscular little short directed by Sidney Goldin (the director and indulgent father of East and West), the popular Yiddish barnburner theater song A Khazndl Af Shabes (A Cantor on the Sabbath) turns into an arch take on how modern synagogues choose their cantors. The shorts closing, knockout scene features the American pop culture-obsessed Leibele Waldman delivering the Torah portion Yismakh Moshe set to the melody of Yes Sir, Thats My Baby. He even gets the otherwise taciturn synagogue elders to dance around the table. (HS)

A Jew like Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) can never be a made man and can never be truly trusted. While his murder-happy colleagues blame his loud suits and showboating, Rothsteins downfall actually comes courtesy of the bigotry of local commissioners and his Italian partners who only ever accept him conditionally. Midway through the film, Ace and casino manager Billy Sherbert (Don Rickles) toast Lchaim! at a nightclub. Observing him across the room, Rothsteins best friend, Nicky (Joe Pesci) calls him a Jew motherfer, behind his back. The ethnic resentment turns to extreme irony as this member of a clannish Italian crime family, speaking to another Italian mobster, watches Jews (and some non-Jews) eating and enjoying themselves at a bigger table. Fin Jews stick together, dont they? he seethes.

There is a movie where Kirk Douglas, playing a Jewish American helping the Israeli war effort, supplies Frank Sinatra with bottles of seltzer, which Sinatra then drops on Egyptian tanks to explode them. I dare you to think of a more Jewish scene than this.

Not directed as much as edited, Catskill Honeymoon is a stitched-together roller coaster of Yiddish vaudeville acts all ostensibly taking place in a Borscht Belt hotel. The film features Michael Michalesko, Julius Adler, Henrietta Jacobson, Bas Sheva and Jan Bart, among others. The scene worth the entire price of admission is the opening number by the Feder Sisters singing Im Going to Hitchhike to the Catskills, the only known musical homage to Route 17, the Yiddish Route 66. Not surprisingly, this film made the circuit of Borscht Belt hotels, whose postwar uptick from Holocaust survivors created a new market. (HS)

The most Jewish scene in The Chosen is one you may not have seen. In a moment only viewable in some rare VHS copies and in this Vimeo link the Modrn Orthodox Reuven goes to Dannys Hasidic shul and watches the intense davening. He also sees the men kiss the Torah scroll, a ritual that was deemed too Jewish for the finished film. In an essay, director Jeremy Kagan explains why.

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In a remarkable transformation, Eddie Murphy channels the spirit of an elderly Jew named Saul and delivers a quintessentially Jewish joke. A man in a restaurant tells a vaiter to taste the soup. Whats wrong with the soup, the waiter asks. Is it too hot? Too cold? The man tells the waiter to just taste the soup. The waiter finally agrees but asks, Wheres the spoon? Ah-ha! The punchline is that there is no spoon (The Matrix was right). Though it draws blank looks at the barbershop, this is a pitch-perfect old Jewish man joke and not just because it involves a guy eating soup.

The turning point of William Wylers rags-to-riches tale of George Simon (John Barrymore), a Jewish attorney who has climbed from Delancey Street to Park Avenue, comes when Simon learns an antisemitic colleague wants to disbar him based on a case from his early days, when he was a champion of the underclass. Defending himself, the fast-talking, faster-thinking Simon played by the goyishe Barrymore with more than a dash of Shylock must confront his past in the person of his former client. Wringing his hands, Simon is caught in the double-bind of so many first-generation Jews. Why should aiding his landsman disqualify him from acceptance by the legal community? Why, in America, is everything so binary? Why cant he be a Jew andan American? (CR)

A scene showing the protagonists prescient imagining of the Holocaust made this film immediately controversial. After a moment of jubilant dancing, Jews, wearing Star of David patches, are shown marching with suitcases and a casket.The camera shifts to the bare feet of prisoners in striped uniforms, finally yielding to Commissar Klavda (Nonna Mordyukova) and her baby, bearing witness to horrors to come. In her own time, during the Russian Civil War, Klavda had seen pogroms and promised Jews their lives would improve in a Communist state where people will work in peace and harmony. Her vision indicates the worst is still ahead for these people.

