The JW Q&A

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

A New Look, Message For An Historic Institution

06/29/2015 - 20:00
Staff Writer

Ann Toback, executive director of the Workmen’s Circle since 2008, has led the organization through a rebranding process in which it has adopted a new Jewish learning-based mission rooted in intergenerational learning and cultural celebration. Taking a page from its history of progressive activism, Toback, a former union leader, has also launched an activist agenda focused on making $15-an-hour the national minimum wage. This is an edited transcript of The Jewish Week’s interview with her last week.

Ann Toback: Workmen’s Circle is creating new “opportunities for Americans to connect to their Jewish culture.”

Spotlighting Anti-Semitism In Sweden — And Beyond

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein filed for asylum in her own country as violent hate crimes against Jews increased.

06/15/2015 - 20:00

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein, 34, is a writer and political activist from Stockholm. Formerly a political adviser for the conservative coalition in Sweden, she now writes regularly about global anti-Semitism for such publications as The Jerusalem Post, Commentary and Mosaic magazine. From her perch in Stockholm, Hernroth-Rothstein has become a vociferous advocate for her local Jewish community — and more widely, for European Jewry  —arguing that local and state governments need to be held accountable for anti-Semitic and anti-Israel legislation. The Jewish Week interviewed Hernroth-Rothstein by email. This is an edited transcript.

Annika Hernroth-Rothstein says anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise and should be an issue on everyone’s mind.

‘The Status Quo Is Tolerable’

Professor Efraim Inbar says there's no alternative right now to fighting Hamas every few years.

06/08/2015 - 20:00
Staff Writer

Efraim Inbar is a professor of political science at Bar-Ilan University and director of its Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (the BESA Center). Inbar holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago and has served as a visiting professor at Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University. His specialty is Middle Eastern strategic issues with a special interest in the politics and strategy of Israeli national security.

Efraim Inbar: Hostile states pose a bigger threat to Israel than do movements like Hamas or Hezbollah.

Spreading ‘The Truth’ About The Jewish State

The problem in Europe is that people don't know the 'facts,' says Ofir Akunis, an Israeli politician.

06/01/2015 - 20:00
Staff Writer

Ofir Akunis was recently appointed to a ministerial post in Israel’s communications ministry. A former deputy speaker of the Knesset to which he was elected in February 2009 and a former spokesman of the Likud Party, Akunis, 42, had served as a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. He was in the city as a representative of the Israeli government at Sunday’s Celebrate Israel Parade.

Israeli minister Ofir Akunis: “People in Europe don’t know the facts” about Israel.

Poland’s Jewish Revival Seen Continuing Apace

Sebastian Rejak has a role that's rare in Europe; he's an envoy of the Polish government to the Jewish diaspora.

05/25/2015 - 20:00
Staff Writer

Raised a Catholic in Lublin, Sebastian Rejak has served for the last year and a half as the special envoy for Poland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs for relations with the Jewish diaspora, one of a few nations in Eastern Europe with such a diplomatic position. He has a working knowledge of Hebrew, Jewish history and aspects of Jewish culture and history. He was here last week as part of a brief mission introducing himself to leaders of the American Jewish community. This is an edited transcript of the interview.

Polish special envoy Sebastian Rejak: The revival “is not only about Orthodox minyans.”

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.

05/19/2015 - 20:00
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.

05/11/2015 - 20:00
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.

05/04/2015 - 20:00
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.

04/27/2015 - 20:00
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.

04/20/2015 - 20:00

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
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