August 16th, 2017

Make-believe Jewish weddings

In Eastern Europe, nostalgia for the Jews includes fake Jewish weddings

By CNAAN LIPHSHIZ

(JTA) — Nostalgia for Jews is a well-documented phenomenon in Eastern Europe, with cultural and even substantial commercial aspects.

Villagers attending a fake Jewish wedding in the Polish village of Radzanow, Aug 5, 2017. (Photo: Jonny Daniels/From the Depths)

In Ukraine,  so-called Jewish-themed restaurants with pork-heavy menus compete for tourists, while figurines of Jews are sold at markets as good luck charms. In Poland, graffiti reading “I miss you, Jew” have become a common sight.

Beyond the kitsch, Jewish cultural festivals draw large non-Jewish audiences in Krakow, Warsaw and Budapest.

Some credit this trend to a feeling of loss over the near annihilation of once-vibrant Jewish communities. Others trace it a desire to reconnect with the pre-Soviet past.

But even against this backdrop, the fake Jewish wedding that was held Saturday in the village of Radzanów, 80 miles northeast of Warsaw, stands out as a remarkable affair.

Make-believe Jewish weddings — a regular educational event in Spain and Portugal, where nostalgia for nearly-extinct Jewish communities is also prevalent — are rare in Poland (the Krakow Jewish Community Centre organized one in 2013). Even rarer are enactments as well-produced as the one in Radzanow.

Organized by the Radzanovia Association, a cultural group promoting Polish heritage, the event featured a few dozen non-Jewish volunteers, men and women, dressed in traditional haredi costumes. Some men wore fake beards and side curls – including ones that didn’t match their natural hair color.

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August 16th, 2017

A guide to the far-right groups that protested in Charlottesville

The ‘Unite the Right’ rally Saturday saw hundreds of people on America’s far-right racist fringe converge in defense of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee

By BEN SALES

(JTA) — They believe the “white race” is in danger. They believe the United States was built by and for white people and must now embrace fascism. They believe minorities are taking over the country. And they believe an international Jewish conspiracy is behind the threat.

These are the people who were rallying in Charlottesville.

White supremacists sparring with counterprotesters as they attempt to guard the entrance to Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The “Unite the Right” rally Saturday saw hundreds of people on America’s racist fringe converge in defense of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and brawl with counterprotesters. The rally ended after a white supremacist, James Fields, rammed his car into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring at least 19. Two police officers also died when their helicopter crashed while monitoring the rally.

The rally was the largest white supremacist gathering in a decade, according to the Anti-Defamation League, but it wasn’t the work of one extremist group or coalition. Spearheaded by a local far-right activist named Jason Kessler, the rally saw several racist, anti-Semitic and fascist groups, new and old, come together.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, the rally included “a broad spectrum of far-right extremist groups – from immigration foes to anti-Semitic bigots, neo-Confederates, Proud Boys, Patriot and militia types, outlaw bikers, swastika-wearing neo-Nazis, white nationalists and Ku Klux Klan members.”

Many of the attendees, says the ADL’s Oren Segal, were young men who became radicalized on the internet and were not affiliated with any particular group. While some protesters belonged to the “alt-right,” a loose movement of racists, anti-Semites and nativists, others were part of older white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan.

At the rally, protesters were seen carrying Nazi and Confederate flags, as well as signs with racist and anti-Semitic slogans. They chanted “Sieg heil,” gave Nazi salutes and shouted the N-word at passers-by.

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August 16th, 2017

Hate in Charlottesville

The day the Charlottesville Nazi called me ‘Shlomo’

By RON KAMPEAS

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (JTA) — The white supremacists, for all their vaunted purpose, appeared to be disoriented.

Some 500 had gathered at a park here Saturday to protest this southern Virginia city’s plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the park. Pressured by the American Civil Liberties Union, Charlottesville had allowed the march at Emancipation Park — or Lee Park, the protesters’ preferred name.

White supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Va., Aug. 12, 2017. (Ron Kampeas)

That worked for an hour or so, and then the protesters and counterprotesters started to pelt one another with plastic bottles — it was unclear who started it. Gas bombs — mildly irritating — seemed to come more from the white supremacists. Finally the sides rushed each other headlong and there were scuffles.

So Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and, heeding the police, the white supremacists filed out of the park and started walking, north, but to where no one seemed sure. There was talk of meeting at a parking lot, but which parking lot, no one was sure. As they approached the Dogwood Vietnam Memorial, a bucolic hill overlooking an overpass, they sputtered to a stop for consultations and did what marchers on a seasonably warm day do: They sat on the grass, sought shade and chatted.

I had been following at a distance with a handful of journalists and folks who were there not so much to counterprotest but to deliver an alternative message. Zelic Jones from Richmond bore a poster with a saying by Martin Luther King Jr., “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

I climbed the hillock to see if anyone would be willing to talk. On the way, the marchers had studiously ignored reporters, but I thought, at rest, they might be more amenable. It was not to be. One man, wearing black slacks, a white shirt, sunglasses and black baseball cap, shadowed me. He moved to stand between me and anyone I had hoped to interview.

I looked him directly in the eye.

“How’s it going, Shlomo?” he asked.

“My name is Ron,” I said. I hadn’t identified myself as Jewish.

“You look like a Shlomo.”

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August 9th, 2017

Actor Josh Radnor to speak at Temple of Aaron fundraiser

Josh Radnor attended Jewish day schools and had a ‘strangely mystical experience’ in Israel

by MAX SPARBER

Josh Radnor, who played the nebbeshy Ted Mosby on the popular CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother, will be speaking at Temple of Aaron for their annual fundraiser on Aug. 24; the event is appropriately titled “How I Met Ted Mosby: An Evening with Josh Radnor.”

Josh Radnor, formerly of the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. (go4celebrity.com)

“I’ve done a lot of college speaking,” he told American Jewish World in interview, “but only a couple of Jewish-themed events. But, in true Jewish fashion, I can talk at length about Judaism.”

In fact, Radnor has considerable background in the subject. The Ohio native was raised in a Conservative family who attended Orthodox Jewish day schools. He studied theater in college, and, in 1997, went to Israel.

“I had a strangely mystical experience,” he explained. He was watching Defending Your Life, the 1991 Albert Brooks comedy set in the afterworld. “A voice in my head said ‘Go to Israel.’ Thirty seconds later I grabbed the New York Times crossword puzzle and in the top right was an ad that said ‘Go to Israel.’ I took that as direction.”

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