NYC rabbi coaches celebrity ‘bar mitzvah’ • Orthodox girls kicked off of NY-bound flight • Beloved cookbook maven dies


Good Monday morning, New York! It’s Elul, the last Hebrew month before Rosh Hashanah and traditionally the start of a season of reflection, repentance and renewal. Read all about Elul customs here, from our partners at My Jewish Learning.


Rabbi Diana Fersko of downtown’s Village Temple coached the hosts of the Showtime talk show “Desus & Mero” on the finer points of bar mitzvah etiquette.

  • Fersko appeared on Thursday’s show, explaining the ceremony to Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, along with their guest, comedian Eric Andre, a member of the Reform temple who identifies as both Black and Jewish.
  • Fresko gamely fielded the hosts’ questions – including whether cocaine is kosher – but skipped the raucous afterparty held in the synagogue’s social hall. Watch the segment here.
  • Quotable: “They have a significant Jewish audience and I think it’s essential to meet people where they are. One of my goals is to show that rabbis look different than many people might assume or imagine and to have meaningful conversations about Judaism,” Fersko told our colleagues at JTA.


Nach Waxman, owner of the beloved East Side cookbook store Kitchen Arts & Letters, as well as a maven of both Jewish cooking and Jewish texts, has died. He was 84. A go-to source for chefs, food scholars and home cooks, Waxman was also a mainstay of a small group of friends who met every Sunday morning for more than 25 years at his Upper West Side apartment to study Jewish texts. Our colleague Shira Hanau remembers “somebody who loved life in all its forms.”


Police in Amsterdam pulled 18 Orthodox Jewish girls from a Delta-KLM flight bound for New York on Friday allegedly because they violated COVID-19 measures.

  • The girls were traveling from Kyiv, Ukraine, with a layover in Amsterdam, the NIW Dutch Jewish weekly reported Friday. When some of the girls began to eat their own food outside the designated meal time, flight attendants called police to remove the passengers.
  • Relatives of the girls said the flight attendants were rude and impatient. The girls spent Shabbat in Antwerp, Belgium, before returning home Sunday.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island) wants the NYC Department of Education to investigate a group of pro-Palestinian New York City public school teachers for allegedly anti-Semitic views.

  • A June 11 open letter by “NYC Educators for Palestine” accused Israel of “ethnically cleansing Palestinians” and demanded that Israel end the “colonization of all Palestinian land.”
  • Zeldin writes that the letter uses “talking points all too commonly used to fuel violent attacks on and discrimination against Jews,” the Washington Free Beacon reports.

A Wall Street Journal opinion piece claims there’s a “surge” of Orthodox Jewish families moving from the New York area to South Florida.

  • Miami-area physician Allan Jacob cites expanding enrollment in Jewish day schools, from 10,623 in 2018 to 12,482 in 2020. Fourteen new schools were added in the same period.
  • He lists cheaper housing, lower taxes and the ability to work remotely during the pandemic as reasons for the surge.


Linoy Ashram Israel Gold

Israel’s Linoy Ashram celebrates winning the individual all-around final of the rhythmic gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images)

Israel’s Linoy Ashram (above) won the individual all-around in rhythmic gymnastics at the Tokyo Olympics Saturday, despite an appeal by the Russian Olympic Committee, whose member finished second. Ashram’s medal was Israel’s second gold at the Tokyo games and third in any Olympic contest.

Michael Herzog, a brigadier general and brother to Israeli president Isaac Herzog, will be Israel’s next ambassador to the United States.

Natan Sharansky and his wife Avital are both recovering from COVID-19.


Under a barrage of grim news — the suffering caused by COVID misinformation, environmental catastrophe, anti-democratic politics — how is a rabbi expected to deliver a message of hope on these High Holidays? Rabbi Rachel Barenblat says she will try to help her congregants “look beyond our own despair” — but admits it won’t be easy.


The International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies presented its 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award to Nolan Altman, the former president of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Long Island. The current president of the Long Island society, Bonnie Birns, was named Society Member of the Year.


Rachel Rosenthal explores Talmudic stories on how to balance work and family to better understand how the rabbis saw their obligations to Torah, to themselves, and to their families. Register for this Jewish Theological Seminary event here. 2:00 pm.

Hadar rolls out a new slate of online daily and weekly classes intended to help learners prepare for the High Holidays, including “Rediscovering the Mahzor” with Rabbi Elie Kaunfer. Sign up here beginning today.

Lab/Shul’s Elul SoulSpa returns online, twice a week, for 30 minutes of rest, music, movement, meditation and communal connection mid-workday, and an opportunity for mourners to recite the Kaddish prayer. Click here to join. 3:00 pm.

Photo, top: From left: Comedian Eric Andre, Desus Nice and The Kid Mero are seen in The Village Temple in New York City during an episode of “Desus & Mero.” (Screenshot from YouTube)

Photo, center: Israel’s Linoy Ashram celebrates winning the individual all-around final of the rhythmic gymnastics event during Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on August 7, 2021. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images)