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Friday Five: Haredi child star, Harry Houdini, King of Peace, Cantor’s griller, Jewish time traveler

Haredi kid plays the Holocaust card

The haredi Israeli kid who was photographed with his yellow concentration-camp star in a classic hands-up Holocaust pose managed to take the culture wars between haredi and non-haredi Israelis to new levels of enmity. Now it’s not just Israeli media, secular Israelis and the Modern Orthodox who are outraged; it’s Holocaust survivors, too.

Harry Houdini escapes to Broadway

As a general rule, The Friday Five does not include dead people, especially ones who died nearly a century ago. But the members of a top-secret JTA committee agreed that the announcement of a Broadway musical dedicated to Harry Houdini deserved a mention. They were divided, however, over whether to honor Hugh Jackman for taking on the leading role (he’s so handsome, but is he Jewish enough?) or Aaron Sorkin for writing the book (we love him, but will we be able to follow his trademark fast-talking set to song?). And then there’s Stephen Schwartz, who’s writing the music, and Jack O’Brien, who’s set to direct. So we’re going with the master himself: Harry Houdini, the world’s most legendary escape artist — and owner of the coolest immigrant-son-of-a-rabbi story. Evah! [[READMORE]]

King Abdullah enters peace fray

Jordan’s King Abdullah managed this week to do something the Obama administration hasn’t for more than a year: bring Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table. Okay, maybe it was the rise of Islamists in Egypt and Hamas’ international outreach campaign that prompted the meeting, but the Hashemite ruler gets credit for trying to fill the broker role left absent by the fall of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak. If he’s smart, Abdullah will find a way to avoid the same fate — and maybe keep Israelis and Palestinians talking.

Lesley Stahl grills Eric Cantor

It’s not always easy being a Jewish Republican. Just ask House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was grilled by Lesley Stahl of “60 Minutes” about why Jews lean so strongly Democratic. Cantor — who called the disconnect between his politics and those of his community “the bane of my existence” — suggested that Republicans haven’t always done a great job at welcoming immigrants. After Stahl pressed on, quoting a Jewish blogger who accused the congressman of not caring about the poor and thus of violating Jewish values, Cantor offered his take on tikkun olam: Allow taxpayers to keep more of their money so they can help the poor through charity.

Max Lapushin travels through time

When the Pacific island nation of Samoa decided to skip Friday, Dec. 29, 2011, Max Lapushin, a 25-year-old Jewish kid from Atlanta, had to figure out when to observe Shabbat. While some rabbinic opinions advised a 49-hour day of rest, Lapushin, who has lived in Samoa on-and-off since a stint in the Peace Corps in 2007, followed the majority of Seventh Day Adventists and observed Shabbat on Saturday night/Sunday.

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