First Read For Feb. 27


Cemetery vandalism in Philadelphia

Dozens of headstones were overturned and broken at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, JTA reports. The vandalism at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia was discovered on Sunday.

The discovery comes nearly a week after over 150 headstones were discovered overtuned and damaged at the Chesed Shel Emeth Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.

It is not known who committed the vandalism or if the motive was anti-Semitism.

A crowdfunding campaign launched by two Muslim Americans to help cover the costs of the damages of the vandalism at the St. Louis cemetery, which has raised $130,000 in the last week, announced that it  has reached out to the Philadelphia cemetery to offer funds from the campaign to help repair the damage.

Jewish-Muslim solidarity in Brooklyn

Muslims and Jews who live in the same Brooklyn neighborhood came together Friday afternoon in a show of solidarity, according to the Brooklyn News 12 website. The two religious communities in Kensington held a rally on Avenue C to fight hatred in their community and around the world.

Community leaders and elected officials, including Assemblyman Dov Hikind, were in attendance.

Anti-Semitism peaks in Canada

Anti-Semitism accounts for almost 60 percent of religiously-motivated hate crimes that occur in Canada, the Toronto Sun reports. According to the paper, students at Canadian universities are often conditioned to “gnore, deny or support alarming acts of anti-Semitism.”

“I no longer feel safe on my campus because of my Judaism and my support for Israel,” wrote Aedan O’Connor, a pre-medical students at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Britain’s got pranksters

Simon Brodkin, one of England’s most prominent pranksters, almost fooled the celebrity judge on the Britain’s Got Talent TV show last month.

According to JTA, Brodkin pretended at auditions to be an orphaned, patriotic rabbi who liked to rap but wasn’t very good at it. His goal was to show was “contrived,” more concerned with a contestant’s story than with talent.

Wearing a fake beard and side locks and presenting himself as Steven Goldblatt, Brodkin used a hollowed-out boom box to film himself advancing from interview to interview, and from audition to audition, with a half-baked routine comprising patriotic clichés.

His rap name-dropped William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill and included bland assertions like “British sky is gray, British countryside’s green, as for British skin color, there are thousands I’ve seen.” Continuing to play the diversity card, he also recited: “Tolerance and acceptance for Muslim, Sikh or Jew, I’m so proud, I’m so proud of the red, white and blue.”

Brodkin planned to blow his cover – and that of “Britain’s Got Talent” – during a live show, when producers couldn’t edit out his own unmasking upon receiving praise for what he calls his “crappy routine.”

Impersonating a member of the haredi community, which is hardly known for partaking in popular culture in Britain, allowed Brodkin to stand out among the other contestants, he explained.

But after reaping praises from the four-judge panel at the final audition in London, a production assistant finally recognized Brodkin, which kept him off the air.

Yad Vashem to Amazon: Don’t sell denial books

Yad Vashem has urged Amazon to remove books denying the Holocaust from its site after learning the online retailer continues offering them to readers despite making commitments to remove such titles, according to ynetnews. These books are available even in countries that have laws barring the distribution and sale of Nazi propaganda materials.