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Fauquier Community Theatre via ThunderTix

Posted By on October 17, 2022

Dec 2, 2022 - Dec 18, 2022

Irving Berlins Holiday Inn tells the story of Jim, who leaves the bright lights of show business behind to settle down on his farmhouse in Connecticut but life just isnt the same without a bit of song and dance. Jims luck takes a spectacular turn when he meets Linda, a spirited schoolteacher with talent to spare.

Together they turn the farmhouse into a fabulous inn with dazzling performances to celebrate each holiday, from Thanksgiving to the Fourth of July. But when Jims best friend Ted tries to lure Linda to Hollywood to be his new dance partner, will Jim be able to salvage his latest chance at love?

Based on the classic film, this joyous musical features thrilling dance numbers, laugh-out-loud comedy and a parade of hit Irving Berlin songs, including Blue Skies, Easter Parade, Steppin Out With My Baby, Heat Wave, White Christmas, Be Careful, Its My Heart, Cheek to Cheek, Shaking the Blues Away and many more!

FCTs production of Holiday Inn is directed by Betsy Hansen and produced by Diane King. The production is presented with special permission from Concord Theatricals.

Feb 3, 2023 - Feb 19, 2023

The Greatest Generation Speaks written by Tom Brokaw is being adapted for stage by Dr. Harry J. Kantrovich. The production will be vignettes of letters and reflections sent to Mr. Brokaw over the years. It is a collection of stories about WW II and its heroes told from 1st and 3rd party perspectives.From the Director: Like Mr. Brokaw, I feel it is important to keep history live and in proper perspective for our future generations.This is why I only write and/or direct plays that have a meaning to history.In borrowing a quote from Mr. Brokaw from the back dust cover of the book: If we are to heed the past to prepare for the future, we should listen to these quiet voices of a generation that speaks to us of duty and honor, sacrifice and accomplishment.I hope more of their stories will be preserved and cherished as reminders of all that we owe them and all that we can learn from them. Dr. Harry J. KantrovichFrom the Director: Like Mr. Brokaw, I feel it is important to keep history live and in proper perspective for our future generations.This is why I only write and/or direct plays that have a meaning to history.In borrowing a quote from Mr. Brokaw from the back dust cover of the book: If we are to heed the past to prepare for the future, we should listen to these quiet voices of a generation that speaks to us of duty and honor, sacrifice and accomplishment.I hope more of their stories will be preserved and cherished as reminders of all that we owe them and all that we can learn from them. Dr. Harry J. Kantrovich

Mar 10, 2023 - Mar 26, 2023

Our Town is a 1938 play by American playwright Thornton Wilder which won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play tells the story of the fictional American small town of Grovers Corners between 1901 and 1913 through the everyday lives of its citizens.

Described by Edward Albee as the greatest American play ever written, Our Town presents the small town of Grovers Corners and depicts the simple daily lives of the Webb and Gibbs families in three acts: Daily Life, Love and Marriage and Death and Eternity.

FCTs production of Our Town is directed by Sonia Bronder and with special permission by Concord Theatricals.

Apr 28, 2023 - May 14, 2023

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, takes us to the French Riviera for high jinks and hilarity. Sophisticated, suave with a good dash of mischief, this hysterical comedy features a delightfully jazzy score by David Yazbek (The Full Monty) and was nominated for a staggering eleven Tony Awards. Lawrence Jameson makes his lavish living by talking rich ladies out of their money.

Freddy Benson more humbly swindles women by waking their compassion with fabricated stories about his grandmothers failing health. After meeting on a train, they attempt to work together, only to find that this small French town isnt big enough for the two of them.. A hilarious battle of cons ensues that will keep audiences laughing, humming and guessing to the end!

Fauquier Community Theatres production of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is directed by Matt Moore and produced by Mary Beth Balint. The production is by special arrangement with Music Theatre International.

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Fauquier Community Theatre via ThunderTix

Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage and Genetic Risk | OncoLink

Posted By on October 17, 2022

Ashkenazi Jews, whose Jewish ancestors are from central or eastern Europe, have been found to have genetic mutations (changes in the genes) that increase their risk of certain cancers and disorders.

Centuries ago, this population lived in one area and were isolated from other populations of people. Because of this, Ashkenazi Jews can trace their ancestors back to a small group of people. Genetic traits were passed down among this group with little influence from other populations genes.

There are a few genetic mutations that are commonly seen in the Ashkenazi population, including BRCA 1 & 2, HNPCC, and APC.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA1/2) are the most well-known genes linked to breast cancer risk. Mutations in the BRCA1/2 genes can be passed to you from either parent and affect cancer risk in men and women. Ashkenazi Jews with these mutations may also have an increased risk of ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, and skin cancer.

Among Ashkenazi Jewish men and women, about 1 in 40 have a BRAC1/2 mutation. 1 in 400 people in the general population have a BRCA1/2 gene mutation.

