Yudi Dukes dies from Covid • NY attorney fights white supremacists • Manhattan rabbi offers prayer for President Biden



New York attorney Roberta Kaplan is taking on white supremacists in court, and wants America to start taking them more seriously.

Laura Adkins interviews the crusading lawyer, who is making headlines for suing the organizers of the 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

“I don’t think I appreciated when we brought this [Charlottesville] case the degree to which it has become a harbinger of so many of the troubling things we are seeing in our country today,” Kaplan said just weeks before a pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol building. “In ways that I never anticipated, Charlottesville has become a predictor, and sadly a symbol, of so many of the very serious problems that plague our society.”

As the new Senate majority leader, Charles Schumer has the chance to make good on promises he made as an ambitious young politician from Brooklyn.

His success will depend on his extensive experience, and the willingness of the Republican opposition to play ball. Gabe Friedman explains.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of New York’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah spoke at the National Prayer Service on Thursday morning.

The senior rabbi at CBST, which is geared toward LGBTQ Jews, recited a passage from the Torah that includes one of many Biblical injunctions to welcome the stranger.

God “upholds the cause of the orphan and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing those who need with food and clothing. You, too, must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” Kleinbaum read.

The longstanding service, virtual this year because of the Covid pandemic, involves faith leaders offering prayers for a new U.S. presidential administration.

Rabbi Yehuda “Yudi” Dukes, a chasidic educator who became sick with Covid-19 in late March and spent nearly 10 months in the hospital, died Thursday. He was 39.

Dukes became a symbol of the toll of the pandemic to many in the Chabad chasidic community and beyond as his wife Sarah documented his condition on social media.

Before the pandemic began, Dukes had been healthy and served as the director of the Jewish Learning Network, or JNet, a worldwide Chabad program that pairs people to study Judaism together.

On Sept. 4, Dukes was wheeled out of the NYU Langone intensive care unit to cheers and singing from the medical staff. But the disease had taken its toll, and in December doctors warned Sarah that her husband was dying.

Dukes died hours after the United States recorded a record-high one-day Covid death toll of 4,400. He leaves behind his six children, the oldest of whom, Mendy, celebrated his bar mitzvah in January 2020.

Related: Stewart Ain reports that Jewish funeral homes in Los Angeles and Arizona cannot keep up with the pace of the deadly disease. In some cases, funerals are being delayed because overwhelmed doctors are too busy caring for patients at inundated hospitals to fill out death certificates and burial permits.

Meanwhile, in Israel: The Health Ministry on Friday reported a further decline in daily coronavirus infections, as Israel’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began appeared to ease after weeks of strict lockdown rules, the Times of Israel reports.

Jessica Rosenworcel, a graduate of NYU School of Law, was tapped to serve as acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission.

The Connecticut native, 49, is a champion of net neutrality, which requires internet providers to treat all hosts — from corporate giants to mom-and-pop sites — equally. Biden’s appointment is a signal that he intends to restore it in one of many reversals of Trump administration policies.

Other appointments: Stephanie Pollack, the Massachusetts transportation secretary, is to be appointed deputy administrator of the Federal Highway Administration; Avril Haines is the first woman and first Jewish director of national intelligence. A number of other Jewish Cabinet nominees are expected to be confirmed in the coming days, including Janet Yellen for the Treasury, Antony Blinken as secretary of state, and Alejandro Mayorkas as Homeland Security secretary.


Danny Danon, Israel’s former ambassador to the U.N., has some advice for Joe Biden: “the Middle East of 2021 is not the same Middle East of 2015.”


Read about a young couple who met during Kiddush, and saw their friendship grow into a lifelong commitment.

Shabbat Shalom

When presidents take an oath of office, they raise an open hand and swear to protect our nation. Similarly, writes Rabbi Daniel Nevins, this week’s Torah portion instructs officials to “withdraw your hands from selfish and unworthy causes, and then stretch your hands forward in dedication to your country and its highest principles.”

More wisdom: Where Americans assert their “freedom,” writes Rabbi David Wolpe, “Judaism would have us prioritize kindness and consideration.”

Around the Agencies

Moving Traditions has a new guide: “Zoom-Mitzvah 101: A Moving Traditions Guide to Thinking Creatively about Pandemic B’nai Mitzvah.” The guide includes tips on how to use the invitation to set up expectations with your guests, ways to turn your home into a sacred space and methods for fostering community online. Rabbi Daniel Brenner and Pamela Barkley, CSW, created the guide after talking to clergy and educators around the country as part of the Moving Traditions B’nai Mitzvah Family Education Program. Click here to download it.

The Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest will run Jan. 27-31, featuring more than 150 online events connecting Jewish values to climate action. In addition to sessions on food and recipes, The Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest will include sessions about how to add solar panels to your home or synagogue, how youth and Jewish leaders are making a difference, and Shabbat and Tu B’Shvat experiences.


The Folio: A Jewish Week/UJA Cultural Series presents a virtual conversation with Nicole Krauss, author most recently of “To Be a Man,” her first collection of stories, and Eshkol Nevo, whose latest novel is “The Last Interview.” Moderated by award-winning author and editor Sandee Brawarsky. Register here. Monday, noon.