January 18th, 2017

Bomb threat called in to Sabes JCC

Another wave of bomb threats to JCCs prompts evacuations across the United States on Wednesday

By MAX SPARBER / Community News Editor

A second wave of bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers in 17 states, on Wednesday, included one to the Sabes JCC in St. Louis Park.

This follows 16 bomb threats called in to JCCs on Jan. 9. And again, all of the threats were false.

St. Louis Park Police Department blocks road to Sabes JCC on Wednesday, after a bomb threat was called in. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)

The bomb threat to the Sabes JCC, at 4330 S. Cedar Lake Road, was called in around 10 a.m.

“The building was evacuated and children are being reunited with their parents,” said Jacqueline A. Larson, communications and marketing manager for the City of St. Louis Park, in a statement emailed to the AJW. “The police department contacted federal authorities and was informed that similar threats occurred around the country in the last few hours at Jewish institutions. The investigation is ongoing.”

Among those evacuated was 8th grader Raina Kronfeld, a student at the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School (HMJDS) and daughter of Rich Kronfeld and Robin Doroshow.

In an interview with American Jewish World, Doroshow said she learned about the threat from a friend who also had children in HMJDS. The friend asked Doroshow to pick up her children.

A private message board for parents of HMJDS students was quickly abuzz with talk of the bomb threat, according to Doroshow. Five minutes later, she received an email from the school stating that the children were in a nearby building and would be released to parents and guardians.

“The scene was a little chaotic,” Doroshow said, describing a scene in which teachers in the school worked out the best way to release the children into their parents’ care. Eventually, they had parents sit in cars and brought their children to them.

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January 18th, 2017

Jewish groups jittery about Obamacare repeal

Jewish communal agencies receive a total of $6 billion a year from Medicaid, which was expanded under the ACA, as well as $1.5 billion a year from Medicare, whose coverage for seniors was also expanded


NEW YORK (JTA) — Before the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, Jewish Family Service of Metro Detroit organized local doctors to provide free care to Jews who lacked health insurance.

The Detroit agency closed the doctors’ program after enactment of the health care law, also known as Obamacare, and instead worked to enroll people in health insurance, either through Medicaid or the state insurance exchange. The organization, which focuses on providing mental health care and financial aid to disadvantaged Jewish families, has enrolled some 10,000 people in health insurance through the ACA.

Protestors rallying in support of the Affordable Care Act in Philadelphia, Dec. 20, 2016. (Photo: Lisa Lake/Getty Images for Moveon.org)

But now that Obamacare could be repealed, the Detroit agency may have to organize doctors once again. Its CEO, Perry Ohren, expects more families to seek emergency financial aid if they lose coverage.

“People will be hurting and they will have more expenses,” Ohren said. “We have an inverse relationship to the economy. When things go south, our business goes up.”

As Congress moves to repeal and possibly replace the health care law, the more than 100 Jewish Family Service agencies across the country are grappling with the question of what will happen once it’s gone. Even as some JFS executives are lobbying Congress to maintain some of the law’s protections, others are planning for a future where philanthropy and state government will have to fill in where Obamacare once was.

Early on the morning of Jan. 12, Republicans in Congress voted on a budget measure that will move the repeal process forward. It remains unclear what will replace the it, as well as when that replacement would be passed. At a Jan. 11 news conference, President-elect Donald Trump spoke of a plan to repeal and replace the ACA, but offered no details.

JFS agencies also receive Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for the counseling services they provide. According to the Jewish Federations of North America, whose local affiliates provide subsidies to JFS agencies, Jewish communal agencies receive a total of $6 billion a year from Medicaid, which was expanded under the ACA, as well as $1.5 billion a year from Medicare, whose coverage for seniors was also expanded.

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January 18th, 2017

Neo-Nazi blogger resigns — his wife is Jewish

(JTA) — The founder of the popular right-wing blog The Right Stuff resigned over the revelation that his wife is Jewish.

Mike Enoch, who also co-hosts “The Daily Shoah” weekly podcast, was outed over the weekend as Mike Peinovich, a website developer from New York. On the podcast, which has about 100,000 regular listeners, Peinovich as Enoch talked about killing Jews and spouted neo-Nazi invective.

The release of Peinovich’s personal details came after the identities of the other podcast panelists were made public earlier in the week by a rival website called 8chan. The invented surname reportedly is a reference to Enoch Powell, a far-right British politician and Nazi sympathizer.