Two genetic mutations associated with Ashkenazi heritage are linked to gastrointestinal cancers:

APC (Adenomatous Polyposis Coli) causes an increased risk of colon cancer. This mutation is found in about 6% of Ashkenazi Jews. Their risk of colon cancer is about double that of the general population. People with APC can have hundreds of polyps, but this is not seen in Ashkenazi Jews with APC mutations.

HNPCC (Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer or Lynch Syndrome) increases the risk of colon cancer at a younger age (<40). HNPCC is also associated with endometrial, gastric, ovarian, small intestine, bile duct, pancreatic, brain, and ureter cancer.

If you are of Ashkenazi Jewish descent should discuss your family history with your care provider to see if genetic counseling is right for you. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends genetic counseling if either of the following apply to you:

Finding out about a genetic mutation can be scary. The information allows you to take steps to prevent certain cancers through lifestyle choices, screening, medications, and surgical procedures to reduce risk.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):Jewish Women and BRCA Gene Mutations.

Jewish Genetic Diseases: Resource and helpful information concerning Jewish Genetic Diseases.

National Cancer Institute: The Genetics of Cancer.

Sharsheret: A national organization that provides community and education for young Jewish women with breast cancer.

Susan G. Komen:Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage.

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Ashkenazi Jewish Heritage and Genetic Risk | OncoLink

Israeli needle-free alternative to amnio can detect thousands of mutations – The Times of Israel

Posted By on October 17, 2022

Israeli scientists are holding trials on a new method of screening for fetuses and say it could provide all the information received from an amniocentesis without the risks.

Prof. Noam Shomron of Tel Aviv University told The Times of Israel that his method involves taking a regular blood sample rather than the amniocentesis practice of using a needle to extract amniotic fluid, which carries a risk of miscarriage.

He said the new technique can be performed four weeks earlier than amniocentesis at 10 weeks instead of the standard 14 and provides as much information on the risks of numerous syndromes, diseases and disorders.

We can screen for thousands of mutations, each of which could lead to genetic diseases, he said, naming Gauchers and cystic fibrosis as two diseases.

It also works for less common mutations such as those that occur more among particular demographics, like Tay Sachs which is more prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews.

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Shomron, who heads Tel Aviv Universitys functional genomics lab, published the method in peer-reviewed research and is developing the technology via a startup, IdentifAI Genetics, which he leads with colleagues Tom Rabinowitz and Oren Tadmor. The new screening process is being tested on dozens of Israeli women who tend to corroborate any results with amniocentesis and Shomron said he expects it to be approved by regulators and available for use by the end of 2023.

After the method is eventually perfected for embryos, it could be adapted for screening children and adults for a range of diseases that manifest themselves with abnormal DNA, such as cancers, Shomron said.

Prof. Noam Shomron, Head of the Computational Genomics Laboratory at Tel Aviv University. (Sion Ninio, Tel Aviv University)

His method isnt the first alternative to amniocentesis. A blood test called the noninvasive prenatal test, or NIPT, is in wide use and provides reliable screening for various conditions including Downs syndrome, Edwards Syndrome and Pataus syndrome. However, its scope is limited and it can only screen for large chromosomal changes, not hard-to-detect mutations.

NIPT only identifies genetic changes that can be spotted by examining the chromosomes, while many mutations require the analyst to zoom in. Shomron captures detail within the chromosomes.

Our resolution is about a million times better than that of NIPT, said Shomron, likening it to high-detailed satellite imaging that can now show individual buildings, compared to early space flight images that could only show the outline of land masses. We look at each nucleotide, each base, each letter in the genetic material, the DNA.

One key breakthrough that led to Shomrons method was identifying which DNA in the mothers blood belongs to the fetus. This is challenging because the moms blood contains her DNA as well as that of the fetus; NIPT hasnt overcome this, meaning analysis takes place on a mixture of DNA, some of it irrelevant to the fetus.

A doctor preparing an amniocentesis needle for amniotic fluid extraction (thomasandreas via iStock by Getty Images)

Shomron and his team built an algorithm that differentiates between the DNAs based on subtle variations in size, shape and other characteristics.

This means we get the computationally purified DNA and can then go back to looking at every tiny change in the DNA, and this just isnt possible when it is mixed in with the mothers DNA, he explained.

When you read the mother and fetus DNA together, things are unclear and you only see major changes to the norm, while when you know exactly what belongs to the fetus you get a very clear view. The result is that the new test will give everything a current amniocentesis or NIPT delivers, together with significant additional information.

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Israeli needle-free alternative to amnio can detect thousands of mutations - The Times of Israel

Jamaican Organizations and B’nai Brith to Work Together to Highlight Little-Known Chapter of the Holocaust – bnaibrith.ca

Posted By on October 17, 2022

Oct. 13, 2022TORONTO A number of Jamaican organizations have made an agreement with Bnai Brith Canada to publicize a little-known chapter of Jewish history in Jamaica.

TheJamaican Canadian Association, theJamaicaAssociation of Montreal,theJamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia, and the Jamaican Canadian Association of Alberta and Bnai Brith Canada will alert their members and communities to the work of York University historian Diana Cooper-Clark to inform the public about howJamaicasaved Jews fleeing the Holocaust.

