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Stephen Miller’s Grandmother Died of COVID-19. Her Son Blames the Trump Administration. – Mother Jones

Posted By on July 27, 2020

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones' newsletters.

This month, Stephen Miller, the extremist anti-immigrant Trump adviser who has promoted white nationalist ideas, lost a relative to the coronavirus pandemic, and his uncle tellsMother Jones that the Trump administration is partly to blame for this death.

On July 4, David Glosser, the brother of Millers mother, posted a Facebook note announcing the death of his mother, Ruth Glosser, who was Millers maternal grandmother:

This morning my mother, Ruth Glosser, died of the late effects of COVID-19 like so many thousands of other people; both young and old. She survived the acute infection but was left with lung and neurological damage that destroyed her will to eat and her ability to breathe well enough to sustain arousal and consciousness. Over an 8-week period she gradually slipped away and died peacefully this morning.

David Glosser is a retired neuropsychologist and passionate Trump critic who has publicly decried Miller for his anti-immigrant policies, and he contends that Trumps initial lack of a response to the coronavirus crisis led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans who might have otherwise survived. In an interview, he says, With the death of my mother, Im angry and outraged at [Miller] directly and the administration he has devoted his energy to supporting.

In response to a request seeking comment from Miller, a White House spokesperson sent Mother Jones this statement:

This is categorically false, and a disgusting use of so-called journalism when the family deserves privacy to mourn the loss of a loved one. His grandmother did not pass away from COVID. She was diagnosed with COVID in March and passed away in July so that timeline does not add up at all. His grandmother died peacefully in her sleep from old age. I would hope that you would choose not to go down this road.

Glosser, a former health professional, posted his mothers death announcement on a public Facebook page. Responding to the White House statement, he writes in an email, Keeping the tragic facts about COVID deaths of our countrymen and women, young and old, from the American public serves no purpose other than to obscure the need for a coherent national, scientifically based, public health response to save others from this disease. My mother led a long, satisfying, productive life of family and community service. She had nothing to be ashamed of, and concealing her cause of death to offer privacy to me, our family, her hundreds of relatives and friends, does nothing to assuage our regret at her loss.

Moreover, Ruth Glossers death certificatewhich her son shared with Mother Joneslists her cause of death as respiratory arrest resulting from COVID-19.

Informed that Ruth Glossers death certificate cited COVID-19, the White House spokesperson replied, Again, this is categorically false. She had a mile [sic] case of COVID-19 in March. She was never hospitalized and made a full and quick recovery.

Miller has played a role in the Trump White Houses ineffectual response to the coronavirus crisis. He was credited with helping to write the Oval Office address Trump delivered on March 11 that was widely panned. In that speech, Trump branded the coronavirus as the foreign virus and downplayed the damage already caused by it. He hailed his administrations actions regarding the growing pandemic, ignoring his recent and repeated efforts to dismiss the threat posed by the virus. Trump announced in this speech that he would suspend all travel from Europe to the United Statesa statement that caused panic, as Americans overseas rushed back to the United States and ended up in crammed and unsafe conditions at US airports. (The ban only applied to foreign citizens.) In the months since, Miller has attempted to exploit the pandemic to implement anti-immigration measures.

On Facebook, Glosser described his 97-year-old mother as a scholar, a social worker, and the teacher of a generation of social work students in Western Pennsylvania who founded and administered a foster parents program for children with special needs in Johnstown. He added, Her passion was the careful documentation of the Glosser family and its flight from Czarist persecution in what is now Belarus to life and freedom in the USA. An ardent advocate of education, womens rights, and the struggle for civil rights in the USA. In an addendum to the post, he pointed out that she had depended on immigrants for her health care:

I neglected to mention that in moms declining years she was lovingly cared for by health aides nurses, and doctors from India, Philippines, Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, Korea, El Salvador, Uganda, and Nigeria. Immigrants all of them. I am indebted to them for helping us through some very difficult times. Without them there would be no one to take care of our elderly.

Glosser tells me that he tacked on this comment to register a political point: I wanted to make it clear the best I can that the message the Trump administration pumps outthat immigrants who come here spread death, destruction, disease, and murderis wrong. We were those people not too long ago. Thats the story of America.

Ruth Glosser was living in an assisted living facility in the Los Angeles area. According to her son, she contracted COVID-19 in early March, when the facility was low on tests and PPE. One or more of the staff, he says, were asymptomatic carriers of the virus, and the disease spread quickly through the facility. She had what might be regarded as a weak case, Glosser notes. She survived the immediate acute effects but lost 20 pounds within a few weeks and was very much weakened. His mother was hit hard by the neurological side effects and soon began a slow decline: She lost the will to eat because of enormous fatigue, enormous confusion, and the loss of her sense of smell and taste, and her lungs continued to deteriorate. Finally, she could not sustain a level of oxygen to remain conscious. In accordance with her living will, the oxygen was withdrawn. She basically fell asleep and died.

Like many other relatives of COVID-19 patients, Glosser found the hardest part of this loss was that he could not visit her because the facility had gone into lockdown: We did the best we could with phone calls and the occasional FaceTime. But as time went by, her ability to focus and to breath and talk diminished. I could get only a few words. I love you. But there was no chance to hold her hand and help her go out easy.

Glosser has long been a foe of the Trump administration and his nephew. Shortly before the 2016 election, in a letter to a Pennsylvanian newspaper, he criticized Miller for engineering Trumps assault on immigration. My nephew and I, he said, must both reflect long and hard on one awful truth. If in the early 20th century the USA had built a wall against poor desperate ignorant immigrants of a different religion, like the Glossers, all of us would have gone up the crematoria chimneys with the other six million kinsmen whom we can never know. He explains that this letter was written at the behest of several family members to disassociate the family from Miller.

In 2018, Glosser penned a piece forPolitico headlined Stephen Miller is an Immigration Hypocrite. I Know Because Im His Uncle. He wrote: I have watched with dismay and increasing horror as my nephew, an educated man who is well aware of his heritage, has become the architect of immigration policies that repudiate the very foundation of our familys life in this country. I shudder at the thought of what would have become of the Glossers had the same policies Stephen so coolly espousesthe travel ban, the radical decrease in refugees, the separation of children from their parents, and even talk of limiting citizenship for legal immigrantsbeen in effect when Wolf-Leib [Glosser] made his desperate bid for freedom and fled anti-Jewish pogroms for the United States.

In response to Miller and his now-wife setting up a wedding gift registry in February, Glosser sent a donation to a refugee relief organization and posted a not-too-subtle explanation on Facebook:

Ill be making a contribution to HIAS, a world wide agency that serves to protect refugees and helped to rescue my family from Czarist oppression in the Russian Empire in 1906. Had our refugee forebears not been helped to emigrate to the USA, they and their children would have been murdered by the racial madness of Nazism; as were the 74 of our relatives who were shut out of America by the race/religion based immigration exclusion act of 1925 enacted by the America First populists of the day. Protect the refugee and welcome the strangerthey built America.

Glosser notes that he has watched the Trump administrations managementor mismanagementof the pandemic with dismay, calling it chaotic, incompetent, uninformed, and entirely politically motivated. Trump, he asserts, is interested in only one thinghis political survival His initial response to the epidemic was denial, distraction, misinformation, propaganda and lies.

Glosser says that he cannot blame Trump for the fact that his mother was 97 years old and frail, but he insists Trump and his enablers bear tremendous responsibility for the failure to respond and their continued unwillingness to do what public health experts say must be done. An effective response, he notes, might have limited the number of deaths to 20,000: So Trump bears substantial responsibility for the deaths of over 100,000 Americans who didnt need to die, including my mother.

What is it like to have a family member in the middle of this failure? Glosser describes his nephew as an ambitious kid who for some reason decided to become infatuated with the idea of white supremacy and who has been obsessed with gaining power and influence. Miller, Glosser maintains, sees Trump as a useful idiot in his quest to advance his white power agendaHe has been able to use Trump to advance his political vendetta against the world. Glosser is not surprised that Miller has been part of the Trump administrations coronavirus failure: He has no ability to demonstrate empathy.

