From the category archives:

Jewish life

Warning to those of you who like a few glasses of wine with your meal: Apparently, virulent antisemitic ranting is now a side-effect of alcohol consumption.

First, Mel Gibson. Now John Galliano:

The French fashion house Christian Dior said Tuesday that it had started procedures to dismiss its chief designer, John Galliano, following accusations that Mr. Galliano made anti-Semitic outbursts at a Paris bar.

[ . . . ]

The video, posted on the Web site of the British tabloid The Sun, appears to show Mr. Galliano taunting other patrons at the bar, La Perle, declaring in a slurred voice that “I love Hitler” and that “people like you would be dead,” and “your mothers, your forefathers” would all be “gassed.” It was unclear when the video was recorded.

Of course, the notion that these outbursts were caused by drunkedness is laughable. Being drunk makes you lose your filters; it doesn’t turn you into a racist.

I’m uncomfortable with hate speech laws in general, and even though Galliano was clearly off his rocker on the offensive scale, the criminal charges against him make me squirm. But Dior firing him seems like an eminently sensible decision from a business standpoint, especially with spokesperson and Oscar-winner Natalie Portman speaking out against him. And such opinions are sadly all-too-common in France, which does has these laws on the books for a reason. I highly doubt that “I was drunk” will hold up as an excuse in court.

Then again, maybe he should speak to Mel Gibson’s lawyer for some coaching.

(HT: Marco).


Interesting op-ed by David Brooks in the New York Times about the real story of Chanukah and the difficult questions that it raises:

Generations of Sunday school teachers have turned Hanukkah into the story of unified Jewish bravery against an anti-Semitic Hellenic empire. Settlers in the West Bank tell it as a story of how the Jewish hard-core defeated the corrupt, assimilated Jewish masses. Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings.

But there is no erasing the complex ironies of the events, the way progress, heroism and brutality weave through all sides. The Maccabees heroically preserved the Jewish faith. But there is no honest way to tell their story as a self-congratulatory morality tale. The lesson of Hanukkah is that even the struggles that saved a people are dappled with tragic irony, complexity and unattractive choices. 

(Hat tip: Lesley).

It is certainly true that there are a number of ways to interpret the story of Chanukah. It can be read as a tale of the triumph of religious extremism over secularism. It can be read as an anti-assimilationist tale. It can be viewed as an anti-imperialist struggle, or as a divisive civil war.

All of this tends to get lost in the shuffle among most people who simply view Chanukah as the “festival of lights”, a generic, commercialized Jewish version of the equally-commercialized Christmas, a simple excuse for retailers to make money. A view would have likely incensed the anti-assimilationist Maccabees to no end.

Sure, at its core, Chanukah is just another one of those “they tried to kill us, we won, let’s eat” holidays that fill the Jewish calendar. And there’s nothing wrong with a little celebration. But it’s important to know what, and why, we’re celebrating.

Happy Chanukah, all!


Holocaust-denying bishop issues non-apology apology


Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, recently reinstated by the Pope, much to the anger of Jewish groups worldwide, has issued the classic non-apology apology: “Amidst this tremendous media storm stirred up by imprudent remarks of mine on Swedish television, I beg of you to accept, only as is properly respectful, my sincere regrets for having caused [...]

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Save the Saidye


Okay, so it’s not closing. But it is scaling way back. One of the Montreal Jewish Community’s most beloved institutions, the Saidye Bronfman Centre, is cutting its fine arts classes to focus exclusively on theatre and performance: The school employed 85 artists and had 1,800 students learning painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, calligraphy, printmaking, design, jewellery, [...]

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Aseret yemei teshuvah


These ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are traditionally the days when Jews ask forgiveness from people and from G-d for any wrongs we might have done throughout the year. I’m not religious by most definitions, but I’ve always liked the concept, and particularly the notion that we need to be forgiven by [...]

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This can’t be good


Guess whose latest project is a movie about the Holocaust? None other than Mel Gibson, the guy whose megahit movie “The Passion of the Christ” was widely seen as antisemitic: Gibson’s Con Artist Productions is developing “Flory” for ABC, based on the true story of a Dutch Jew named Flory Van Beek and her non-Jewish [...]

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The best part of Rosh Hashanah


Here in Montreal, anyway… when Rosh Hashanah is “late”, like this year, it coincides with the peak of apple season. Fresh-picked apples and honey… mmmmm….

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Shana Tova


Just in time for Rosh Hashanah: the High Holidays Seating Request Form. A very happy New Year to all my MOT readers. L’Shana Tova.

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Simon Wiesenthal: 1908-2005


Holocaust survivor Simon Wiesenthal, who became the most famous Nazi-hunter of all time and was personally responsible for bringing over 1,100 Nazi war criminals to whatever the closest approximation of “justice” could be, has died at the age of 96. Wiesenthal took on the task of hunting down former Nazis at a time when nobody [...]

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Yom HaShoah


Today is Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day. It is a day to remember the 6 million who perished. But beyond that, it is a day of reflection: on the world that let it happen, on Jewish identity before and after the Holocaust, on Israel and its role, and on where we go from here. [...]

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