First Read For Feb. 24


‘Tenement Synagogue’ reopens

The historic, century-old Anshe Meseritz Synagogue in the East Village, which was renovated to make room for luxury condominiums, has reopened after a four-year hiatus, The Villager reports. The original synagogue was constructed in 1910 by Polish immigrants.

The newly redesigned house of worship is on the ground floor of the new five-story project  that features three luxury apartments, including an 11-foot-tall penthouse.

“It’s smaller, but it will look nicer because the building is brand new,” he said. “A lot of work has been put into it. It will be air-conditioned and handicapped accessible. I think that the neighborhood will be happy that the synagogue is continuing.”

Rabbi Kalmin Nochlin, 46, is the synagogue’s spiritual leader.

Teacher fired for anti-Semitic Tweet

A preschool teacher from the Dallas area has been fired over a series of anti-Semitic posts on social media, including a tweet that said “kill some Jews,” according to the Dallas News.

Salem has since released a statement that said she was “truly sorry for the pain and hurt my words caused, especially to members of the Jewish faith.”

Tweets by Salem and several University of Texas at Arlington students were made public after the watchdog group Canary Mission reported that 24 current and former students had made anti-Semitic comments online.  

Salem was not enrolled at UTA, but the the report said she was involved in the school’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, which Canary Mission said was a “focal point for campus anti-Semitism.” A university spokeswoman on Thursday said that Salem was not a member of the student group.

Pope greets rabbinical delegation

Pope Francis yesterday welcomed Rabbi Abraham Skorka, an old friend from Argentina, to the Vatican for the presentation of a new edition of the Torah.

According to the Catholic News Agency, the Pope declared that the Torah “manifests the paternal and visceral love of God, a love shown in words and concrete gestures, a love that becomes covenant,” during an audience with a rabbinical delegation.

At a time when things people say often “lead to tragic division and rivalry, these divine words of covenant open before all of us paths of goodness to walk together,” he said.

Pope Francis spoke to Rabbi Skorka and the accompanying delegation of Jewish leaders that came with him to present a new, annotated edition of the Torah “complete with colorful illustrations.”

Possible prison term for demolition of former Jewish school

A Polish conservator faces a prison term for allowing the demolition of a former Jewish school building in central Poland, according to JTA. The Prosecutor’s Office in Konin this week charged the conservator, identified as Janusz T. in Polish news reports, for abuse of power by a public official.

Janusz, who headed up a delegation from a Regional Office for the Protection of Monuments, reportedly could face up to three years in prison for permitting the razing of the former talmudic school in Konin in July 2016. The building had been owned by the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, which in 2010 sold it to a private investor.

Konin residents protested the proposed demolition and asked the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to intervene.

In August, Janusz T. lost his job as conservator in Konin, after which the Prosecutor’s Office  conducted an investigation into the case. Janusz maintains he is not guilty.

A modest proposal – on a walkway

Forgoing the “provocative and risque,” a group of designers in Jerusalem on Thursday held Israel’s first major fashion show for Orthodox Jewish women, whose tradition “requires they dress in conservative outfits,” the Jerusalem Post reports.

Hundreds of Orthodox women and fashionistas were in the audience for “Modest Fashion Day” as Israeli models hit the catwalk wearing long sleeves and dresses down to their ankles.

“People are looking in our direction now to find that modest kind of look, which is very interesting to see,” said haredi stylist Miri Beillin. “We are working for this amazing day, fashion modesty, which is a complete, amazing experience for us as religious women.”

Unusual tusk for Israeli minister

Culture Minister Miri Regev used an impromptu trip to southern Turkey this week for a basketball game to offer a different kind of trade: Two elephants for an ancient inscription from Jerusalem, currently housed in a Turkish museum, which is considered one of the most important ancient Hebrew inscriptions in existence.

The Times of Israel reports that Regev was heard making the offer in a video posted online of an informal Hebrew-Turkish-English chat with Gaziantep mayor Fatma Sahin. Regev was in Turkey to accompany the Ironi Nahariya basketball team for a Europe Cup game, after Turkish authorities insisted that a minister be present in order for the team to bring its own armed guards.

In the video, which was posted by Channel 10 reporter Akiva Novick, Sahin, a politician from the ruling AKP party, speaks of her zoo’s elephant problem: it has just one, and it wants more.

“We’re willing to work for it,” the mayor quips.

Regev is heard telling her aides and translators, “We’ll make a deal. We’ll give them the elephants, and they’ll give us the inscription of Hezekiah.”

Regev was referring to the so-called Siloam Inscription, a 2,700-year-old ancient Hebrew text that provides concrete historical support for the biblical account of the construction of a tunnel that brought water from the Pool of Siloam to the City of David, below the southern edge of the Temple Mount, during the reign of King Hezekiah.

The video does not show how Sahin responds to the offer, but previous requests for the inscription have been rebuffed by the Turkish government.