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  • Bid to ban ritual slaughter not anti-Semitism

    To the Editor: As a consumer of kosher products and kosher food, I need to take issue with Abraham Foxman’s impassioned defense of kosher slaughter. Despite the strange conclusions of Dr. Stuart Rosen, who seems to be the only "expert" reaching the conclusion that kosher slaughter is humane, by all accounts it is an archaic… More ▸

  • Docs and Defamation

    So, did I mention there’s a major international film festival happening here? IDFA is awesome, and aside from the film I came to Amsterdam to write about, there are several films of Israeli and Jewish interest screening here. Which is no surprise, since festivals like this love Mideast films.  Yesterday, I saw "Defamation," an excellent… More ▸

  • Meet Mayor Cohen

    Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen’s office is in a sun-drenched room overlooking the city’s main canal, the Amstel. On the table in the center sat four glasses emblazoned with the city’s logo, which also adorns the outside of the building, the ID pass I was issued, and a flag that flies from the building’s roof. The logo: three red "X"’s. Talk about unsubtle. 
    Cohen is the fourth Jewish mayor of Amsterdam since the war, though his Wikipedia page identifies his religion as atheist. His paternal grandparents died in Bergen Belsen and Cohen told me there was much talk about the war when he was a child (he was born in 1947). 
    Cohen is thoroughly secular — asked about ways in which Judaism informs his sense of self, Cohen couldn’t come up with anything — but unlike some European Jews who preferred to suppress their identity after the war, Cohen says he always knew he was Jewish. With a name like that, it’s hard not to.
    "Well, of course, there is not a direct relation between the fact that the terrible things which happened to the Jewish community in Amsterdam and the fact that now after this stuff, the war, we have had now four Jewish mayors," Cohen told me. "But it must be a little more than a coincidence."
    I pointed out that that’s a better record than New York. "Well," he said with a smile, "New York is a descendant of Amsterdam." 
    If it weren’t for the murder on Nov. 2, 2004 of a filmmaker then little known outside the Netherlands, it’s possible most of the world would never have heard of Job Cohen. But Theo Van Gogh’s slaying by a Muslim extremist changed all that. Already controversial for his role in the film "Submission," which explored the role of women in Islam, Van Gogh was shot in broad daylight as he pedaled to work along an Amsterdam street. As he lay dying, his throat was slit and a note threatening Western governments and Jews was pinned to his body. 
    The murder sent shock waves through a city renowned for its tolerance. In its aftermath, Cohen was widely credited with keeping the peace in Amsterdam. Time magazine named Cohen one of its 2005 European heroes for his "inclusive" policies.  More ▸