Cooper-Clarks research found that nearly 1,000 Jews from many parts of Europe, particularly the Netherlands, were housed at the Gibraltar refugee camp, near Kingston inJamaicabetween 1942 and 1945. At that time, Jamaica was part of the British Empire.

The camps location is within thegrounds of the University of the West Indies these days. Cooper-Clarks work has uncovered that the camp had a capacity of 6,000. There is some question as to why British authorities did not use the camps to their full capacity.

Many people are surprised to learn that Jewish history inJamaicastretches back to the start of colonial history, said Mark Henry, President of theJamaicaAssociation of Montreal. Jamaicawas the first place to allow Jews to vote in the British Empire. It has always provided a sanctuary against antisemitism, andit is no surprise that in 1942Jamaicans welcomed the Jewish refugees with open arms.

Henry said there recently was a reunion in Kingston of those who lived in the refugee camp and said the public needs to know more about this little-known chapter of history.

The national director of Bnai Brith Canadas League for Human Rights agrees with Henry.

The Gibraltar story is important not only because it broadens our knowledge of the Holocaust but also aids our understanding of enduring warm relations between theJamaican and Jewish peoples, Marvin Rotrand said. Today, there are growing ties betweenJamaicaand Israel and there are 2,000 persons residing inJamaicawho identify as Jewish.

Rotrand said Jamaicas Jewish community is diverse, representing people of various races and reflecting both Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jewish traditions. Rotrand said theKahal Kadosh Shaare Shalom synagogue on Duke Street in Kingston dates from 1912 and is noted for its architectural value and can accommodate more than 600 persons for services.

We are pleased to alert Canadians to Professor Cooper-Clarks scholarship, said Olive Phillips, president of theJamaican Cultural Association of Nova Scotia. During World War II,Jamaicans served to defend Britain and volunteers in the Caribbean Regiment were stationed in the Middle East, including in Israel, creating a lasting link.

Our organization speaks for theJamaican-Canadian diaspora in Ontario, said David Betty, president of theJamaican Canadian Association in Toronto.But even in our community, this story of compassion is too little known. While the world closed its doors to Jews,Jamaicans were ready to help.

Dave Pennant of theJamaican Canadian Association of Alberta said that the public would benefit from knowing more about how Jews during the darkest hours of the Holocaust found sanctuary on a Caribbean island.

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Jamaican Organizations and B'nai Brith to Work Together to Highlight Little-Known Chapter of the Holocaust - bnaibrith.ca

Why The New York Times translated its Hasidic yeshiva investigation …

Posted By on October 17, 2022

The New York Times took the rare step of translating its investigation of Hasidic yeshivas into Yiddish by The New York Times

By Rukhl SchaechterSeptember 12, 2022

Sundays groundbreaking New York Times article about the dismal state of secular education in the Hasidic yeshivas in Brooklyn and the lower Hudson Valley elicited much heated discussion on social media. But it also drew interest for a very different reason: the investigation was published online in Yiddish as well.

Yiddish is the everyday language of around 700,000 Hasidic Jews globally, including large communities in New York, London, Antwerp and Jerusalem. Most families raise their children in the language, and it is the lingua franca of almost all Hasidic boys schools, although less so in schools run by the Chabad-Lubavitch community.

Translating the story into Yiddish was spearheaded by Michael LaForgia, an investigations editor for the Metro section, and Snigdha Koirala, deputy international editor for audience.

Our reporting showed that many in the community did not speak English well, and we wanted them to be able to access the story, LaForgia said.

More broadly, we thought taking the time to translate it would underscore the reality of what we were doing: beginning a conversation and focusing attention on some of the least powerful members of this community.

The Times reached out to the Forward three weeks ago seeking help finding a highly experienced and sensitive translator for what it described only as an important story of some length. The Forward provided a recommendation, but The Times would not confirm on Monday whom it had hired.

Although many commenters on Facebook and Twitter labeled this the first Yiddish article ever to appear in The New York Times, Koirala wasnt able to verify that. One thing she knows for sure? Its the only one that we could find on our website.

Several Times employees said on background that the Yiddish version of the article had garnered more readership than a typical English story in the Metropolitan section. One said it got more than 150,000 pageviews in the first 24 hours, though a Times spokeswoman declined to confirm that, saying the company does not release audience figures.

Eric Fettman, a noted historian of American journalism, pointed out that, although this may indeed be the first article published entirely in Yiddish, there was a precedent. On Dec. 9, 1978, the day after Isaac Bashevis Singer gave his Nobel Laureate speech, The Times published an article about his speech on the front page including his introductory lines in Yiddish.

The deep honor which the Swedish Academy has bestowed on me is also an acknowledgment of Yiddish, a language of the Diaspora, without a country, without borders, not supported by any state, he said in his address.

Publishing content in different languages is not new for The Times. In addition to a daily report in Chinese and Spanish, the paper has translated investigations and special features into more than a dozen languages in the last three years, including French, Japanese, Burmese, Persian and Arabic.