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The 125 greatest Jewish movie scenes of all time (1-25) - Forward

Subverting the religious freedom of a Jewish school – WORLD News Group

Posted By on July 2, 2022

Earlier this month, a New York court judge ruled that Yeshiva University must extend official recognition to a campus LGBT club even though the club contradicts Yeshivas understanding of the Jewish faith. According to the court, Yeshiva is not sufficiently religious to qualify for an exemption under New York Citys public accommodation law. This ruling strips religious liberty protections from every organization unless a court determines religion to be an organizations primary purpose, posing an existential threat to nearly every religious school, hospital, and non-profit in New York City.

Plaintiffs in the casemostly former studentsargued that Yeshiva must officially recognize an LGBT club on campus, even though their club contradicts the universitys core religious beliefs. They claim that New York Citys public accommodation law applies to Yeshiva and that the schools refusal to sponsor clubs that contradict its religious beliefs amounts to discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Yeshiva officials pointed out that the public accommodation law expressly exempts religious organizations. It applies only to places of public accommodation and expressly excludes a religious corporation incorporated under the education law from the definition of such an accommodation.

Yeshiva is a religious educational institution that should easily qualify for the exemption. Indeed, the New York judge admitted that at first blush that conclusion seems obvious. Yeshiva has a proud Jewish heritage and a mission to combine the spirit of the Torah with an excellent education. Judge Lynn R. Kotler was even willing to assume that Yeshiva had a religious function (a fact hard to deny) and noted that its religious character defines it and sets it apart from other schools and universities of higher education.

Yet Judge Kotler evaded the straightforward conclusion that Yeshiva is a religious educational institution by looking to the schools stated primary purpose. The record shows that the purpose students attend Yeshiva is to obtain an education, not for religious worship or some other function which is religious at its core, Kotler wrote. Because Yeshiva operated primarily for educational purposes, it could not be a religious corporation. The courts standard would make it exceedingly difficult for an educational institution to be eligible for religious liberty protections (despite the clear legislative directive to afford religious educational corporations an exemption). To qualify, Yeshiva must be akin to a house of worship and have been formed primarily for a religious purpose.

The courts opinion overlooks that many religious institutions also have other purposes. Many parents choose religious education so their children can be taught consistent with their faith traditions. Just last week, in Carson v. Makin, the U.S. Supreme Court explained, Educating young people in their faith, inculcating its teachings, and training them to live their faith are responsibilities that lie at the very core of the mission of a private religious school.

Judge Kotlers reasoning is horrifyingly broad. If the court is correct, then there is no such thing as a religious hospital, a religious homeless shelter, a religious soup kitchen, a religious crisis pregnancy care center, or a religious school. Such a result is inconsistent with New York Citys law and with common sense. As Yeshiva leaders put it, the ruling that Yeshiva is not religious is obviously wrong.

The New York court also erred by failing to find Yeshiva protected by the First Amendment. Yeshiva argued that the free exercise clause prevented New York City from requiring it to sanction an LGBT club in violation of its religious beliefs. Judge Kotler disagreed, finding that New York City could apply its public accommodations law notwithstanding the First Amendment because the citys law was, in legal terms, neutral and generally applicable.

Recent U.S. Supreme Court precedent forecloses that argument. In Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, the high court held that Philadelphias refusal to contract with Catholic Social Services unless it agreed to certify same-sex couples as foster parents violated the free exercise clause. The court explained that strict scrutiny applies whenever a law prohibits religious conduct while permitting similar secular conduct. New York Citys public accommodations law, however, excludes private clubs with up to 400 members. This exception means that the law is subject to the most rigorous scrutiny. The plaintiffs must (but cannot) show that applying New York Citys public accommodation law to Yeshiva University promotes a compelling governmental interest and is narrowly tailored.

Yeshiva University vowed to immediately appeal the decision that it is not sufficiently religious. That is an argument it should easily win.

