The JW Q&A

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

Meet The New ‘Jewish Oprah’

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


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.

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.

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

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.

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.


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

‘Jewish Public Square’ Undergoing Changes

Stephen Hazan Arnoff is the new CEO of the JCC Association, an umbrella organization in New York.

Staff Writer

Stephen Hazan Arnoff, former executive director of the 14th Street Y in Manhattan, was recently named the CEO of the JCC Association, the New York-based umbrella organization for more than more than 350 JCCs, YM-YWHAs, and campsites in the U.S. and Canada. He succeeds Allan Finkelstein, who served two decades in that post. Arnoff was also the first director of the Office of Culture, Community and Society at Shalem College in Jerusalem. The Jewish Week interviewed Arnoff by email. This is an edited transcript.

New JCC Association CEO Stephen Hazan Arnoff: JCCs are a laboratory for “what’s next in the Jewish world.”

A Serious Study Of Jewish Humor

Both God and Linda Weiser Friedman's books have got funny stuff in them, she says.

Staff Writer

There’s a lot of laughter at Baruch College this year, and it’s coming from the classroom of a professor of statistics & computer information systems. The new course is “Jewish Humor,” which attempts “to walk the fine line between scholarship and playfulness.” The teacher is Linda Weiser Friedman, co-author — with her husband, Heshy Friedman, a professor of business at Brooklyn College — of “God Laughed: Sources of Jewish Humor” (Transaction). On the eve of Purim, a Jewish holiday that celebrates humor, The Jewish Week caught up with Friedman by email. This is an edited transcript of the interview.

Linda Weiser Friedman: The roots of modern Jewish humor can be traced back to the Torah.

Anti-Semitism Expert On Europe, U.N., Obama

A conversation with Hebrew University's Robert Wistrich.


As one of the world’s foremost authorities on anti-Semitism, Robert Wistrich appeared at the recent daylong conference on the subject hosted by the United Nations General Assembly — a first in that body’s history. That came on the heels of his participation at a Berlin meeting hosted by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Wistrich is chairman of Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism and author of numerous books on the subject including “Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred” and “From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel.” Wistrich spoke to The Jewish Week during a recent visit to New York and by phone from his home in Jerusalem. This is an edited transcript.

Hebrew University’s Robert Wistrich: U.N. as “major purveyor of anti-Semitism.”

Three Israeli Pals Take Shakshuka To City Streets


About a year ago, Israeli friends Josh Sharon, Solomon Taraboulsi and Gabriel Israel moved to New York to pursue professional dreams: Sharon and Taraboulsi to prove themselves in real estate, and Gabriel to attend the Culinary Institute of America in upstate Hyde Park.

Josh Sharon, Solomon Taraboulsi and Gabriel Israel with The Shuka Truck in Midtown.  Courtesy of The Shuka Truck
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