Ruth Glosser, according to David Glosser, was highly disturbed when Trump became president: She was terribly torn between the normal love for grandchildren and horror at the racist content of Trumps policies and Stephens role in it. He says he has not heard from Miller since his mother died. But that is no shocker. He has not spoken to Miller since the 2016 campaign.

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Stephen Miller's Grandmother Died of COVID-19. Her Son Blames the Trump Administration. - Mother Jones

The conflicted uncertainty of Pandemic Soccer – Pittsburgh Soccer Now

Posted By on July 27, 2020

Watching the first three matches of the Pittsburgh Riverhounds USL season was supposed to be some form of relief from the crushing anxiety that was created by the Covid-19 pandemic. An emotional release. Ninety carefree minutes of the beautiful game. A return to normalcy.

For me at least, it was not.

Im not a particularly anxious person.* However, the same anxiety I feel heading to the supermarket or picking up take-out has crept into my emotional experience of watching USL soccer games. Namely, I have constant questions:

I see fans. Should there even be fans there? If there are fans, shouldnt they absolutely be wearing masks? Is having teams travel from city to city for games a good idea? Even if USL teams are being extra careful, is the mere act of playing soccer sending our society the wrong message?

If you think this opinion piece is going to land on a definite opinion a classic op-ed page screed or hot take; a simply summarizable and polarized sense of outrage or cheerleading, move along. These are not the droids youre looking for. All you will find here is my own deep sense of anxious foreboding about what Ive been witnessing.

What weve witnessed to date is the Hounds playing one match in a stadium with fans, and two closed-door matches that took place in Pennsylvania, where in-person fan attendance is forbidden. In the season-opener in Louisville, the stadium was filled to 50% capacity. Most fans were wearing masks, and social distancing seemed to be taking place.

But it was readily apparent from the broadcast that some folks were not as cautious.

There are two additional things that caused me to worry. First, the decision to have fans in attendance took place as the United States was experiencing an upswing in Covid cases nationwide. This resurgence of the virus, which has killed at least 143,000 in this country, was likely triggered by an early-May re-opening without adequate planning or protocols. Restaurants and bars opened at 50% capacity. People went to parks and beaches and public places without masks. Folks heard that we were opening up or that their state was in the green phase and they relaxed their standards. We gathered. And we spread the virus.

None of that stopped MLS or USL from going ahead with soccer. To their credit, both leagues have taken lots of precautions for players and staff, including MLS bubble tournament in Orlando that includes mandatory quarantine upon arrival, and a testing protocol that attempts to eliminated any possibility of a player, coach, or trainer contracting the illness and spreading it during a game to teammates and opponents.

But the optics the message was bad. We were watching a plague ravage the country. True, the death rate for Covid is down from its seven-day average of 2,232 deaths-per-day on April 14; the seven-day average death rate for Covid on July 22 in the US was 834. Things are better. But better is now characterized as 30,000 dying a month. Picture Highmark Stadium, full of fans. Thats the number of people that dies of Covid in the US every 8 days.

Meanwhile, other countries like New Zealand beat Covid completely with quarantine, masks, and hand-sanitizer. They havent reported a single death since May 28. While the United States is averaging 142 cases per 100,000 over the last seven days, former epicenter of the Coronavirus Italy has just 3 cases per 100,000 over the same period.

We opened up. We arent winning. People are dying. Soccer was like meh.

What the fans-in-attendance matches in Kentucky and around the league taught me I watched USL games in Birmingham and Colorado that had opened their turnstiles to paying patrons was that if the government will allow it, owners will do what they need to do to make a buck. Which, to some degree, is totally legitimate. If a fan wants to watch a game, they have to know that they take the risk of exposure by attending the match. This is the same as me sending my kids to day camp and going to the supermarket in person, while my friend will only allow Whole Foods delivery and hasnt set foot outside of her house since March. We all make choices and accept different levels of risk.

However, what we have learned to date is that wherever a governor has allowed a vast degree of personal freedom letting citizens going to beaches and bars and restaurants businesses have opened up, relying on the judgment of their leaders and their own need to get into the black to dictate what they ought to do. And wherever governors have been bold and aggressive at opening up, the virus has exploded. The US states with the highest number of per-capita Covid cases right now are Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, Alabama, South Carolina, and Texas. All have freedom-loving governors preaching that the rights of citizens to live their lives ought not be restricted by the government. Which is certainly a legitimate perspective, if it were not for the fact that the virus doesnt care if you had a drink in a crowded bar in Houston, or sold groceries to that person three days later.

The decisions of governor to open up has had a clear result, and the result has been bad. To summarize the situation in just one of those states, take this quote from Florida: Carlos Migoya, the chief executive of Jackson Health System, the largest public hospital in Miami, wrote in an op-ed in The Miami Herald Your hospitals are drowning. We are teetering on the edge of disaster. Reading through the newspaper, you see similar pronouncements from hospital officials in other overtaxed states.

Wherever soccer stadiums have been allowed to open, they have opened. In every state they are opening, Covid rates are going up. And when I watch a soccer game, I cannot escape that reality: soccer with fans-in-attendence is virtually synonymous with increased risk. We had all hoped that soccer would be an escape from this nightmarish reality we all want to wake up from. And sometimes, for me, it is. And then I glimpse a guy in the stands not wearing a mask and I am filled with dread, and regret. I am reminded that my little corner of the Covid world, soccer, is just as irresponsible as that a*****e at Giant Eagle last month that ranted at everyone in his aisle that he refused to wear a mask.

We had a Zoom watch party for my favorite MLS team, the Colorado Rapids, last night. (It was also a likely season-ending sendoff for the team, who exited the MLS is Back tournament after just three games, scraping together just one draw out of the three contests.) Matthew Cleveland of Colorado Springs told me about the Switchbacks match he attended the other day. They were pretty strict he said. They split the stadium into four areas, and you couldnt leave that quadrant. There was an attendant that pulled open the bathroom door with a string so that patron did not have to make contact. That was on the way in, though. On the way out, you pushed open the door. Almost everybody was wearing masks. All that information about precautions from Matthew made me feel better, I guess.

To be fair, soccer is played and watched outdoors. Precautions are being taken. Its not a reckless free-for-all. It could be that lumping sporting venues and crowded bars into the same category just because they both take place in states with skyrocketing Covid rates is unfair.

The Riverhounds have no firm statement regarding the possibility of playing games with fans in attendance. When I reached the team for comment, spokesman Tony Picardi said Were continuing to work closely with state and local government and health officials to determine our ability to accommodate fans for future home games. We will continue to work within government guidelines. So whether or not Hounds fans will be present in Highmark Stadium this year is entirely up to Governor Tom Wolf and Mayor Bill Peduto.

The decision is also up to us. If Allegheny County can knock down Covid cases to near-zero, there will be soccer. Im not optimistic about this possibility, but we can always be hopeful that folks will do what they need to do.

I guess; even if some fans disagree with me; even if most fans can be trusted to behave responsibly; Im glad Governor Wolf has made the decision that Highmark Stadium will stay closed to fans. Individual behavior is still unpredictable and occasionally reckless. Communal gatherings that include choke points like aisle openings and concourse intersections will inevitably involve occasional close contact, and that creates increased risk. Try as we might, the only way for us to get the spread of Covid to zero is to for all of us to enjoy things and people from afar. To beat the virus in Pittsburgh, we have be OK with watching soccer on TV, just as we have to accept drinking our IC Light, on the porch with our friends nine feet away. Even though the air conditioning is nice.

There was a moment in the game last night when the camera panned to the area near the centerline where the Monongahela and the train tracks and the Three Rivers Heritage Trail meets an iron bar fence. Just underneath the jumbotron, there were about a dozen Hounds fans, noses pressed to the bars, watching the match intently.

None of them had masks on.

* OK, lets take this statement apart a little. I am Jewish, which means I carry a certain degree of genetic predisposition to worry; which also has the non-genetic component of wearing a yarmulke wherever I go. Theres been more reasons lately to worry than before. And also Im an over-thinker this is what graduate school and Talmud study makes you do analyze, analyze, over-analyze, reflect on your possible overanalysis. Rinse; repeat.