For many Yiddish activists and academics of Yiddish studies, having a Yiddish article in The Times was exciting news indeed.

I found it startling to see a Yiddish language article in The New York Times, said Eddy Portnoy, academic advisor at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. In consideration of the topic and the need to inform a particular target audience, I thought it was a brilliant move on their part, especially having had it translated into colloquial Hasidic Yiddish.

Hasidic Yiddish differs from the standard Yiddish taught in most Yiddish courses today, both in respect to grammar and spelling, making it often challenging for Yiddish students to read. But it is the version of Yiddish most commonly spoken by Hasidic native speakers, and since the target audience for this translation was the Hasidic community, it made more sense to use a style that was familiar to them.

The article marks a real step forward in giving Yiddish the same platform as other major languages, said Michael Wex, author of the bestseller, Born to Kvetch. It also ensures that stories about the language community in question reach native speakers whose English might not be up to the demands of a lengthy article.

Although Portnoy points out that The Times, as a secular newspaper, may be considered treyf (not kosher) in the Hasidic community, he hopes that this article will encourage at least a segment of the population to start reading it, adding: Im looking forward to more Yiddish material from the groye froy, using the Yiddish translation for the newspapers nickname, the Gray Lady.

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Why The New York Times translated its Hasidic yeshiva investigation ...

Im not Hasidic, but an afternoon in Williamsburg deepened my appreciation of Sukkot – Forward

Posted By on October 17, 2022

A Sukkot fair in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Oct. 13, 2022. Photo by Rina Shamilov

By Rina ShamilovOctober 14, 2022

Ive always loved dancing in the rain, which is why Sukkot is one of my favorite holidays. I dont think Ive ever experienced a clear-skied Sukkot. So on Thursday, as the raindrops began pooling on my windowsill, I took a drive through Brooklyn, looking for a place to dance, or maybe just to appreciate the fall showers. I eventually found myself in Williamsburg, a hub of Hasidic Jewish life.

Even as the rain poured down, one blocked-off street was vibrant and alive. Families and their children crowded into a makeshift fair, complete with rides and food stands. Mothers dressed in colorful clothes, in seeming defiance of the gray of the sky, and chattered in Yiddish. It reminded me of what I love about Sukkot, how it embodies the spirit of community and family. But the scene also shocked me for its diversity.

Because I am not Hasidic, I initially felt a bit out of place. I had envisioned the Hasidic community, thanks to their depiction in popular media, as insular and unwelcoming. But I did not feel like an outsider at the fair. I felt invited.

And I was hardly the only non-Hasidic person enjoying the festivities. African American and Hispanic children none wearing Hasidic garb also found Sukkot joy in the afternoon rain. They raced toward the rides, laughing together as parents cheerily waved them on, pleased to have found a fun after-school diversion.

The scene felt serene and meaningful. People enjoyed themselves in the moment. When I asked a young Hasidic mother about Sukkot, she remarked that Chol Hamoed, the intermediate days of the seven-day holiday, was important because it meant she got to spend quality time with her entire family. She said what I was thinking, that everyone seemed welcome, not just Jews. The two of us stood there for a moment, smiling together.

While one woman implied that the African American and Latino children were taking advantage of the fairs openness, her view did not seem to be held by many.

I still cherish Sukkot, but after my visit to Williamsburg, even more deeply than before. I did not imagine that a few hours there would show me that the warmth I have always felt on the holiday could deepen, when widely and generously shared.

Rina Shamilov is a student at Yeshiva University, interning at the Forward this summer. Follow her on Instagram @rins_cs or email her at [emailprotected]

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Im not Hasidic, but an afternoon in Williamsburg deepened my appreciation of Sukkot - Forward

A food truck at Duke University offers a truce to rising tensions on Mideast politics – Religion News Service

Posted By on October 17, 2022

DURHAM, N.C. (RNS) The menu at Yalla is as Middle Eastern as it gets: hummus, falafel, shawarma in a pita, a bowl or on a plate.

This food truck on a concrete patch beside a grassy lawn, a close walk from the Duke University dining hall, is the campuss latest interfaith venture. Earlier this semester, it began serving food that meets the most stringent dietary needs of two constituencies: Jews and Muslims. The food is both certified kosher and halal.

Yalla, from the Arabic word hurry, commonly uttered by Hebrew speakers as well, is a proactive attempt to build bridges among students of both faiths at a time of growing tensions, mostly over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We want to push Jewish and Muslim students to get together, said Rabbi Nossen Fellig, a Chabad leader on campus who came up with the food truck concept alongside a Muslim colleague, Abdullah Antepli, a professor of the practice of interfaith relations.

On campuses nationwide, tensions around Israeli-Palestinian conflict are boiling over.

In August, nine law school affinity groups at the University of California, Berkeley, voted to adopt bylaws banning campus speakers who support Zionism or the occupation of Palestine.

Last semester, a staff editorial at The Harvard Crimson, a student newspaper, expressed support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Later, several pro-Palestinian students and activists were doxxed by pro-Israel groups.

