Joel Schatz

Joel Schatz offers a slightly off-center look at the news.


Anti-Semite no more, breast diplomacy, and good guy finishes first

 Permanent link   All Posts


So what exactly does an anti-Semitic political wunderkind do when he's booted out of his party because he discovered he was born Jewish?

Go to Chabad, of course. And start observing Shabbat. And take a stab at keeping kosher.

When we last looked in on Csanad Szegedi about a year ago, his public life was in shambles. He was a rising star in Hungary's Jobbik Party, leading the charge in condemning all things Jewish in his homeland. Then he found out his maternal grandparents were Orthodox Jews and Holocaust survivors. The party rejected him. His business partner quit. And Szegedi started to see the world in a whole new light.

Which isn't exactly an overnight transformation.

It's one thing to be accepted, albeit cautiously, by the local Chabad rabbi, Slomo Koves - whose parents, it turns out, discovered they were Jewish when they were teens. But that doesn't quite translate into being embraced by the rest of the Jewish community.

As the Times of Israel reported, "Szegedi joked that he was treated by some Jews 'like a leper' when he began attending synagogue. But he persevered, learning Hebrew and studying basic principles of Judaism.

" 'It changed everything. It is like being reborn, and the changes in my life are still happening. … I had this set value system that I had to change completely. … I had to admit that it was all wrong and to find the will to change.' "

" 'Csanad Szegedi is in the middle of a difficult process of reparation, self-knowledge, re-evaluation and learning, which according to our hopes and interests, should conclude in a positive manner,' Rabbi Koves said. 'Whether this will occur or not is first and foremost up to him.' "

Breast stroke

Speak of 'Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings'…

The advantages of breast feeding turned into a windfall for Israeli diplomacy. The webmaster of the General Health Fund discovered, much to their dismay, that out of 1.1 million hits on the HMO's series of instructional video clips with breast-feeding tips in Arabic, only 45,000 viewers came from Israel's Arab community.

Who were the other million plus viewers?

Well, 560,166 surfers were from Saudi Arabia, 168,900 were from Egypt, 89,000 from Iraq, 71,213 from Morocco and 65,505 from Algeria - and that doesn't count the rest of the Arab-speaking world.

For a change, talkbacks weren't the usual Israel-bashing tripe; surfers thanked the sick fund for the practical advice.

* In another stroke of good luck, an Israeli rap urging medical staff to 'wash their hands' to keep their patients' safe - produced by the 110-year-old Shaare Tzedek Hospital in Jerusalem - went viral.


A mensch's moment

Note to would-be social media superstars: Videos of cats and babies aren't the only things that draw eyeballs to the screen.

Sometimes a simple photo of a man sleeping on a subway can do the trick. Or, rather, of the kippah-clad man next to him who didn't flinch when his shoulder became the sleeping stranger's pillow.

That photo, posted on the Reddit website, instantly went viral, drawing more than a million "likes" in less than a week, nearly 200,000 "shares" on Facebook, and two thumbs up from his rabbi on Shabbat.

The response also drew the attention of the folks at the online magazine Tablet, who opted to profile Isaac Theill, the 65-year-old mensch who insisted his slumbering neighbor shouldn't be disturbed. Of course, Theill couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. For him, it was just an everyday act, one that family and friends confirmed was totally in keeping with his character.

Per the Tablet story: " 'Who lets a random stranger sleep on his shoulder in germ-filled New York City?' asked Theil's 32-year-old daughter Helah. 'But this is just typical of Dad.'

… 'Isaac's lovely act of graciousness towards a stranger on the train is emblematic of the life that he leads and behavior that he strives for,' said Orlee Zorbaron, a close relative. 'He is a kind and generous person who takes to heart the Jewish tenet of "do unto others."

Potato puffs go poof

No word yet on whether the worst is over, but for more than two months the nation has faced what may have been the greatest knish calamity in memory.

According to the Associated Press, a Sept. 24 fire at Gabila's Knishes in New York wiped out the line that produces the company's biggest seller, "The Original Coney Island Square Knish." How big a deal is that? Gabila's sells about 15 million of the potato- or spinach- or kasha-filled puffs each year. And suddenly, there were none.

Gabila's did expect to have things up and running again by Chanukah.

Is it in the jeans?

During Bibi Netanyahu's trip to the U.S. for the U.N.'s General Assembly, in an interview with the BBC World Service in Persian, Israel's prime minister presented a unique definition of what freedom is all about: Turning to Iran's young generation, Netanyahu declared that "if Iranians were free, they would expel this regime and [then] they could wear jeans and listen to western music."

His comments sparked a rise, but - alas - not an uprising: A wave of piqued young Iranians gave the PM a dressing, posting pictures on the Internet of themselves in their beloved jeans - including a woman in skinny jeans and sneakers under her tunic and sporting fashion sunglasses under a long headscarf. Another Iranian posted a photomontage of Netanyahu drawing a red line above the knees of a pair of fashionable women's jeans, instead of the now-iconic image of Netanyahu's anarchist's bomb poster drawing attention to the point-of-no-return on the Islamic Republic's race to get the bomb.


comments powered by Disqus