On the flip side, Im a native Californian. By Jewish standards, most people find me really chill.


Mark Asher Goodman is a writer for Pittsburgh Soccer Now, covering the Riverhounds, the Pitt Men's and Women's teams, and youth soccer. He also co-hosts a podcast on the Colorado Rapids called 'Holding the High Line with Rabbi and Red.' He has written in the past for the Washington Post, Denver Post, The Athletic, and American Soccer Analysis.When he's not reading, writing, watching, or coaching soccer, he is an actual rabbi. No, really.You can find him on twitter at @soccer_rabbi

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The conflicted uncertainty of Pandemic Soccer - Pittsburgh Soccer Now

COVID-19 hits one in six Iowa nursing homes but inspectors cite few violations – Le Mars Daily Sentinel

Posted By on July 27, 2020

The Iowa agency tasked with advocating for nursing home residents has dramatically scaled back visits to those facilities.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

DES MOINES Iowas nursing home inspectors have reported no infection-control issues in some of the facilities with the biggest COVID-19 outbreaks, newly disclosed state records show.

The records indicate more than 2,584 Iowa nursing home residents and workers have been infected with COVID-19, with outbreaks confirmed at one of every six Iowa nursing homes.

There are 20 Iowa homes with current, active COVID-19 outbreaks, the Iowa Department of Public Health says, and they involve roughly 500 infections. An additional 52 homes have been the site of outbreaks now considered resolved.

The Iowa home that has experienced the largest number of infections is the Good Shepherd Health Center in Mason City, home to 179 older Iowans.

At least 108 residents and workers at Good Shepherd have been infected with COVID-19, according to IDPH. But less than four weeks ago, on June 25, state inspectors visited the home and reported it was entirely in compliance with federally recommended practices for responding to COVID-19.

Other Iowa homes where state inspectors recently found no violations of COVID-19 guidelines, despite current, major outbreaks of the virus, include:

Sunny View Care Center in Ankeny, where inspectors found no violations of federal COVID-19 guidelines while on site there earlier this month. Sunny View is home to 71 older Iowans, and is currently the site of an outbreak involving 68 staff and residents.

The Accura Care Center in Ames, where inspectors reported no issues related to COVID-19 guidelines during their June 9 inspection of the home. Accura is currently the site of an outbreak involving 45 staff and residents. The home has 71 residents.

Willow Gardens Care Center in Marion, which was visited by inspectors the week of June 15. The inspectors reported zero violations of the federal COVID guidelines. The facility is home to 65 residents and is now the site of an outbreak involving 38 people.

Grandview Heights Care Center in Marshalltown, the site of a current outbreak involving 33 residents and staff. State inspectors visited the home on June 22 and reported no violations of COVID-19 guidelines.

State inspectors have reported coronavirus-related violations in some of the Iowa homes with confirmed outbreaks. In recent weeks, they have cited Dubuque Specialty Care, the Mitchell Village Care Center in Mitchellville, and the Crystal Heights Care Center in Oskaloosa for violations related to the pandemic. At the Dubuque home, where 11 residents have died of the virus, inspectors said three workers with symptoms of COVID-19 were allowed to work in the home and later tested positive for COVID-19.

The 72 Iowa homes that have experienced outbreaks represent one-sixth of the 439 nursing homes in Iowa. Those facilities have a total capacity of roughly 30,450 beds. The state is not tracking outbreaks in Iowas 384 assisted living centers, which are home to roughly 23,000 older Iowans living in congregate settings.

Some of the data reported by IDPH appears to be either incomplete or outdated. For example, IDPH is still reporting a total of 25 infections at Risen Son Christian Village in Council Bluffs, days after the facility itself announced it had a total of 30 infections and three deaths in the home.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a total of 434 Iowans in nursing homes have died.

The 20 Iowa homes with current outbreaks, and the total number of staff and residents infected, are:

1. The Good Shepherd Health Center in Mason City (108 cases)

2. Sunny View Care Center in Ankeny (68 cases)

3. Newton Health Care Center in Newton (53 cases)

4. Accura Healthcare in Ames (45 cases)

5. Willow Gardens Care Center in Marion (38 cases)

6. Grandview Heights Care Center in Marshalltown (33 cases)

7. Risen Son Christian Village in Council Bluffs (26 cases)

8. The Touchstone Healthcare Community in Sioux City (20 cases)

9. Solon Nursing Care Center in Solon (17 cases)

10. Karen Acres Health Care Center in Urbandale (16 cases)

11. Sheffield Care Center in Sheffield (15 cases)

12. The Good Samaritan Home in Newell (13 cases)

13. The Good Samaritan home in George (11 cases)

14. Valley Vue Care Center in Armstrong (8 cases)

15. The Good Samaritan home in LeMars (8 cases)

16. Rehabilitation Center of Hampton in Hampton (6 cases)

17. Norwalk Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Norwalk (6 cases)

18. Winslow House Care Center in Marion (5 cases)

19. Parkridge Specialty Care in Pleasant Hill (3 cases)

20. Pearl Valley Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Gowrie (3 cases)

The 52 Iowa nursing homes that have experienced confirmed outbreaks that have since been resolved, along with their total number of staff and resident infections, are:

1. Pillar of Cedar Valley in Waterloo (59 cases)

2. NewAldaya Lifescapes in Cedar Falls (36 cases)

3. Harmony House Health Care Center in Waterloo (91 cases)

4. Friendship Village Retirement Center in Waterloo (51 cases)

5. Bartels Lutheran Retirement Home in Waverly (31 cases)

6. Pleasant View Home in Kalona (11 cases)

7. The Alverno Senior Care Community in Clinton (3 cases)

8. Granger Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Granger (56 cases)

9. Arbor Springs in West Des Moines (37 cases)

10. Rowley Memorial Masonic Home in Perry (32 cases)

11. Pearl Valley Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Perry (11 cases)

12. Edgewood Convalescent Home in Edgewood (10 cases)

13. Azria Health Prairie Ridge in Mediapolis (4 cases)

14. Accura Healthcare in Milford (11 cases)

15. Dubuque Specialty Care in Dubuque (52 cases)

16. Accura Healthcare in Newton (41 cases)

17. Wesley Park Centre in Newton (27 cases)

18. Linn Manor Care Center in Marion (40 cases)

19. ManorCare Health Services in Cedar Rapids (50 cases)

20. Living Center West in Cedar Rapids (82 cases)

21. Cottage Grove Place in Cedar Rapids (6 cases)

22. Heritage Specialty Care in in Cedar Rapids (116 cases)

23. Wapello Specialty Care in Wapello (48 cases)

24. Crystal Heights Care Center in Oskaloosa (79 cases)

25. Accura Healthcare in Marshalltown (58 cases)

26. Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown (38 cases)

27. Oakwood Specialty Care in Albia (44 cases)

28. The Good Samaritan home in Villisca (6 cases)

29. Pearl Valley Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Muscatine (81 cases)

30. Wilton Retirement Community in Wilton (33 cases)

31. Lutheran Living Senior Campus in Muscatine (33 cases)

32. Rehabilitation Center of Des Moines in Des Moines (19 cases)

33. Trinity Center at Luther Park in Des Moines (99 cases)

34. Mill Pond Health Care in Ankeny (7 cases)

35. University Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Des Moines (70 cases)

36. Polk City Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Polk City (22 cases)

37. Ramsey Village in Des Moines (14 cases)

38. Fleur Heights Center for Wellness & Rehab Center in Des Moines (45 cases)

39. Calvin Community in Des Moines (24 cases)

40. Altoona Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Altoona (21 cases)

41. Bishop Drumm Retirement Center in Johnston (103 cases)

42. Mitchell Village Care Center in Mitchellville (35 cases)

43. On With Life in Ankeny (39 cases)

44. Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center in Des Moines (7 cases)