RELATED: Doxxing on campus: How BDS tensions at Harvard became personal

Duke, too, is no stranger to these hyperbolic clashes.

Last semester, a controversy erupted over a $16,000 fee to three pro-Palestinian speakers, one of whom has made virulently antisemitic statements. A newer group on campus, Students Supporting Israel, last month hosted a controversial pro-Israel Palestinian human rights lawyer.

The food truck is, in part, an effort to find common ground.

I thought, were going to do a kosher food truck, why not add halal? said Antepli, who earlier in his career served as a Muslim chaplain on campus. Lets bring Jewish and Muslimstudents together over food and culture.

The Yalla food truck at Duke University offers kosher and halal food. The truck was envisioned by Rabbi Nossen Fellig of Chabad, left, and Abdullah Antepli, associate professor for the practice of interfaith relations. RNS photo by Yonat Shimron

So far, fewer Muslim students have eaten at the Yalla food truck.

One who did, Hana Hendi, treasurer of the Muslim Students Association, said she liked it. Hendi ordered a chicken shawarma at the food truck, which she said was heavy on the hummus but otherwise very tasty.

It was a kind of fusion of Middle Eastern and an American way of consumption, Hendi said. It was very good.

Jewish students who eat kosher have few options on campus. The Freeman Center for Jewish Life has a kosher cafe, and the Fleishman Chabad Houses free Friday night dinners are popular with many students. But neither is on the main campus.

Muslim students do not have a halal cafe, though chicken entrees in the main Duke dining hall are, with few exceptions (boneless wings and chicken tenders), halal certified.

Islamic dietary law requires that chicken and beef be ritually slaughtered. So does Jewish dietary law, though the requirements are not identical. Kosher dietary laws are more elaborate and include a ban on mixing meat and dairy products. Both Jewish and Muslim dietary laws forbid cooking or consuming pork.

Providing kosher meals is especially important for the Hasidic group, Chabad. Fellig, who serves Dukes nearly 1,600 Jewish students, both undergraduate and graduate, has long wanted to provide ongoing kosher dining, not just the Friday night meals he and his wife host at the Fleishman House Chabad.

For a while, Fellig thought he might get Duke to provide a kosher station in its dining hall. When that didnt work out, Jewish donors came together with the idea to buy a food truck, which cost upward of $200,000. Staffing it with a full-time kosher supervisor who inspects the food operations is not cheap.

Were here to provide a service to the community, said Fellig. We didnt open to make money. But Im hopeful well cover our costs.

Several other university Chabads have experimented with kosher food trucks, including Vanderbilt University, George Washington University and the State University of New York at Oneonta.

None is halal certified as well.

Antepli oversees the halal compliance, though generally, he said, anything that is kosher is also acceptable in terms of halal meats. Fellig said he strictly bans any alcohol on the truck, in keeping with Muslim tradition. (When the cook wanted to introduce a chocolate ball dessert item, Fellig quashed the idea since the recipe called for rum.)

Alexandra Ahdoot, a sophomore who is president of Students Supporting Israel, stood in line for lunch a few weeks ago.

There arent many options to have during the week that also include meat, she said. This is definitely great food and Im very happy its here. Its also halal so it opens the door for more students to come.

RELATED: Interfaith summit dreams of America as a potluck, not a battlefield

Originally posted here:

A food truck at Duke University offers a truce to rising tensions on Mideast politics - Religion News Service

A More Perfect Mediocracy by Liel Leibovitz | Articles – First Things

Posted By on October 17, 2022

One of the most spiritually meaningful journeys of my life involved the quest for a desperately needed cup of coffee.

My wife and I were in Italy to attend a friends wedding, and because neither of us paid particular attention to small and insignificant details like itineraries or hotel checkout times, we found ourselves compelled to embark on an all-night drive from the heel of the boot all the way north to leafy Tuscany. At some pointit was 2 a.m. or maybe 4, it could have been just outside Rome or maybe past NaplesI felt I needed a shot of espresso, or else. We drove for ten miles, then twenty, then thirty more in search of the elusive elixir. We got on and off the highway. We took long detours in small towns, at one point contemplating knocking on the first door we saw and offering whoever answered a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill for two minutes alone with their macchiato machine.

Finally, we found a small roadside restaurant that was open, ordered two espressos, and drank with abandon. Had one of Raphaels dreamy-eyed angels been the barista, we wouldnt have been surprised: The brew was an ounce and a half of heaven.

For the rest of the drive, I could think of nothing but that espresso. Why, I fumed, could I not get such a transcendent shot stateside? I was ranting to my wife, who was trying her best to nap, that back home wed be lucky to settle for a flavorless latte at Starbucks. Yeah, she quipped, half asleep, but therell be one open and available every six miles.

And then it hit me: America isnt really a land of meritocracy. It is a mediocracy, a nation dedicated to the mass production of reasonably acceptable and always accessible goods, services, people, and ideas. And it is precisely this middling quality that makes us both great and good. Other cultures shine their lights on a handful of rare and precious jewels while everything and everyone else is plunged in darkness. But its always morning in America, because we realize it is better to forget about the perfect and settle for the fairly good, easily reproduced, and not too expensive stuff.