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Subverting the religious freedom of a Jewish school - WORLD News Group

Library event to focus on art of henna – Delaware Gazette

Posted By on July 2, 2022

This weekend leads us into July, and Independence Day celebrations will be aplenty! While all branches of the Delaware County District Library will be closed Sunday and Monday for the holiday, well still be out and about in the community. Look for the annual appearance of the Book Cart Brigade going through downtown Ostrander during its Independence Day parade. The drill team always has a fun time and shows off their coordinated moves.

Another celebration that is recognized in the month of July that you may not know about is Muslim-American Heritage Month. States, counties, and local municipalities across the United States celebrate and honor the contributions and integral role of Muslim Americans in the economy, culture, and identity of the United States.

For several years now, a local patron to the Delaware County District Library has offered a program to teens in the area called The Art of Henna. Delaware County resident Renuka Bhatt invites teens to casually drop in during the program to have a special henna design drawn on their hand while Renuka shares how and why henna body art is used around the world.

As explained by the International Journal of Humanities and Social Science Invention (IJHSSI), henna is one of the oldest cosmetic ingredients in the world and can be traced with written records as far back as 2,500 years. Its an important part of Islam as it is used in various events, especially weddings, with the leaves used to dye finger nails, make drawings or decorations on the palms and soles of the feet, and dye hair. The use of henna has also been adopted by Hindus and Buddhists, with the use of henna for decorations spreading to most parts of the Muslim world and India.

Come and visit with Renuka on Wednesday, July 6, at 4 p.m. in the Orange Branch Library Teen Zone, and on Thursday, July 14, at 2 p.m. in the Delaware Main Library Community Room. Each program lasts 90 minutes, and teens are welcome to stop in at any point during the session. No reservations are required. Were excited to have the community learn a bit more about our nextdoor neighbors as well as our global neighbors.

This week, lets take a look at some of the biographies and memoirs of the religious communities from around the world that you may have missed.

The Spiritual Mandela: Faith and Religion in the Life of Nelson Mandela by Dennis Cruywagen. A richly detailed and thought-provoking exploration of Nelson Mandelas spiritual life and the relationship between his religious experiences and his politics. This story shows a personal, relatably human side of a revered figure searching for meaning just like the rest of us.

If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan. A reflective and engaging description of author Ilana Kurshans experiences with daf yomi, a multi-year commitment to daily Talmud study, and how it serves as a grounding ritual during chaotic times. Explore the moving portrait Kurshan paints of belonging to a worldwide network of fellow readers who read the same page every day. For the unfamiliar, each new daf yomi cycle takes more than seven years to complete, with the next cycle set to begin on June 8, 2027.

Unashamed: Musings of a Fat, Black Muslim by Leah Vernon. The moving and candid memoir of social media influencer Leah Vernon, where she reflects on her relationship with her Muslim identity and the ways it intersects with self-image, self-expression, racism, sexism, and trauma. Youll find it has a comfortable, conversational tone alongside a unique perspective Vernon provides at the intersections of her multitude of identities.

Stranger in a Strange Land: Searching for Gershom Scholem and Jerusalem by George Prochnik. A compelling reappraisal of the life and work of Jewish philosopher and historian Gershom Scholem, who is best known for pioneering the academic study of kabbalah in a secular context. Author George Prochnik displays a deep appreciation for the philosophical and personal reflections that can be drawn from engaging with Scholems work, and does not hesitate to explore them in the context of his own relationship with Judaism.

The Very Worst Missionary: A Memoir or Whatever by Jamie Wright. The ups and downs of author Jamie Wrights efforts to reconcile her individual Christian faith with institutional problems that can surround organized religion, especially around missionary work. Her topics include how missionary presence can disrupt local economies; financial irregularities in fundraising; manipulative recruitment tactics to encourage conversions. Readers who welcome tough conversations about the gaps between their relationships with God and the structural obstacles that prevent many faith communities from practicing what they preach may reach for this title.

If you have a question that you would like to see answered in this column, mail it to Nicole Fowles, Delaware County District Library, 84 E. Winter St., Delaware, OH 43015, or call us at 740-362-3861. You can also email your questions by visiting the librarys web site at http://www.delawarelibrary.org or directly to Nicole at [emailprotected] No matter how you contact us, were always glad you asked!