45. St. Francis Manor in Grinnell (74 cases)

46. Bethany Life in Story City (22 cases)

47. Sunnycrest Nursing Center in Dysart (12 cases)

48. Westbrook Acres in Gladbrook (46 cases)

49. Premier Estates in Toledo (52 cases)

50. Vista Woods Care Center in Ottumwa (36 cases)

51. The McCreedy Home in Washington (30 cases)

52. Holy Spirit Retirement Home in Sioux City (28 cases)

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COVID-19 hits one in six Iowa nursing homes but inspectors cite few violations - Le Mars Daily Sentinel

Jewish apathy, Jewish privilege and antisemitism – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 25, 2020

At a meeting on Monday of the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, participants bemoaned the condition of world Jewry. The discussion centered on the implementation of a plan approved earlier this month by the Israeli government to protect Jewish communities abroad from extinction.We are swimming against the current, said Diaspora Affairs Ministry Director-General Dvir Kahana, claiming that 80% of Jews outside of Israel live comfortably and feel no connection to their Judaism.Diaspora Affairs Minister Omer Yankelevitch concurred that large segments of our nation are moving away from their Jewish identity and from Israel, warning, We have to wake up before its too late.Aside from the fact that the discussion itself is as old as the hills, and that the plan involves education and outreach not exactly an innovative concept it comes on the heels of reports that the COVID-19 pandemic is spurring many Jews to consider immigrating to Israel. Some are even in the actual process of doing so, though it means entering quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in the Holy Land.So the pandemic may be doing more to encourage aliyah than any educational program requiring multi-millions in taxpayer shekels. And the last thing that Israelis have on their minds at this moment is funding greater competition in the work force. Indeed, the economic pressure felt by those who have lost their jobs, and by small business-owners whose enterprises are in jeopardy as a result of coronavirus closures, is not conducive to a sense of Jewish unity.Israelis are human, after all. Not that theyre acting like it these days, mind you, engaging in violent riots more reminiscent of tantrums than expressions of political malaise. Such mob behavior is something to which American Jews have grown accustomed of late. Yet only those who wish to escape the cancel-culture chaos would consider Israel a welcome alternative.In other words, the Jews who might contemplate relocating to Israel are not in need of programs aimed at keeping them connected to Judaism or the Jewish state. They already possess religious and/or emotional ties to their heritage and homeland.The rest are either radicals who wholeheartedly back the Black Lives Matter agenda to discredit the United States for having been born in sin, or liberal Democrats whose main goal is to defeat US President Donald Trump in November.The former, who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, is openly anti-Israel. The latter tend to be critical of the policies of the government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and interpret the Mishnaic concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) as a mission of social, political and environmental justice: to rid the planet of racism, capitalism and fossil fuels.THE IDEA that any sort of Israeli program could bring such people closer to their Judaism and Israel is laughable, particularly since those who do care about being Jewish are livid about the Orthodox rabbinates monopoly on Israels official stream of Judaism.But even Diaspora Jews in the first category those whose connection to Judaism and Israel is unconditional are not quick to pick up and move their families to a foreign country in which their language skills are basic at best, and where the likelihood of their earning a comparable living is slim.Though hundreds of thousands of Israelis have left the Jewish state for greener pastures abroad and have had to undergo the adjustments of language and culture that such a move entails they did so, at least, with an eye toward upward mobility. The same cannot be said of Zionists going in the other direction.Anyone who examines Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora without taking the importance of financial stability into account is making a grave mistake. Nor should the fact that most Jews outside of Israel live comfortably be viewed as an obstacle to overcome, rather than a blessing to be hailed.Its like believing that the only hope for the preservation of Jewish identity and continuity without drastic action on Israels part is for Jews in secular Western societies to be persecuted and live in poverty. While this is possibly a sad truth, its not a position that an official from the Diaspora Affairs Ministry ought to hold, especially not one angling for a budget.After all, if antisemitism is the solution, Israel can sit back and save its money, since Jew-hatred, like the coronavirus, is spreading exponentially. Not only that; the coronavirus is helping it spread by providing additional ammunition to the already overflowing blood-libel arsenal.The Palestinian Authority is prominent among many disseminators of the lie that Israel has been infecting poor Arabs with the disease. Like the PA and Hamas propagandists in Ramallah and Gaza whose creativity when it comes to portraying Netanyahu and IDF soldiers as Nazis is as explosive as rockets on Israeli civilians the powers-that-be in Tehran took the opportunity of the pandemic to promote the antisemitic arts. In April, for instance, the Iranian Health Ministry sponsored a COVID-19 cartoon competition that produced an array of colorful drawings depicting Jews as corona microbes.Social media, too, is rife with antisemitism. Much of this Jew-bashing is related not to the virus, but to Black Lives Matter. We Jews, it turns out, have a double stain on our souls. Yes, we are guilty of both white privilege and Jewish privilege.Apparently, no amount of self-flagellation or solidarity with the Black Lives Matter platform gives even the most progressive Jews a pass where their innate evil is concerned. Offended Twitter users around the world responded to the #Jewish privilege campaign by posting memes and comments to prove the accusation false. The only problem is that antisemites arent interested in evidence of Jewish innocence.THAT BRINGS us to the most notable aspect of Israels concern about world Jewry, on the one hand, and the spike in global antisemitism, on the other.According to data presented to the Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee, Israels 6,740,000 Jews make up 45% nearly half of the world total, which stands at 14,410,700. The next largest Jewish population is in North America, where the number is 6,088,000. Europe has 1,072,400; South America is home to 324,000; there are 300,000 in Asia; Australia and New Zealand have 120,000; and 74,000 reside in Africa.These figures reveal, first and foremost, that Israel is the country with the largest Jewish population, which should be cause for celebration, not mourning. They also show that the vast majority of Diaspora Jews are in the United States, where antisemitism may be gaining momentum but is minimal compared to that of Europe.Again, its good news for a people who was nearly wiped out by genocide a mere 75 years ago. Whatever one feels about the danger that assimilation poses to Jewish continuity, though, juxtaposing it with mass murder is immoral.Another picture painted by the statistics illustrates just how irrational antisemitism which the late historian Robert Wistrich called the longest hatred is and always has been. Jews constitute the most minuscule percentage of the worlds population, less than 2/10ths of 1%. The obsession with Jews and the Jewish state, then, makes no sense, especially if the Diaspora is disappearing voluntarily.This is one of the most intriguing features of the antisemitism that became so rampant in Europe before the Holocaust, and which was a main cause of it, Wistrich explained in a 2007 interview in these pages. What turned the antisemitism that had its profane banal explanations, such as economics and social rivalry, into something lethal was precisely the fact that Jews had assimilated so intensely.It was because of this assimilation, he said, that the traditional antisemitism that had been based on religion no longer had the same effect or resonance. Recourse was made, then, to an argument against which there is no defense, namely race. You cannot change your race; even conversion cant help you. A Jew remains a Jew under all circumstances, whether he is baptized, becomes totally assimilated or rejects any residual Jewish identity.Ironically, Wistrich added, The fact that Jews were willing to sacrifice their identity made things even worse. It confirmed in the minds of the antisemites that there was nothing to be valued in Judaism or Jewishness. After all, if these Jews are so eager to abandon it, what value can it have?Yankelevitch can shout all she wants that we have to wake up before its too late, but she would do well to realize that the only ones listening are already out of bed.

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Jewish apathy, Jewish privilege and antisemitism - The Jerusalem Post

Evangelical says nixing West Bank annexation could cost Trump the election – Heritage Florida Jewish News

Posted By on July 25, 2020

WASHINGTON (JTA) Israels potential annexation of parts of the West Bank may not be a top election issue for American Jews, or even a top issue right now for most Israelis.

But some evangelical Christians in America are hoping to make it an animating issue for evangelical voters in this falls presidential election.

Thats especially true for Mike Evans, the evangelical writer who founded a museum celebrating Christian supporters of Israel, the Friends of Zion Heritage Center in Jerusalem. His Jerusalem Prayer Team Facebook page has more than 73 million followers.

This year, Israel is going to be the number one thing they take into the voting booth, and Ill tell you why, Evans told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this week. The one thing that unites all evangelicals concerning Israel is Genesis 12:3: I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee. So Ive got 73 million evangelicals on my Jerusalem Prayer Team Facebook site alone, and I know them. The only thing they believe they can do to get God to bless them is to bless the land of Israel.