Our mediocrity isnt just the backbone of our economy, allowing leviathans like McDonalds to flourish by promising the same unremarkable bite today in Akron you enjoyed last Tuesday in Denver. Its also the organizing principle of our unique brand of morality, an American ethos that rewards sincere (or even just vigorous) effort, not excellence. To understand this mentality better, it helps to travel to 1796, to a small town in the Vitebsk region of Imperial Russia called Liadi.

It was then and there that Shneur Zalman, a learned rabbi, published a book called the Tanya. It was named after its first word, which is Hebrew for it has been taught, and was meant to be a guide to leading a richer, more meaningful spiritual life. Its first and best-known part comes with a peculiar subtitle: sefer shel beinonim, book of the intermediates, or a book for average men.

Its author was anything but average: By the time he was eight, Zalman already composed a comprehensive commentary on the Hebrew Bible. Shortly after his twelfth birthday, his teacher informed his parents that the boy no longer needed formal instruction, because the young genius was perfectly capable of mastering whatever discipline he chose on his own. In addition to the Torah, Shneur Zalman possessed a deep knowledge of math, geometry, science, and a host of other secular disciplines. Given this intellectual prowess, when he grew up and became a great Hasidic master and teacher, he naturally gravitated toward a less emotional, more rationalistic form of worshipping the Almighty.

But how should one approach the intricate task of rendering unto God that which he is due? How, in other words, should one go about the business of being religious? This, to a Hasidic rabbi, was akin to asking how one ought to live. Shneur Zalmans answer was simple, yet intensely profound, and especially resonant with modern Americans like us, who are often self-designated world-beaters: Just remember that youre mediocre.

Very few people, he wrote in the first page of his astonishing book, possess a genius for religion and are capable of great and soulful feats of inspiration. Thankfully, that also means that very few people are truly wicked. The vast majority, which means you and I, are right in the middle. If we aspire to be like the handful of rare, pious saints, Shneur Zalman warned us, well fail miserably. If we simply try to be the best versions of our not so magnificent, not so talented selves, well flourish. The mediocre man is the most moral man, not because he climbs to the greatest objectively measurable heights, but because he pushes himself as hard as he can possibly go. Effort, Zalman teaches, is all.

Its no wonder, then, that the Hasidic dynasty Shneur Zalman founded, Chabad Lubavitch, has thrived since reaching American soil. The Tanya may be written in the thick and beautiful language of a great Eastern European Jewish sage, but its radical ideas make it every bit as profoundly American a book as, say, Poor Richards Almanack. Examine the advertising slogans that have inspired us these past six decadesthe closest thing we have in this country to a truly shared gospeland youll see the impact of this blessed cult of mediocrity. The army, after all, hasnt been recruiting us to its ranks by urging us to be the best; it simply urges us to be all we can be.

Would a nation that believed otherwise have its own native and thriving genre of literature, the self-help book? Or a multi-billion-dollar home fitness industry? Or a torrent of kitchen gadgets that promises to help you cook like a master? Or cosmetics to make everyone look her best? Its Zalman translated into the secular sphere. Every journey to self-improvement, after all, must begin with an admission that theres much to improve, and the recognition that the boundaries of our improvement are no greater than those of the self.

Good luck explaining that to any nation of people toiling in the rotting soil worked over for centuries by royal dynasties. The aristocratic tradition sneers at our American spirit because it urges the opposite approach, arguing that its better to exalt the few and the well-groomed, allowing them to set timeless and unsurpassable standards that only they meet, than to permit the many, the sloppy, and the happy to make something of themselves on their own, mediocre terms. In other words, better to ornament society with the great few than to make society as a whole a little better through the best efforts of the always average, often dull many.

The aristocratic attitude may be useful in forging a society in which everyone looks upward and waits for the great and the good to take initiative, a rigid structure based on hierarchies and unbendable rules. But the latter is far better if what you want is a community, a cluster of people who care about each other and promise each otherand Godnothing but their utmost. That so-so cup of truck-stop coffee is surely the perfect metaphor for life in America. Its very far from impeccable. In truth, its often fairly bad. But its always there for you, whenever and wherever you need it. Flying J, here I come!

Its not coincidental that the people who challenge this spirit of efficient, reliable mediocrityour self-appointed intellectual and moral betters who inform us, from their perches in Ivy League schools or mainstream media newsrooms or corporate corner offices, that theyre the experts and therefore we need to wait for them to tell us what to think and doalso seem to dislike the very idea of America. These conceited meritocrats are being inconsistent. For we live in a land where, as William F. Buckley so memorably put it, wed rather be governed by the first two thousand people in the Boston phone book than by Harvards esteemed faculty.

Were sublimely average people, we Americans. We know that what makes us great cannot be measured by any facile metric, like how much money we have in the bank, how high we scored on our SATs, or what awards weve won. What makes us great is that so many of us try. Yes, we merrily fail, and then learn how to fail again in better and more interesting ways. But were not a country that is pulled ahead by the talented few. Were a country that pulls together. This land is your land; this land is my land, sang Woody Guthrie. Thats a miracle only perfectly mediocre people could ever pull off.