Enoch was considered one of the three most influential figures in the “alt-right” movement along with Daily Stormer creator Andrew Anglin and Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, a white supremacist think tank. Spencer is a co-creator of the alt-right label, which describes a far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.” Keep reading →

January 18th, 2017

D.C. shuls in the middle of the fray

Facing inauguration and women’s march, synagogues in Washington, D.C., grapple with how to respond to Trump


(JTA) — On Friday, the United States will inaugurate a new president and usher in an era of new policies and rhetoric. But at the Sixth and I synagogue in Washington, D.C., eyes are on the day after, when some 200,000 marchers will gather to reassert support for policies they think will be threatened under President Donald Trump.

The synagogue, named for the intersection where it has stood for more than a century, is hosting a Shabbat of programming surrounding the Women’s March on Washington. The march will set out from downtown D.C. on Saturday morning and advocate for women and minorities, including support for reproductive and civil rights, environmental regulation, and protections for immigrants and the LGBT community.

Sixth and I, a nondenominational synagogue, has planned a Shabbat of programming around the Women’s March on Washington, including meals, lectures, meditation and yoga. (Photo: Sixth and I)

“We assumed that most of the Jews would be coming in for the march and not for the inauguration itself, so we wanted to have a space, especially for Shabbat itself, that was open to everybody,” said Sixth and I Rabbi Shira Stutman.

(Nationwide, 74 percent of Jews voted for Hillary Clinton; in the District of Columbia, more than 90 percent of residents chose Clinton over Trump.)

The march’s agenda, Stutman said, “felt like values that were important to us.”

Washington synagogues are split on how to approach a fraught weekend that will move from a moment of triumph for Trump supporters to a show of numerical strength from his opponents. Some, like Sixth and I, are embracing the march and integrating their Sabbath activities with it. Others hope to carry on as usual and remain out of the fray. None of the city’s major synagogues will be celebrating or commemorating Trump’s inauguration itself with special programming.

“It’s going to be a very intense week,” said Rabbi Gil Steinlauf of the Conservative Adas Israel Congregation, which will not be participating in the march. “Just the act of being together, [congregants] knowing they have their Jewish community together taking care of them, that’s all we’re going to do.”

Synagogues and their rabbis have been grappling with the question of how to respond to Trump since the beginning of the presidential campaign. A group of rabbis protested Trump at the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March, citing his remarks and policies targeting Muslims, Mexicans and others. Before the High Holidays in September, rabbis in swing states told JTA that they planned to avoid discussing politics from the pulpit.

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December 28th, 2016

Doctors prescribe laughter

Sabes JCC bring back the Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival for its eighth year


“Laughter is healthy; doctors prescribe laughter.” — Yiddish proverb

There is a case to be made that American humor is Jewish humor. It’s the viewpoint of the 2013 documentary When Jews Were Funny, and you’ll hear versions of this idea here and there. An example: Al Jaffee, cartoonist for Mad Magazine, has argued that his publication helped mainstream Jewish humor, and there’s some truth to that.

There were also the Jewish comics, who dominated vaudeville and later the stand-up circuit. There were Jewish novelists and television actors and film stars, each of them bringing a certain Jewish sensibility to their comedy. It continues today, in television shows like Transparent and Broad City and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, in films like those of the Coen Brothers, in comics like Eric André and Andy Samberg.

Jerry Lewis, the subject of a documentary making its Minnesota premiere at the Twin Cities Jewish Humor Festival. ( Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

And the variety! American Jewish humorists have significantly contributed to entire genres of comedy, including insult comedy (think Don Rickles), improv comedy (Chicago’s founding improvisational theater, Compass Players, were largely Jewish) and the mockumentary (Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run is arguably the first example of this film genre.)

It’s no wonder the Sabes JCC has been able to sustain a Jewish Humor Festival for eight years. There is so much to pick from.

This year’s event includes a number of legendary names in Jewish comedy, starting with their opening night performer, Carol Leifer. Although she is not the household name that she should be, Leifer’s résumé is enormous, including work as a script writer on Seinfeld (she wrote “The Hamptons,” which you may recall as including a kosher girlfriend, a spectacular ugly baby and the word “shrinkage.”)

Jerry Seinfeld has credited Leifer as an inspiration for the character Elaine on the show, which Leifer downplayed in the past, although she told The New York Times that it was easy to write for the character as she “simply flowed from [Leifer’s] own experiences.”

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