The flipside, Evans said, is that if Trump stands in the way of annexation, he could face a backlash from evangelicals at the voting booth.

But exactly how many evangelical voters there are, and how much they are animated by the annexation issue, is unclear.

Gallup citing the proportion of people who answer yes to the question Would you describe yourself as born-again or evangelical? says evangelicals have for decades comprised just over 40 percent of the population. And a 2017 poll commissioned by pro-Israel evangelicals found that the percentage of evangelicals who believe that the establishment of Israel was a fulfillment of prophecy was astronomically high 80 percent.

Elizabeth Oldmixon, a University of North Texas political scientist who studies evangelicals and their relationship to Israel, has estimated that about a third of evangelicals are likely to put Israel policy at the center of their electoral decision-making. (Other issues that drive evangelical voting include abortion rights and religious liberty.)

Oldmixon told Vox in 2018 that a subset of the evangelical community for whom the status of Israel is really, really important because of the way they understand the end of time would constitute about 15 million people.

But many of those voters might have been satisfied by Trumps moves already. Sarah Posner, an author who has written about the evangelicals affinity for Trump, said evangelicals were not likely to be preoccupied with the ins and outs of annexation.

Theyre very happy with the embassy move and are not going to give up on judges and policy they have long sought to enact (here) over annexation, she said. Honestly, I think most evangelicals dont truly understand the annexation issue and were more wowed by something like the embassy move.

Last month two pro-Israel evangelical leaders, Robert Jeffress and Joel Rosenberg, told The New York Times that evangelicals were indifferent to annexation and that they even might turn on Trump if he blesses annexation and it triggers regional turmoil.

I dont see any pickup among evangelical voters for this move, and theres a risk that you could lose some evangelical votes, in the very states where you might be more vulnerable, Rosenberg told the newspaper.

Notably, these figures might be heeding whispered counsel from the Israeli leaders with whom they are close who, despite their public statements, may be eager to avert a drastic step at a time that Israel is coping with a second wave of the coronavirus, and increased tensions with Iran.

But Rosenberg outlined in a detailed paper posted on his website that it was conversations with Palestinian and Arab leaders that had given him the most pause. He wrote that unilateral annexation would heighten instability in the country that evangelicals care so much about.

Now would be a good time to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem and the region, and praying that Israeli and American leaders will have true wisdom at this critical moment, Rosenberg wrote on his website. Please pray for the Palestinian people who are feeling increasingly hopeless and left out of the process and seeing the U.S. and Israel make decisions without them. And pray, too, for the leaders and peoples of the moderate Arab states who are increasingly in favor of peace with Israel and see extraordinary opportunity for enhanced prosperity for all sides if treaties can be signed and trade relationships opened. Strange times in the Epicenter these days.

With both the United States and Israel facing a surge in coronavirus cases, annexation feels far less pressing than it did July 1, the first date that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could have formally proposed the move. A top Israeli official said this week that issue is landing on the back burner because the United States was paying it little attention.

Still, Evans said his followers, too, would be praying for annexation to move forward, aggrandizing the land under Israels control.

These people are terrified right now, that God is not happy with America, he said. Theyre looking at the riots, theyre looking at the plague of corona, and theyre worried, Is God unhappy, is he cursing us? Theyre not sure, and they want God to bless them.

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Evangelical says nixing West Bank annexation could cost Trump the election - Heritage Florida Jewish News

‘The Sustenance of Loneliness’: An Interview with David Adjmi – The New York Review of Books

Posted By on July 25, 2020

Tana GandhiDavid Adjmi, Los Angeles, 2020

To my mothers Syrian Jewish family, I was always half bagel, half baklava, in other words, half Ashkenazi, half Sephardic. Having a J-dub father (a pejorative used to describe an Ashkenazi Jew) was a kind of Scarlet Letter for a community that prides itself on suspicion of outsiders, even other Arab Jews. My mixed background effectively exiled me from their particular diasporan enclave and its nonstop wedding, bar mitzvah, and bris circuit. But the same did not happen to the playwright David Adjmi, who is fully SY (an abbreviation for Syrian, and what the community calls itself) and was raised within the confines of the lettered avenues of Midwood, Brooklyn.

His newly published memoir, Lot Six, as well as his 2009 play Stunning,are testament to a rapturous ability to capture the cadence and idiosyncrasies of a group never previously brought to dramatic life in mainstream culture. With Stunning, for instance, Adjmi tells the story of Lily, a teenage Syrian Jewish bride living in the cloistered Midwood neighborhood, who hires Blanche, a Black academic, as her housekeeper. Their relationship, and subsequent romance, unspool her neophyte perceptions of identity and sexuality. It is this innate dexterity with dialogue and storytelling that has garnered him numerous honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship and the Steinberg Playwright Award; his plays have by now been produced around the world, by companies as diverse and prestigious as the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Steppenwolf Theater group.

As for his memoirs title, it has dual meaning in the Syrian community. It refers to a lexical convention used by businessmen to negotiate with customers, and also code for three, an odd numberodd, as in queer, Adjmi writes in his book. It wasnt just an epithet for a gay personit was a price tag, a declaration of value. And a Lot Six had no value. The identity, if I ever claimed it, would render me worthless.

Lot Six took Adjmi a decade to write, mostly because he wasnt sure he had a story to tell. Prodding from an editor to put more of himself in the book spurred a shift in direction, resulting in a crisp and unbridled narration that spans his childhood, his coming out, and a fraught relationship with a teacher at Juilliard, and finally closes with the debut of Stunning at Lincoln Centers LCT3. Eventually, this Knstlerroman structure started to emerge, and I realized that was the story, he told me via Zoom from his home in Los Angeles. The book was almost like chiropractic work. It was like adjusting the vertebrae to try to actually make a corpus, make my life make sense to me.

Adjmi talked to me about the fluidity of his identity, loneliness as a source of artistic attunement and what representation means for a community so repelled by the idea of exposure. The following is an edited transcript of our conversation.

Marisa Mazria Katz: Lot Six tells the story of an extremely superstitious community that is walled off from the outside world. Was it difficult to find a language to express the contours of this culture to outsiders?

David Adjmi: Part of what Ive been wrestling with over the course of my life is that people, even other Jews, dont really know what I am, or what this little niche is. I was born into a community that is really insular and tiny and had this very tangled history. I dont even totally understand it, and no one really spoke about it to me.

What new pressures did you feel as a writer after being offered such a prestigious book deal?

An editor at HarperCollins had seen Stunning and read an article about meafter which he invited me to write this book. [I thought,] Why? I dont understand. Maybe they thought, Niche identities are hot, thats going to be a big publishing coup for us? I fought them a little and then I thought, OK, well, I can write a book, but it wont be about me, and it wont be about Syrian Jews. Itll be about culture, and Ill write about Heidegger. I thought I wanted to prove to theater people Im smart, I know things; Im not just some garden-variety playwright, I have this whole other life.

At what point did you shift gears and abandon the academic macro-view of culture?

I started with that and then my conscience wouldnt let me just do itit was kind of boring to me in the end to show off that I knew about Heidegger. I thought, Theres no skin in the game, nothing at risk, and nothing for me to learn about myself. I have these gaps and lacunae in my consciousness that I need to fill. I could feel as I was doing it, like, Who am I? What the hell happened to me? I didnt understand.

So I had to talk about this Syrianness. I didnt want to because I thought no one will want to hear about this, or read about it, because its niche and theres no syntax for it in the [wider] culture.

The only mainstream representation of it I have ever seen is through the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, also Syrian-Jewish, who discusses it in his memoir, I.M.

Isaac sort of wanted to do what I wanted to do, which was, Ugh, I want to leave this all behind. But of course, its like a Mbius strip, the past and the present, the bands have to meet up at some point. I had to write about it, because I had to understand myself, and I had to find a way to talk about my invisibility within this community that [itself] feels invisible, and these multiple kinds of exile that I experienced growing up, and try to find a way to make myself visible.

But what does that mean? Visible to whom? And under what circumstances? There were moral questions bound up with that. And there were aesthetic questions bound up with it.

