Friday Five: Shimon Peres, David Arquette, Daniel Hillel, Sonja Abrahamsson, Charles Barron


The Friday Five

Shimon Peres goes to Washington

Israeli President Shimon Peres, at 88, has served in virtually every major leadership position in Israel, has a Nobel Prize and now he has one of America’s highest civilian honors. The Wednesday ceremony in which Obama bestowed the Presidential Medal of Freedom upon Peres was a virtual lovefest. "He knows, as Scripture teaches, that we must not only seek peace, we must pursue it,” Obama said. Peres returned the favor, applauding Obama’s approach to Iran: "Mr. President, you worked hard to build a world coalition to meet this immediate threat. You started, rightly, with economic sanctions. You made it clear, rightly again, that all options are on the table." The mutual warmth stood in sharp contrast to some of the more tense White House meetings involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

David Arquette is a man

Former “Scream” star David Arquette entered adulthood this week when he put on tefillin and read from the Torah for a spontaneous bar mitzvah at the Western Wall. The 40-year-old actor was on his first visit to Israel, where he was filming a travel show. He came to the Wall when there was a bar mitzvah taking place and was invited to have one himself. While Arquette was born to a Jewish mother, he was raised with little connection to Judaism on a commune in Virginia. The Western Wall’s rabbi, who conducted the ceremony, said that Arquette was “happy to be a part of the chain of the Jewish people.” Arquette himself celebrated with a tweet to his followers declaring that he is “finally a man.”

Daniel Hillel irrigates across borders

Daniel Hillel became the first Israeli scientist to win the World Food Prize not only by helping countries around the world conserve water but also by bridging regional divides. Hillel, 81, was recognized Tuesday at the U.S. State Department for his pioneering work on micro-irrigation to bring water to crops in arid and dry lands. Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, praised Hillel for his work in agriculture, while noting that his nomination for the $250,000 prize included seconding letters from Arab scientists and experts living and working in Egypt, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates. "He is a remarkable example of what one person can achieve by taking a leap and crossing cultural borders for the sake of the greater good,” Quinn wrote.

Sonja Abrahamsson is Jew-curious

Sweden’s decision to let ordinary citizens take turns running the country’s official Twitter handle is a bold experiment in free speech. But it took an embarrassing turn when 27-year-old Sonja Abrahamsson took over @Sweden and posted a flurry of tweets about Jews and anti-Semitism. “Whats the fuzz with jews,” she asked. “You can’t even see if a person is a jew, unless you see their penises, and even if you do, you can’t be sure!?” After several more clumsy tweets on the topic — touching on Jewish identity and Nazi anti-Semitism — she apologized: “Im sorry if some of you find the question offensive. Thats was not my purpose. I just don’t get why some people hates jews so much.” Though her tweets drew some derision, Abrahamsson continues to run @Sweden until her turn is up later this week.

Charles Barron unites Jewish pols

Charles Barron’s critics say he’s divisive, but the former Black Panther managed to unite New York Jewish politicians — in alarm at his congressional candidacy. A half-dozen Jewish elected officials held a press conference Monday to denounce the firebrand City Council member, who has called the Israeli government “the biggest terrorist in the world.” And Barron’s not toning down his rhetoric: In his campaign kickoff speech, Barron hailed Libya’s late Muammar Gadhafi as an “African hero” and vowed that he is “not going to be afraid to speak out against Israel for what they’re doing to the Palestinian people.” To win the majority-black Brooklyn congressional district — which also includes the Russian-Jewish stronghold of Brighton Beach — Barron will have to beat well-funded State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, whom he is facing in the June 26 Democratic primary. Barron, however, recently received a boost with endorsements from the district’s retiring congressman, a prominent black newspaper and influential public employees’ unions.

Recommended from JTA