Friday Five: Shaul Praver, Ephraim Mirvis, Jacob Ostreicher, Elyse Frishman, Michael Harris


Shaul Praver comforts the bereaved

Before last Friday, Shaul Praver was a little-known rabbi at a quiet suburban synagogue. But after one of the deadliest episodes of gun violence in American history unfolded at a nearby elementary school, Praver was thrust into the national spotlight, called upon to provide comfort to a grieving community. Two days after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Praver chanted a Hebrew prayer of mourning on national television. The morning after that, he officiated at the funeral of Noah Pozner, the youngest victim, while a scrum of reporters huddled outside. Praver urged mourners to do something in Noah’s honor. “Let us all make that vow,” he said.

Ephraim Mirvis takes the reins

It’s not easy succeeding a man who has authored more than a dozen books, advised prime ministers, and opines regularly in the national and international media — all while tending to a fractious religious community. But such is the fate of Ephraim Mirvis, who was named this week to succeed Jonathan Sacks as chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the British Commonwealth. Mirvis, a South African-born rabbi educated in Israel, was formerly the chief rabbi of Ireland and has led two major London congregations. He assumes his new post in September.

Jacob Ostreicher released on bail

After 18 months in a Bolivian prison, New York chasid Jacob Ostreicher has been freed on bail. The 53-year-old Ostreicher, who has never been charged, was arrested in 2011 and claims he’s been a victim of corrupt officials. In April, he went on a hunger strike. Members of Congress have traveled to Bolivia to press for his release. Last month, seven officials were arrested for attempted extortion of Ostreicher. While the release is seen by his allies as a step forward, he remains under house arrest.

Elyse Frishman detained at Western Wall

In what’s becoming something of a monthly routine, Israeli police detained four women at the Western Wall for wearing prayer shawls — among them American Rabbi Elyse Frishman, the editor of the Reform movement prayer book “Mishkan T’filah.” Frishman was captured on video asking officers for an explanation as she was led away for questioning. Last month, six women were arrested for a similar infraction. The month before, Reform movement activist Anat Hoffman was arrested and banned from the site for 30 days. “The crackdown says to me that there is an even greater need for men and women to know about this and to act on it,” Frishman said.

Michael Harris spouts blood libel

Even for those accustomed to having Israelis and Jews blamed for the world’s problems, this was a stretch: Israel had orchestrated last week’s school massacre in Connecticut as payback for America’s insufficient support of the Jewish state. The promoter of this absurdity is Michael Harris, who was given a platform to share his views on Iran’s English-language television station, Press TV. Harris, who has been described in various reports as a former Arizona gubernatorial candidate and an associate of neo-Nazis, believes Israel is also responsible for, among other things,  the 2011 Norway massacre that left 77 dead, the Tucson shooting that injured Gabby Giffords and the Aurora movie theater killings.

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