The book starts with you as an eight-year-old driving into Manhattan with your mother to see the musical Sweeney Todd. The cityits art and culture, in particulartakes on an almost mythical persona in the book.

When my mother took me on these trips into the city, I just knew that there was something in that environment I wanted to internalize in some way. Maybe it was just very cursory. I mean, I know it was because its so overwhelming; therere all these whirring instruments, people dancing, and restaurants. And it looked so much better than Midwood.

What do you think your mother was trying to impart on these trips?

My mother wanted two things for me, and they were both opposed. She wanted me to become part of this community and marry a Syrian girl. And then she wanted me to be civilizedto achieve some kind of promise that she felt I hadwhich meant going against her to sort of violate, or transcend, her. So the city was this mediating ombudsman influence. It was almost like a tutor she was sort of hiring for me.

You also talk about experiencing a subsequent period of neglect from your mother and your father, who was traveling a lot for work. What kind of impact do you think that had?

I think loneliness and alienation are reallyI hate to say thisa kind of sustenance for artists and writers. I think most writers I know had very lonely childhoods and that is where they develop their acuity and facility with observation and thinking things through in a very complicated way, in a way that a lot of other kids just dont have time to do.

Its heartbreaking to think about that, but I actually think my time alone as a child encouraged a certain kind of independence and self-reliance. Even though I wasnt really capable of those things, I had to be, and Im certain I parlayed that into my writing.

How did this correspond with your own personal identity?

I didnt go to a school that taught me Syrian history or Arabic. It was an Ashkenazi school. They were, like, Fine, well let you win because we need you to subsidize other peoples tuition, because [in their eyes] Syrian Jews have a lot of money. (Not my family, but a lot of others did.) It seemed to be this strange Devils bargain that this yeshiva had entered into, and we all kind of knew it. We were sort of elided there.

I was very light-skinned. My mothers very light-skinned, everyone in my family has very light skin, we look white. And it wasnt until later in my life when I was like, Wait a minute, who am I? I dont think Im white. Where am I from? Because theyre ahistorical in the micro and the macro, no one sat around saying, This was my story, this happened to me, and this is where you come from.

It was all kind of a wash. I was like, Wait, Im sort of Spanish, sort of Jewish, but Im also an Arab. I think all of these diasporic elements just kind of canceled each other out. I just said, I dont know and Im going to start from scratch.

What would it have meant to you if you claimed the Syrian Sephardic Jewish identity?

I could only do two things: I could have had a jeans company or an electronics company or store. Those are the two things that were offered to me by my dad. I knew I couldnt do those things.

There are also many unwritten rules you have to abide by in order to be a full-fledged member of the community.

It wasnt a cult, but it felt cult-like to me because I had these inborn feelings that were rejecting everything they were trying to instill in me. It was as if I was Teflonthat is, the Lot Six part of me. Its not just about being gay, and this thing that Im born with thats part of me that I cannot exorcise, but its a whole aesthetic sensibility and a moral and aesthetic calculus resistant to being tampered with.

The chapter about your time at Juilliard is hard to read. Your teacher, whom you call Gloria, openly criticizes you in a way that feels unnecessarily painful.

I was so broken down after that program, but I think I was broken down by it because of me. I think that that professor was mirroring something that already existed in me: an insecurity, a self-loathing, and a terror that I had of myself. And, in some ways, I needed to have that exposed and challenged, and it was sort of sink or swim.

Have you had any reactions from your family about the memoir?

My sister read the book and loves it. My brothers havent read it yet. And I told my mother not to read it. She said shes not going to, but I dont know if she will or she wont. She just likes that it is dedicated to her. So I said, Its good. You have a book thats dedicated to you. Put it on your shelf and just look at it.

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'The Sustenance of Loneliness': An Interview with David Adjmi - The New York Review of Books

NY consul post to be left vacant due to Blue and White indecision – The Jerusalem Post

Posted By on July 25, 2020

Israel's consul-general in New York, Dani Dayan, will complete his four-year term next week and return home to Israel, even though multiple Foreign Ministry sources revealed to The Jerusalem Post that the process of replacing him has not even begun.Three sources confirmed that Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi has not even decided yet whether to appoint a professional diplomat from within the ranks of ministry or an outsider to the key role as the top liaison to the American Jewish leadership, the New York-based media and millions of Jews in five states.The Foreign Ministry's appointments committee will convene next week, but it is the sensitive post as ambassador to Russia that is on the agenda. The committee cannot meet to fill the vacancies in New York, Miami and Ottawa until Ashkenazi makes decisions about what appointments will be political."He is in no hurry," a source close to Ashkenazi who has spoken to him about appointments revealed. "But he will appoint people unquestionably fit for the posts." The coalition agreement gave the Likud the right to appoint the ambassador to the United Nations, United Kingdom, France, Australia and the ambassador in Washington for half the term. Former minister Gilad Erdan will be ambassador to the UN and is set to replace Ron Dermer in Washington in January for 10 months until the post is given to a Blue and White appointee. Settlements Minister Tzipi Hotovely will be ambassador to the UK. Outgoing ambassador to the UN Danny Danon could be sent to Paris or Canberra or come home. The decision has been delayed due to a fight within the World Likud. Blue and White can appoint what remains of the 11 possible political appointments in the Foreign Ministry. One of Blue and White's diplomatic appointments is set to go to Labor, according to an agreement between Labor and Blue and White.But the top post available for Ashkenazi to appoint is in New York. He offered the consul-general post to media strategist Avi Benayahu, who was IDF spokesman when Ashkenazi was IDF chief of staff, as well as one other respected public figure. Both rejected the offer. Benayahu said he did not want to close his company and live far from his granddaughter.A spokesman for Ashkenazi said: "We are currently not dealing with appointments. The minister will deal with all professional appointments necessary and when decided, they will be announced." A spokeswoman for Blue and White said whoever Ashkenazi will select will be a respected professional. Alon Pinkas, a former chief of staff to two foreign ministers who served as consul-general in New York from 2000 to 2004, said the post could be vacant for a month or two, but it should not be abandoned for longer than that."The State of Israel will survive the vacancy during the summer and holidays," Pinkas said. "But if there is a lengthy appointment process and if there is an election and it stays vacant because of political uncertainty, that is a problem. You are leaving the entire engagement with US media, Jewish organization and key politicians to a deputy. If this becomes a prolonged vacancy, it's a big problem."

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NY consul post to be left vacant due to Blue and White indecision - The Jerusalem Post

Travelogue of Jewish Latin America wins Natan Notable Book Award – The Jewish News of Northern California

Posted By on July 25, 2020

In multiple trips between 2013 and 2017, llan Stavans visited and revisited the Jewish communities in some of his favorite countries: Argentina, Spain and Cuba, as well as Mexico, where he was born and raised. He also went to Israel, where many Latin American Jews have made aliyah.

The result was his engaging work of first-person journalism, The Seventh Heaven: Travels Through Jewish Latin America, which this week won the spring 2020 Natan Notable Book Award from the Jewish Book Council. It comes with a $5,000 award.

The peripatetic author, publisher, cultural commentator and professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts had, of course, traveled in Latin America before but not with the intention of chronicling the diverse experiences of Jews living in the far-flung Spanish-speaking world.

One of Stavans inspirations was his reading of a massive study of Jewish communities in the Pale of Settlement before World War I by a Russian Jewish ethnographer who published under the name A. Ansky. By the time this fieldwork was concluded, hundreds of thousands of the Jews hed chronicled had emigrated, their communities decimated by anti-Semitic violence and poverty.

He was right where the action took place, Stavans writes in the introduction to his book. Had he not traveled around, we would have missed a rich multi-faceted description of a people and a civilization which, by 1938, had virtually vanished from the face of the earth.

Over the four years of his immersive wanderings the same amount of time that Ansky took for his tour of Galicia Stavans found Jewish communities both thriving and ghostly. He also found Jews as much shaped by national and Latin American cultures as Sephardic or Ashkenazi Jews had been shaped by countries they lived in centuries ago.

