The JW Q&A

A weekly interview with notable figures and names in the news.

A Military Man Leaves The Theater

Born in a displaced person camp in Paris, Rabbi Jacob Goldstein retired as an Army chaplain after 38 years.

05/20/2015
Staff Writer

Rabbi Jacob Goldstein retired last month after 38 years as a U.S. Army chaplain having reached the mandatory retirement age of 68. He held the rank of colonel and was the longest serving Jewish chaplain in the U.S. military.

Rabbi Goldstein, who was born in a displaced persons camp in Paris after World War II, immigrated with his family to the United States shortly after his birth. He graduated from the Lubavitch Rabbinical Seminary, where he was ordained. He currently serves as an assistant commissioner of housing for New York State, as a chaplain with the U.S. Secret Service, and as chairman of Community Board 9 in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn. The Jewish Week spoke with him last week by telephone. This is an edited transcript.

Col. Jacob Goldstein: Spent nearly 40 years as an Army chaplain.

Change And Continuity In Reconstructionist Movement

Rabbi Nina Mandel is the new president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Assembly.

05/12/2015
Staff Writer

As the Reconstructionist movement is considering ordaining intermarried students for the first time at its rabbinical school, its rabbinical association has a new leader. Rabbi Nina Mandel, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El in Sunbury, Pa., was announced last week as the new president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association. The rabbi, who was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2003, also has a master’s degree in anthropology from New York University and teaches classes in Jewish philosophy and culture, film and women’s studies at Susquehanna University.

The Jewish Week interviewed Rabbi Mandel by email. This is an edited transcript.

Rabbi Nina Mandel: Reconstructionist movement faces many issues besides intermarriage.

Fighting To Keep Yiddish Culture Alive

Eddy Portnoy has created a new exhibit about Jewish boxers and wrestlers at YIVO Institute of Jewish Research in Manhattan.

05/05/2015
Staff Writer

An exhibition on the “Yiddish Fight Club,” about Jewish boxers and wrestlers, opened this week at the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research in Manhattan. It was created by Eddy Portnoy, who teaches in the Judaic Studies Program at Rutgers University and serves as academic advisor at YIVO’s Max Weinrich Center for Advanced Jewish Studies. The Jewish Week interviewed Portnoy by email; this is an edited transcript.

Eddy Portnoy: Yiddish infused the society from which Jewish boxers and wrestlers emerged. Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

Stav Shaffir: The Voice Of Youth Steps Up

The youngest-ever MK was re-elected in March.

04/28/2015
Editor And Publisher

Stav Shaffir, who will turn 30 this month, is the youngest-ever female member of the Knesset, first elected two years ago on the Labor Party slate and re-elected in March. She was one of the leaders of the social justice protest in Tel Aviv that attracted huge crowds, many sleeping in tents, during the summer of 2011. Her youth, outgoing personality and eloquence made her a natural to be the group’s spokesperson, which in turn attracted the Labor Party to recruit her. During her first term in the Knesset, Shaffir focused on affordable housing, especially for young people, and other issues related to social justice, from gender equality to Women of the Wall. She made headlines for assuring that Knesset budget allocations are made  transparent. Our interview took place at The Jewish Week offices shortly after the March elections.

Labor’s Stav Shaffir: Younger Israelis tired of living with a sense of fear. Gary Rosenblatt/JW

Meet The New ‘Jewish Oprah’

Naomi Firestone-Teeter is the new executive director of the Jewish Book Council.

04/21/2015

On April 1, Naomi Firestone-Teeter became executive director of the Jewish Book Council, which promotes the reading, writing, publishing and distribution of English-language Jewish books. Firestone-Teeter, whose predecessor Carolyn Hessel has been called “the Jewish Oprah” for her success at promoting books, has been working her way up in the organization since graduating from Emory University in 2006, serving most recently as its associate director. JTA recently caught up by email with the 31-year-old exec. The interview has been condensed and edited.

Naomi Firestone-Teeter is new exec at Jewish Book Council.  JTA

Presenting Israel In Film, Warts And All

We think of the JCC as our living room, a place to watch and discuss, says film festival director Isaac Zablocki.

04/14/2015
Editor And Publisher

Isaac Zablocki, 38, plays a key role in determining which Israeli films, and others dealing with the Mideast conflict, are shown in New York. As a result his choices are the subject of praise and criticism, often based more on a viewer’s politics than sense of aesthetics. Born in New York and raised in Israel before settling here, he is director of film programs at the JCC in Manhattan; director and co-founder of the ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival, which had a successful run last month; founder and director of the Israel Film Center; and executive director of The Other Israel Film Festival, which seeks to bridge the Arab-Israeli cultural divide through film. Zablocki was interviewed at the JCC. This is an edited transcript.

Isaac Zablocki: Quality of a film, not its political message, is the main criterion.

American Jewry, If The Shoah Never Happened

Yeshiva University professor Jeffrey Gurock’s “The Holocaust Averted” imagines an American Jewish community without the Shoah.

04/06/2015
Managing Editor

The genre of alternative or counter history — where historians pose tantalizing ‘what if’ questions — is an increasingly fertile one. The Pulitzer-winning author MacKinlay Kantor’s “If the South Had Won the Civil War” (MacMillan) and Jeff Greenfield’s “If Kennedy Lived” (Penguin Group) are two prime examples. Now, on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, comes Yeshiva University professor Jeffrey Gurock’s “The Holocaust Averted” (Rutgers), which imagines an American Jewish community without the Shoah. The Jewish Week spoke with Gurock via email.

Jeff Gurock: “What if” scenario.

Digging Into The Exodus Story

03/31/2015
Staff Writer

Galit Dayan, who teaches at IDC Herzliya in Israel, has a Ph.D. in Egyptology from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a frequent writer and lecturer on anthropological proof that Israelite slaves lived and worked in ancient Egypt — a relevant topic with the approach of Passover. The Jewish Week interviewed her by email. This is an edited transcript.

Galit Dayan: At family seder, the Israeli Egyptologist tells the Egyptian side of the Exodus story.

Museum To Tell Overlooked Shoah Story

Rabbi Sholom Friedmann reveals why the world needs another Holocaust museum, the first under charedi auspices.

03/24/2015
Staff Writer

A ceremony marking the groundbreaking for the Kleinman Family Holocaust Education Center, a museum and research institute in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, took place Sunday. The facility, which is being housed in the upper floors of an existing building and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, is billed as the first major Holocaust museum in this country under charedi auspices. The Jewish Week interviewed its CEO, Rabbi Sholom Friedmann, by email. This is an edited version of the transcript.

Rabbi Sholom Friedmann: Museum that will emphasize Holocaust experience of Orthodox Jews will tell their story.

Electric Guitar Strings Attached To Judaism

Classic rock guitarist Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna is releasing a solo album.

03/17/2015

Jorma Kaukonen, who played guitar in classic rock bands Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, has just released “Ain’t In No Hurry,” his first solo album since 2009.

Guitar legend Jorma Kaukonen embraced his Jewish identity when his wife converted a decade ago.  Scotty Hall
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