Cut & Post: News from England, Poland and Canada
Our Jewish Savior
The Hebrew Hammer is back. Mordechai Jefferson Carver (Adam Goldberg), the Orthodox Jewish leather coat-wearing, payes-sporting superhero of the 2003 Jewsploitation film The Hebrew Hammer—in which he had to save Hanukka from Santa Claus’s evil son—will now be in a sequel: Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler.
It took nearly 10 years for writer-director Jonathan Kesselman to secure the rights to the cult classic, and now he has launched a Kickstarter-like campaign on Jewcer.com to aid funding of the low-budget ($1.2 million) film, which is set to begin production in May.
Hebrew Hammer vs. Hitler focuses on a time-traveling Hitler, who gets his hands on Time Sukkah technology that enables him to un-inscribe the Jewish people from the Book of Life. Of course it’s up to the Hammer and his sidekick, the Kwanzaa Liberation Front’s leader, Mohammed Ali Paula Abdul Rahim (Mario Van Peebles), to save the Jews.
“The ascendency of Mordechai Jefferson Carver was never intended to be told in one movie,” Kesselman said. “Not even two. More like eighteen…but two is a good start.” —Amy Klein
A Numbers Game?
Israeli schoolchildren are putting up impressive math scores: In 2011, Israeli eighth-graders ranked seventh in the world in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study test and number one among Western nations. TIMSS last offered the test in 2007, when Israel placed 24th. Forty-two countries took part in the testing.
While the scores are impressive, some education observers in Israel point out that 22.6 percent of students were omitted, mainly haredi, Arab and special education children. Likewise, the rise from 24th to 7th place is partly being attributed to teaching to the test, preparing youngsters specifically to the standards of TIMSS. In 2007, a similar percentage of students were omitted.
In reading, Israeli schoolchildren have also improved their standing, rising from 31st to 18th place in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study. —Libby Barnea
A Narrow Vertical Flat
Etgar Keret never imagined one day calling Warsaw home. His mother, who grew up in the Polish city, had struggled for survival in the Warsaw Ghetto and lost her entire family during World War II.
But thanks to Polish architect Jakub Szczesny, the Israeli writer and filmmaker can now reside in an art installation that’s been billed as the world’s narrowest house. Seeking to embody the compact minimalism of Keret’s short fiction, Szczesny built a structure sandwiched between two buildings in downtown Warsaw that ranges in width from just over two feet to four feet. With amenities that include a tiny refrigerator, a table for two and a bathroom with a shower built directly over the toilet, the Keret House will be used by Keret and other artists for short-term residencies.
In a recent essay for Tablet Magazine, Keret observed that the house coincidentally exists on the same street where a bridge once linked Warsaw’s two Jewish ghettos. His mother had to cross a barricade by that bridge many times to smuggle food for her family and “she knew that if she were caught carrying a loaf of bread, they’d kill her right there,” he said. “And now, 72 years later, we’ll have a home on that spot.” —Susan Josephs
Kosher Wars in Jerusalem
Two of three Jerusalem restaurant owners recently fined up to $500 each by the local rabbinate for kashrut fraud have asked that the fines be rescinded. If not, all three want a judge to decide the case. The two eateries are the Carousela café in Rehavia and Topolino, an Italian restaurant in the Mahane Yehuda market.
The third is Ichikidana, a six-year-old vegan Indian restaurant also in Mahane Yehuda. After refusing in June 2011 to accede to the rabbinate’s demand that it buy produce from only four suppliers, Ichikidana lost its kashrut certification.
“I don’t want to be part of this monopoly,” owner Lahava Silliman Herman said.
A Facebook page drew an outpouring of support for these owners, and about a dozen certified Jerusalem eateries decided to drop their certification in solidarity with Ichikidana. But whereas Herman hung a hand-written sign saying Ichikidana was still kosher, the others only relayed that information verbally. And the latter is not a violation of the law, which forbids only “using the written word ‘kosher’ without certification,” said the restaurateurs’ legal counsel, Aviad Hacohen, who is also representing the city’s pro-pluralism Jerusalemites Movement in this matter. —Esther Hecht
Archbishop of Canterbury’s Jewish Roots
Justin Welby, who will become Archbishop of Canterbury in March, is the grandson of Bernard Weiler, a German Jew who came to London in 1884 and set up a business importing ostrich feathers. Although Weiler apparently lost the family fortune in the 1929 banking crash, his son, Gavin, made good again in the liquor business in America—at first running with the mafia during Prohibition and then operating a legitimate concessions business afterward—before returning to London. Gavin’s son, Justin Welby, was a senior executive in the oil industry before his ordination in 1992.
Since Welby, 57, currently bishop of Durham, only learned of his Jewish background in November, he has never commented on it publicly. His father, an alcoholic who died of a stroke in 1977, did not speak with his son about their German Jewish heritage.
According to Ed Kessler, an interfaith expert at the University of Cambridge, Reverend Welby has “shown sensitivity to Jewish-Christian relations through his work with the Council of Christians and Jews,” an interfaith organization, and abstained this summer when the church controversially voted to endorse the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine, an initiative accused of being anti-Israel. —Miriam Shaviv
Meet the Mayor
For the first time in a century, Montreal has an English-speaking mayor—Michael Applebaum. He also happens to be Jewish.
The Canadian city is the second-largest French-speaking city in the world, where language-based cultural identity takes center stage, especially in politics. The media have fixated on Applebaum’s bilingual status—he admits he speaks French with an accent and makes errors—and have hardly taken notice that he is Montreal’s first Jewish mayor.
Applebaum, 50, was elected by city councilors following the resignation of the previous mayor due to allegations of corruption. Applebaum’s interim position will last a year, until municipal elections in November. He ran on a platform calling for transparency in government.
“I see very clearly what people are saying on the street,” he told the English-language Montreal Gazette. “I am very much a goal-oriented person and I think we have an opportunity…to really make a difference.”
Applebaum—who for 10 years served as the borough mayor of the densely Jewish area of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—is a vocal supporter of Israel. —Rachel Schwartzberg