It was in the conversations, perhaps more than the actual places, that I found meaning, Stavans writes. A place is a place is a place But it is the people who make my journey worth the effort Thats what culture is about. And it was this culture that I desperately wanted to capture.

The recognition of Stavans book brings the conversation of Jewish identity outside the borders of North America and Israel, introducing readers to Jewish immigrants, cultures, traditions and communities across Latin America, the JBC said in its July 20 announcement.

Stavans compelling travelogue reminds readers that Jewish stories exist, and flourish, in places and ways far from the narrative that is standard in the minds of many North American Jews.

In a statement acknowledging the award, Stavans underscored this point.

Latin America has a rich and diverse Jewish history that goes back to the arrival of Columbus fleet in that fateful October of 1492, at a time when Spanish Jews were looking for a safe haven from inquisitorial persecution, he said.

Since then, the whole gamut of Jewish possibilities coexists in the region: Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Mizrahim, conversos, crypto-Jews, gauchos, kabbalists, Yiddishists, Hebraists, secularists, communists, Zionists, anarchists, Bundists, Shoah survivors, war refugees, exiles, messiahnists, Lubavitchers, orthodox, conservatives, reform, reconstructionists, Chabadniks, extremists, anti-Zionists, assimilationists, Israelis, and every type in between, he continued. The world needs to appreciate Latin America as a splendid theater where Jewish culture is reinvented every day in imaginative ways.

The Natan Notable Books committee members noted that they were excited to catalyze conversations about the diversity of the Jewish people, especially at a time when diversity is very much part of public conversation.

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Travelogue of Jewish Latin America wins Natan Notable Book Award - The Jewish News of Northern California

Meet the Iranian-Jewish ‘progressive prosecutor’ vying to be Manhattan’s next district attorney – JTA News – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Posted By on July 25, 2020

(JTA) Shootings are up in New York City. So are anti-Semitic incidents. And federal law enforcement is recasting itself as an adversary, not an ally, to local authorities.

That is the climate in which Tali Farhadian Weinstein seeks to become Manhattans top prosecutor.

Farhadian Weinstein, 44, stepped into the citys crowded district attorneys race last week with a vision for progressive prosecution or what she says is applying the office as a lever to both improve public safety and increase equity.

Pursuing cases that dont advance public safety and that might actually perpetuate injustice instead, like racial disparities or criminalized poverty, those are things that we should stand down from, Farhadian Weinstein told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

A former general counsel to the Brooklyn district attorney, Farhadian Weinstein came to the United States as a child from Iran, via Israel, after the Iranian revolution and now lives on the Upper East Side with her husband, hedge fund founder Boaz Weinstein, and their three children. A Rhodes Scholar, her resume includes clerkships with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day OConnor and others. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, with whom Farhadian Weinstein worked at the Department of Justice, narrated a video announcing her campaign. The election is next year.

Farhadian Weinstein said the Trump administrations move to crack down on unrest in cities presents a vexing inversion of the role that that federal law enforcement has traditionally played.

I think its important to remember why the founders thought that the police power and law enforcement of this kind should belong to the states, she said. I think that was so that people themselves could decide in their own communities what laws do we enforce and in what circumstances and I think thats at the heart of what it means to be a progressive prosecutor.

We spoke with Farhadian Weinstein about her vision for the role, what she might do as district attorney to combat anti-Semitism and her very Jewish thesis topic.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

JTA: Youve called yourself a progressive prosecutor. What does that mean to you?

Farhadian Weinstein: Its two things, one is to make sure that at every step of the way were being fair to everybody with whom were interacting, whether they are the defendant or the witness or the victim. And second, and I think this is the more expansive idea, we, progressive prosecutors, have a more meaningful understanding of what public safety is and we have to check ourselves that everything we do advances public safety rather than takes away from it.

It means understanding that incarceration should be a last resort and only used when it advances public safety. Pursuing cases that dont advance public safety and that might actually perpetuate injustice instead, like racial disparities or criminalized poverty, those are things that we should stand down from. And instead we should be using our resources to actually bring the cases that matter and to protect vulnerable people, which is why were in this job to begin with.

What would you say are the cases that matter?

I think that gun violence is obviously on a lot of peoples minds because of what were seeing around New York City. (The city has recorded a spike in shootings, including several of children, in recent weeks.) I think that gender-based violence, which is often really just violence against women, is something we should be investigating and prosecuting more vigorously than we have, and by that I mean sexual assault and domestic violence. The Manhattan district attorneys office has a tradition that goes back to Bob Morgenthau of prosecuting from the streets to the suites, so the cheating and stealing that affects the lives of the people who live here.

Yesterday, Donald Trump spoke with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the two reportedly agreed that federal troops would not be sent to New York City. How would you approach the idea of federal troops being sent to New York City as district attorney?

Theres still a lot about this that is unknown and developing and also unprecedented so I think a lot of people are trying to figure out, is this legal? That has to be the first question, and for me, is it advisable, is it good policy, even if it is legal? And I think why its challenging is that its an inversion of how we usually think about why federal forces would go into a city to confront a situation thats being run by state or local officers. This is very much not Little Rock in 1957 or integrating the University of Alabama in 1963 where the feds are the good guys.

I think this is all new, were processing this idea, in blue states in particular, that we now have to push back at the idea that the federal government is bringing justice rather than state and local governments.

When I think about what am I trying to do as a local prosecutor, as Manhattan district attorney, I think its important to remember why the founders thought that the police power and law enforcement of this kind should belong to the states. I think that was so that people themselves could decide in their own communities what laws do we enforce and in what circumstances and I think thats at the heart of what it means to be a progressive prosecutor. Around New York, local prosecutors dont really prosecute misdemeanor simple marijuana possession even though that law is on the books. Theres a reason for the constitutional order that we have.

At the very moment that people are saying we dont have enough trust in law enforcement and there isnt enough accountability when police officers break the law, youre making both of those things worse. And its bad for public safety when people dont trust law enforcement. Its also bad for public safety to pull these people [federal officers] away from their mission.

Where do you come down on the conversation about defunding or reforming the New York Police Department?

Ive said before that I dont particularly care for the word defund the police because I find it inflammatory and not solution-oriented. But I do think its great that we are engaged in the conversation about what we want from law enforcement and how we think the police should be doing what I just described about progressive prosecution to make sure that everything that happens is to further public safety and nothing else.

Its interesting to me because some of the themes that are now being talked about in the context of police reform are things that weve been working on all of these years on the side of prosecution. Minimizing contacts between law enforcement and people and understanding that those are traumatic and should be a last resort, bringing other competencies into the work. In local district attorneys offices, we have social workers, counselors. You dont learn everything you need in order to do that job of delivering public safety to communities from going to law school. And likewise now, were really having this conversation now of who should really respond with the police, instead of the police, whatever the case may be. So I think that the conversation is great and Im quite hopeful about it.

What do you think you can do in furthering that conversation about reform from the perch of the district attorneys office?

Some of that has to come from within the police do not report to the DA; its the mayors responsibility. But we work alongside the police, obviously the police make arrests and we process them. You could use different words to describe that relationship depending on the issue theres negotiation, theres cooperation, theres consultation. So there are pushes and pulls that happen between us in deciding what are the cases we should be bringing and what are the cases we should not be bringing. I also think that DAs in any area of legislation having to do with criminal justice are an important voice and so, for example, a number of the district attorneys in the state and in the city were longtime advocates for repealing 50-a. I was in favor of repeal and Im glad that it happened. (Section 50-a was a rule that kept personnel files for police officers confidential. It was repealed last month by the New York State Legislature.)

Our job is to prosecute everybody without fear or favor, no matter who they are, no matter what uniform they wear. So when police officers break the law, they have to be held accountable just like everybody else. And in Brooklyn, I started our standalone law enforcement accountability bureau and I supervised it. We investigated and prosecuted police officers.

How would you use the role of Manhattan district attorney to fight anti-Semitism in New York City?

It requires a multifaceted response of which law enforcement is one very important part. We have a hate crime statute and I would enforce it vigorously. I was just on the New York State Bar task force on domestic terrorism and hate crimes. We thought about this a lot because there has obviously been such a horrible surge in anti-Semitism in New York City and around the state over the past year.