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Library event to focus on art of henna - Delaware Gazette

With Israel’s Knesset set to dissolve, PM Bennett says he will not seek re-election – Reuters

Posted By on July 2, 2022

JERUSALEM, June 29 (Reuters) - Israel on Wednesday moved closer toward its fifth election in less than four years, plunging it deeper into political uncertainty as it grapples with rising living costs amid renewed international efforts to revive a nuclear deal with Iran.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced he would not run in the upcoming election but would retain his position as alternate prime minister after his coalition partner Yair Lapid takes over as head of the caretaker government.

"I leave behind a thriving, strong and secure country," he told reporters on Wednesday. "We proved this year that people with very different opinions can work together," he added, referring to his ideologically diverse coalition.

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Last week, Bennett moved to disperse parliament after a series of defections made his ruling coalition no longer tenable. The final vote on the bill to dissolve the Knesset, which was set to happen by midnight, was delayed until Thursday due to the many amendments filed, Israel's public broadcaster Kan radio said.

Amendments were submitted by parties across the political spectrum. Israeli Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman said his party was blocking the dispersal bill to advance a metro project, and the Arab-led Joint List party said it was hoping a holdup would lead to the expiration of regulations that extend legal protections to settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a statement to the media, telling reporters he will not be running in Israel's next election, at the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, in Jerusalem June 29, 2022. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

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Once the calling of a snap election gets the Knesset's final approval, Israel's centre-left foreign minister, Yair Lapid, will take over from Bennett as prime minister of a caretaker government with limited powers.

But even with lawmakers grappling over the exact election date, either Oct. 25 or Nov. 1, the campaign has already become dominated by the possible comeback of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Lapid and Bennett ended Netanyahu's record 12-year reign a year ago by forming a rare, ideologically mixed alliance that included an independent Arab party for the first time. The government lasted longer than many expected but faltered in recent weeks amid infighting.

Netanyahu, now opposition leader, has been delighted by the end of what he has called the worst government in Israel's history. He hopes to win a sixth term in office despite being on trial for corruption on charges he denies.

Surveys have shown his right-wing Likud party leading the polls but still short of a governing majority despite support of allied religious and nationalist parties.

Lawmakers from the pro-Netanyahu bloc have said they were working to form a new government before parliament dissolves. That scenario, which appears remote, would scupper an early election.

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Reporting by Maayan Lubell and Henriette Chacar; Editing by Robert Birsel and Aurora Ellis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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With Israel's Knesset set to dissolve, PM Bennett says he will not seek re-election - Reuters

Israel votes to dissolve parliament, collapsing government and triggering fifth election in three years – CNBC

Posted By on June 30, 2022

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during the the 2016 Genesis Prize award-ceremony in Jerusalem, June 23, 2016.

Amir Cohen | Reuters

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates In what now feels like a familiar story, Israel's government has collapsed after the Parliament, or Knesset, voted on Thursday to dissolved itself.

This paves the way for a fifth election in three years, after the most diverse and unlikely coalition in the country's history which featured centrists, right wingers, left wingers, and even Islamists eventually hit a level of gridlock it could not overcome, just one year into its existence.

Prior to that coalition's formation, Israel went through four elections in the space of two years, each one inconclusive enough to force another vote. Israel's last government formation process almost exactly one year ago saw Benjamin Netanyahu, the country's longest-serving prime minister, removed from office after 12 years.

Israel's current predicament reflects the increasing polarization in the Middle Eastern country of over 9 million, some observers say, as well as acutely different views on the country's direction. But it also offers a potential second chance to the controversial Netanyahu, whose right-wing Likud party is performing well in local polls. Elections will be held in the fall.

"We did everything we possibly could to preserve this government, whose survival we see as a national interest," Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, a far-right wing former settler leader, said in a speech last week.

"To my regret, our efforts did not succeed."

Netanyahu didn't feel so sad.

"This evening is wonderful news for the citizens of Israel. This government has ended its path," the former prime minister said after the initial news was announced on June 21, detailing a list of criticisms of the outgoing coalition. "This government is going home."