Liel Leibovitz is editor at large forTablet Magazineand the cohost of its popular podcast,Unorthodox.

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A More Perfect Mediocracy by Liel Leibovitz | Articles - First Things

8 Powerful Ways to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

Posted By on October 17, 2022

National Hispanic Heritage Month starts on September 15th, and the month-long celebration is a powerful time to recognize the contributions of Hispanic Americans to our culture and everyday lives whether through books, movies, recipes, artwork, or political and academic achievements.

We asked our Thrive community to share with us the creative and powerful ways theyre celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month. Which of these ideas will you try?

Make a meaningful dish to share with others

National Hispanic Heritage Month is a particularly special time of year for me. It happens to land one day before Mexican Independence Day which takes place on September 16th, and although I cant be in Mexico to celebrate El Grito I still find my own ways to take part in the festivities. One of the ways I am most looking forward to doing so this year is by cooking the recipes from my new cookbook, MAMACITA, for the people I love. I have a recipe for Chiles en Nogada, Mexicos traditional Independence Day dish, that I cant wait to share with everyone.

Andrea Pons, cookbook author and food stylist, Seattle, WA

Take a Latin dance class

I have come to love different forms of Latin dance and music over the past seven years or so. I am blessed to dance with some amazing people each week in different classes that I take from various countries in South and Central America. During this month especially, I reflect on how grateful I am for the joy that I find in Latin music and dance.

Amanda Wenner, human resources account HR lead, Washington, DC

Celebrate with traditional music and family

As a Latina born in Los Angeles whose parents come from Mexico, the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month is special to me. We spend all day on the 15th awaiting El Grito de Mxico at midnight. This year well make pozole, a hominy soup, but in the past, weve made mole, birria, sopes and so much more. Pozole comes in three colors: red, white and green, but my favorite is red! Still, I add white onion and green cabbage to make up the Mexican flag. We listen to traditional Mexican music, artists like Vicente Fernndez, Jorge Negrete, Pedro Infante, Lola Beltrn singing iconic Mariachi songs and Luis Miguels Mxico en la Piel album. We also decorate the house in red, white and green lights and thats when I bring out my Miguel doll from the Disney Pixar film Coco. As midnight approaches, we turn on the news to watch the president of Mexico begin El Grito as he stands on the presidential balcony. He begins by yelling out the names of the heroes of the Independence War and ends with Viva Mxico! three times. Then he rings the bell and waves the Mexican flag as the Mexican national anthem plays. The fireworks begin and my family and I toast with a shot of tequila.

Nicolle Rojas, writer and recent college graduate, Los Angeles, CA

Ask friends to teach you about their traditions

I love Mexican food and there are fantastic Mexican restaurants everywhere in Los Angeles, but Ive decided to learn more about culinary traditions, so I will be getting together with a close friend, Ana Gonzalez, for a masterclass in Mexican cuisine. A few months ago, we went to her daughter, Kadijas quinceaera, which was fantastic hours and hours of dancing and celebration and the food was incredible. Ana regularly brings over food to share with us, and shes going to teach me how to make her special enchiladas and chile relleno. Also, Ana makes the best flan Ive ever tasted a delicious custardy dessert with caramel and shes promised to share her secret recipe. While were heating up the kitchen, well be sipping iced horchata, made with rice and cinnamon, and listening to Anas familys favorite Mexican singers: Javier Solis and Vicente Fernndez.

Elaine Lipworth, senior writer, Los Angeles, CA

Revisit a recipe thats been passed down to you

My wife is Argentinian and its important to us both that our kids understand that culture. We do this by speaking Spanish to each other, reading books, and of course with food. Every month as a family, we make homemade empanadas, a recipe from my mother-in-law that is magnifico.

Joshua Miller, certified executive coach, Austin, TX

Educate others about your culture

I celebrate my Hispanic Heritage every day, but from Sept 15th to Oct 15th I find myself being a more vocal educator on the subject of who we are as a unique US Hispanic culture. 26% of children in the US are Latino, and yet their culture is only represented in 5% of childrens media. Thats why I created Canticos, designed to help parents pass on their language and culture to their kids. Theres a joy and optimism that permeates our culture that makes us laugh a lot. A generosity of spirit is encapsulated in the phrase Donde comen dos, comen tres (where two eat, three eat.) We live for the nostalgic memories of other times in other places where roosters roamed the streets, families were tighter, and music always played. We are global citizens who carry two, sometimes 3 countries in our hearts. We are Americans. We are Latinos. Were a rich part of this American Tapestry.