The statute at this point makes it possible to sentence somebody to some kind of education program as well, and I think thats something that we need to look at a little more closely, whether we could be doing more of that. Because you need to respond to the crime when it happens and you need to also think about what is the root cause, why is this happening, why are people so hateful towards each other, and I think we need to come at it from both ends. District attorneys offices have traditionally taken a role, and I think this is terrific, in going out into communities and talking about the law and the underlying reasons for the law. So theres an education component, too.

Do you have some thoughts about why theres been this uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in New York City in recent years?

One thing that we have seen in law enforcement is that the internet definitely makes things worse because people can find like minded haters for whatever the target of your hate is and it can fester and foment. Thats something to think about that I think needs a law enforcement response. Why anti-Semitism in particular? its important to say that other kinds of hate have also been on the rise. Weve seen terrible hate towards Asian Americans, particularly tied to COVID, hate crimes against LGBTQ people and hate against African-Americans, all of these things sort of come together, I think.

How do you think about balancing calls for bail reform with the difficulties that has posed in preventing incidents of anti-Semitism in New York City?

The thing about bail reform is its about balancing different values and different concerns. I have largely been an advocate for bail reform, because I think the fundamental goals of bail reform have been right. So I think, first of all, we should always be really careful when were taking somebodys liberty away before trial, before theyve been convicted of anything and in our system theyre presumed innocent, as they should be. I also think its undeniable that over time in New York, Black and brown people in particular and poor people were incarcerated pre-trial at astonishing, shocking and really unacceptable rates. And I should say, in Brooklyn, we had managed to really bring those numbers down before the law changed. And I also find cash bail deeply troubling, the idea that theres a connection between a persons liberty and how much money they have and that there should be a price on liberty at all.

It continues to concern me that New York is the only state that does not allow for dangerousness to be a consideration in deciding what should happen to people before trial. Taking that off the table makes it harder to achieve the kind of balance that youre asking me about, to make sure that in every single case are we putting public safety into that equation.

Do you think the bail reform that was passed in New York State went too far?

The bail reform in both of its iterations is not the ideal situation that Ive described in which you would have eliminated cash bail completely, we still have cash bail for qualifying offenses, but on the other hand allowed for a small number of people to be detained because of dangerousness before trial. I think conceptually, its not the approach I would have taken though it accomplished what it set out to accomplish in part, which is to reduce the number of people held before trial and which I think is a good goal.

What is something about you that people might find surprising?

Ive spent a lot of time in Israel: I have a ton of family there, because many of the Jews of Iran went to Israel at various points and wound up staying. Ive taken my girls to Israel I think three times, and I spent a lot of time in high school when I went on the Bronfman Youth fellowship.

I ended up doing my thesis at Oxford about a certain strand of Israeli literature, the literature of Jews from the Arab world, like A.B. Yehoshua and Sami Michael. Where I grew up was a predominantly Ashkenazi community. Where I went to school, we were among very few families that were not Ashkenazi. My husbands mother was born in the Warsaw Ghetto but she grew up in Israel. So some of it was personal because I was trying to understand the coming together of Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews in different places around the world. Id been studying Arabic for some time, and I was interested in the politics of that literature because they were describing a different origin story and a different experience of what it meant to be Israeli.

How does your own story of coming to this country as an immigrant inform the way you would approach the job of district attorney?

Being an immigrant has affected me, its an outlook that stays with you forever and in my case, I think, has helped me do this work because its helped me bring a kind of empathy to this work. Its the commonality of the experience of having been vulnerable, of having come here with an ambition to be free and to live in safety and to understand in a really visceral and personal way what it means to yearn for those things. And those are the very things we are supposed to be delivering in a job like this one, fairness and safety privileges that in other parts of the world, people dont get to experience.

Youre talking about immigrants who are coming here from Central America and South America and who are waiting right now at our borders. I see myself in them.

What do you think about when you hear Donald Trump speaking negatively about immigration and Iran, two different things that you know personally on a different level?

I feel pretty much horrified by anything and everything that he says, the fomenting of hate, the attempts to divide. I think the commonality that I just described is I think very different from the way hes described America coming together.

I think thats also a very Jewish idea to hold onto the fact that all of us were strangers in a strange land at some point and even when youre past that, as I am in many ways now, I think our tradition tells us to remember that because it is a source of empathy and ultimately, justice, to see that in others and to draw on that collective experience even if it was not a personal experience.

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Meet the Iranian-Jewish 'progressive prosecutor' vying to be Manhattan's next district attorney - JTA News - Jewish Telegraphic Agency

7 Diverse Jewish Childrens and YA Books – Book Riot

Posted By on July 25, 2020

As a reader and as a parent, Im committed to reading diverse books for myself, and also providing diverse books of all kinds to my son. He goes to a Jewish preschool, and while its important to me that he learns about our religion, its also important that he learns that there are many different kinds of JewsI recently attended a panel that talked about racism in the Jewish community, with all of the speakers identifying as Jews of Color, and they mentioned the term Ashkenormative, where the default to being Jewish is always Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, and typically white. And that needs to change.

We have a diverse library of books at home in general, but regarding Judaism and Jewish themes, sometimes these books are harder to findalthough I think thats changing. I still think there is a lack of diversity regarding family structures and disabilities in Jewish books (especially for kids), but I also think this reflects attitudes in the larger Jewish community as wellthere are a lot of conversations to be had, and hopefully change will keep happening.

Here are some great ideas for diverse Jewish childrens and YA books to add to your library. If youre looking for even more diverse books for kids of all ages, check out this post, too.

I dont remember how I first found Aviva on Instagram (, but I am so glad I did. Her posts make me smile and laugh, and she writes about being Jewish and Black, being a mom, and so much more. As someone who has a Shabbat-loving little, I knew when I saw that she wrote a book about a little boy with a Shabbat question that we would be getting that book. One of the things I love about this book is the diversity: not only is Ezras family biracial, but the book also shows how people practice Judaism in different ways.

Our family is Ashkenazi Jewish, and when I saw this board book, I knew I wanted my son to read it. He loves Shabbat, and this was a fun and age-appropriate way to introduce him to some Ladino (also known as Judeo-Spanish) while reading about a Sephardic family getting ready for Shabbat.

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Pablo needs to bring something in for International Day at school, and he decides to bring something from his familys bakery. His mom is Mexican and makes empanadas and chango bars, and his father is Jewish and makes challah and bagelsso he decides to share both sides of his family and makes jalapeo bagels to bring in.

My sons class read this for Purim, and this was one instance where I was pleasantly surprised: the main character has two dads, and its treated as simple fact and just part of the story. In this story, Noah loves aliens and wants to dress up as one for Purimbut all his friends are dressing as superheroes. He has to make a decision about fitting in or being his own person.

This delightful book is about a multi-cultural family (Indian and Jewish) who celebrate Hanukkah with traditional Indian foods. They eat dosas instead of latkes, and the reader gets to learn all about how they make the dosas in preparation for the Hanukkah party. When the family gets locked out of their house before the party, Sadie might be the one to save the day.

A companion book to This Is Just a Test (although you dont need to read that book to follow this one), this middle-grade book set in the 1980s follows Lauren and her best friend Tara. Theyve been together in every class before, but not this yearso they both try out for the school play. Tara gets the lead part and Lauren, who is half-Jewish and half-Chinese, is told that she just doesnt look the part of the all-American girl. When she just cant bring herself sing during practice anymore, her role in the play and her friendship with Tara are at risk.

Nevaeh is biracial: she has a Black mom and Jewish dad, and when they divorce, she moves to Harlem with her mom. Because she passes for white, her cousins think she doesnt understand discrimination against the Black community, and her dad decides that when she turns 16, instead of a Sweet 16 party, shes going to be Bat Mitzvahd. Through everything, Nevaeh faces conflict the way she always has: she says nothinguntil she starts falling in love, and when she realizes the different prejudices her family faces every day.

Do you have favorite diverse Jewish childrens or YA books?

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7 Diverse Jewish Childrens and YA Books - Book Riot

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