The 72-year-old Netanyahu is a lightning rod in Israeli politics, often described as an "either you love him or you hate him" figure. He drew the ire of many of his own party members last year when he refused to step down despite being under investigation for a number of corruption charges. His trial is underway and could last several years and there is no law on the books that prevents him from becoming prime minister again despite the charges.

People relax on Dizengoff Square in this aerial photograph taken in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Friday, March 5, 2021.

Kobi Wolf | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"Netanyahu's return is by no means inevitable it's still early but if his political career has shown anything over the years, it's that it's best not to underestimate him," Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in a commentary for the think tank.

"Netanyahu wants the job more than any other Israeli politician and is prepared to say and do just about anything to attain it," Miller wrote, adding that more than just politically, this is a matter of personal survival for the current Likud party leader.

"Being prime minister is the only way he can manipulate the system to get his indictment overturned through some legislative chicanery," he wrote.

The election's outcome, while likely to maintain the status quo in terms of support to businesses and Israel's booming tech sector, will determine future relations with Palestinians and Arab states, the Biden administration, dealing with record-high inflation, and the country's security.

In order to lead the government in Israel, a party has to win a majority of 61 seats the magic number in Parliament. If that isn't attainable, the party with the most seats has to negotiate alliances with other parties to form a coalition.

This often results in very unlikely bedfellows, as evidenced in Israel's latest government. While the coalition did manage to pass an important budget and improve its relationship with the Biden administration, it hit a wall when it came to Israeli-Palestinian affairs, against the backdrop of increasing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

A combination of file photos shows Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett speaking in Jerusalem May 14, 2018 and Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid delivering a speech in Tel Aviv, Israel March 24, 2021.

Ammar Awad; Amir Cohen | Reuters

The public debate is going in the same direction as it did in previous elections, said Assaf Shapira, director of the Political Reform Program at Jerusalem-based think tank the Israel Democracy Institute.

The main determinant of how people vote will be "Netanyahu or not Netanyahu," Shapira told CNBC. "This raises questions about the nature of democratic values in Israel," he said, adding that "Netanyahu wants to weaken law enforcement" to protect himself from criminal charges. He has also been accused of fanning anti-Arab hatred.

If Netanyahu's Likud party, currently the biggest in the Knesset, fails to reach the 61-seat majority, he will have to ally with other parties to clinch that number. But just as in June of 2021, a range of parties are bent on opposing him even right-wing ones. Some party leaders say they would only ally with Likud if Netanyahu stepped down. But so far, no one in his party has provided a clear alternative for leader.

His most formidable opponent for the leadership so far is Yair Lapid, a centrist and former TV presenter who served as foreign minister in the outgoing hodge-podge coalition led by right-winger Bennett.

Lapid's Yesh Atid party "has survived where most centrist parties don't,"the Carnegie Endowment's Miller wrote. Still, he added,"Lapid will face the same set of constraints as Bennett: how to put together and sustain a coalition composed of as many as seven or eight parties whose common objectives don't go much beyond keeping Netanyahu away" from power.

Lapid's biggest selling point, Miller added, "is that he engineered a government that beat Netanyahu." He will now have to convince Israelis that he can effectively lead a divided country, too.

An important event to watch will be President Joe Biden's visit to the Middle East in July, where he is slated to visit Israel.

The Biden team was not particularly fond of Netanyahu, who went against the Obama administration in past years to expand Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. While the White House has made clear that it will work with whatever government is elected, Biden will likely attempt to boost Lapid's image during his visit, Washington-based analysts say.

To be sure, one cannot assume the outcome will be either a Netanyahu or Lapid-led government. As with the last three years, and a very divided voter base, Israel could simply continue falling into more tricky coalition governments, more leadership collapses and more elections.

Specifically for Netanyahu, he is so divisive that a win for him may just mean a repeat of the cycle, Shapira said.

"There are very few alternative leaders within the Likud challenging Netanyahu publicly," he said. "If it's still Netanyahu, there are good chances for another election, and another election."

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Israel votes to dissolve parliament, collapsing government and triggering fifth election in three years - CNBC


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