Susie Jaramillo, author, illustrator and creator of Emmy-nominated bilingual brand Canticos, Brooklyn, NY

Spend time researching your ancestors lives

Im spending time researching my grandfathers life. He crossed the Pyrenees mountains on foot at 13 years old escaping Francos Spain, to find himself in foster care with his brother in France, until the swastika spun across Europe. Fleeing the Nazis, he made his way onto a boat with Jewish children escaping for their life. From there, he met with Cuba, which he had to escape too when Fidel Castros dictatorship hit. In researching his life, I am digging deep into the roots of my family tree, reaching back into Havana, Cuba; Spain and France. In fact, Ill even be going to Spain this month to step on the ground my grandfather did, as I gather these memories. I am also lucky enough to be able to begin to share all of this with my own children, parents, and caretakers through my new picture book, What the Bread Says, which is the beginning of my ode to my Papan, my grandfather. The bread he taught me to bake and the stories he folded inside those recipes our history sings around my kitchen this month.

Vanessa Garcia, playwright, screenwriter and author, Miami, FL

Gather with loved ones to celebrate together

In this same month of celebrating Hispanic Heritage, I get the opportunity to celebrate another very special day for me and my family: my fathers birthday, which isnt just his birthday anymore, it is also our anniversary since migrating to the U.S. Every year, we come together as a family to celebrate my papi, but also to reflect on how far our family has come, and of course the celebration wouldnt be complete without a meal! Sharing food with friends and family is so important to me because it keeps me connected to the people I love and the places we come from. I hope that this Hispanic Heritage Month inspires more people to gather around their tables to share pieces from our culture and our heritage.

Andrea Pons, cookbook author and food stylist, Seattle, WA

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8 Powerful Ways to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

A Jewish comedian didnt mention Israel in his act. He was still heckled with Free Palestine – Forward

Posted By on October 17, 2022

Comedian Sam Morril at the moment when his set in Omaha, Nebraska is interrupted by a heckler shouting Free Palestine, October 2, 2022. Photo by Screenshot

Contributing ColumnistAlex ZeldinOctober 13, 2022

In a comedy club in Omaha, Nebraska, the American Jewish comedian Sam Morril made a joke about Jeffrey Epstein and Jewish heritage month.

In response, a heckler began to shout free Palestine at a Jew who was not saying a thing about Israel or Palestine.

Morril asked the heckler to explain why, in response to a Jewish joke, they began to yell about apartheid. The heckler, like others who blur the line between criticizing Israel and being antisemitic, was not interested in engaging, and continued to yell.

Morril handled the heckler with the good humor youd expect from a talented comedian. But the scenario is one that many Jews have experienced: being held responsible for the perceived crimes of any other Jew, simply because you are a Jew.

This is obviously antisemitic. But it does not come in a cultural vacuum. As Ive learned through personal experience, when critics of Israel publicly use terms such as apartheid and other emotionally heated language to discuss the Israeli military occupation and the settlement enterprise, it enables and fuels a particular stream of antisemitism.

Most Jews who have received this kind of harassment do not have the good fortune of performance chops, a microphone and a sympathetic crowd. When it happened to me, I was just getting groceries.

It was May 2021, during an outbreak of violence between Israel, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. I was far removed from the conflict, preparing for Shabbat in New York. Two teens followed me for a full city block jeering antisemitic insults, including baby killer.

The person heckling Sam Morril had no way of knowing what Morril thinks about Israel (I have listened to Morrils comedy for years, and neither do I). The people calling me a baby killer because I was wearing a kippah likewise saw my Jewishness as merely a useful pretext for their bigotry.If youre involved in Israel debates long enough, you know how incidents like what Sam Morril experienced play out. The talking points used to minimize the connection between overheated rhetoric and the harassment of Jews goes something like this: This heckler was bad. But speaking out against Israel is not antisemitic, and any critique of those who do so is designed to silence criticism of Israel.

Each of these arguments can, in specific circumstances, be true. However, in my experience, the people typically deploying these talking points do not genuinely engage with the core issue: harassing American or other Diaspora Jews because you are upset with Israel is bigotry, and it happens all too often with the silence of people who should know better.

No American Jew has the power to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We cannot, and should not, have to answer for the choices of Israel, just as no American Muslim or Arab should have to answer for the actions of Muslim governments. People of good conscience understand that these are merely pretexts for bigotry by people who do not really care what is happening elsewhere in the world. The actions of people like the heckler at Morrils show should be unequivocally condemned.

But condemnation rarely follows.

As soon as Jews voice worry, like clockwork, people jump in to say that critics of Israeli policies are being silenced, and that criticizing Israel is not antisemitic. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians does not change one iota as a result of these debates. Yet the number of antisemitic incidents in the United States continues to rise, year after year.

I am not attributing all instances of antisemitism in the United States to overheated rhetoric about Israel, nor the majority of it. But there is very clearly a subset of antisemites in the United States and around the world who justify their hatred of Jews by cynically invoking the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Critics of Israeli policies and anti-Israel advocates should contend with the social reality their rhetoric inspires.

To contact the author, email [emailprotected].

Alex Zeldin is a contributing columnist for the Forward. Follow him on Twitter @JewishWonk.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward. Discover more perspective in Opinion.

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A Jewish comedian didnt mention Israel in his act. He was still heckled with Free Palestine - Forward


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