Friday Five: Rep. Kevin Yoder, Birgitta Ohlsson, Jamal Julani, Rabbi David Goldberg, Josh Block


A midnight swim in the Sea of Galilee is not unusual, but when participants in a Republican congressional delegation dive in, and one of them (Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas) does it in his birthday suit, it’s bound to make waves. In this case, it took a year. But once Politico reported it, the issue made national headlines, became fodder for late-night jokes and even prompted an FBI probe. David Letterman did a Top 10 list of “Yoder’s excuses for skinny dipping in the Sea of Galilee.” Yoder is running virtually unopposed for reelection this year; no word yet on whether a possible victory party will be held poolside.

Birgitta Ohlsson, a non-Jewish Swedish minister, led some 400 kippah-wearing Jews and non-Jews on a solidarity march through the streets of Malmo on Saturday. The 37-year-old minister drew international attention to the habitual harassment of Malmo’s Jews — primarily by men from Muslim families. At the end of the so-called Kippah Walk, Ohlsson addressed the crowd and pledged her commitment to work to create a Malmo and a Sweden where minorities can walk the streets without fear. In parallel, some 75 people staged a Kippah Walk in Stockholm, 320 miles north of Malmo.

When a group of Jewish teenagers — some as young as 13 — attacked a young Israeli Arab in Jerusalem’s Zion Square late last Thursday, it prompted a new national conversation about hatred and violence in Israeli society. What one eyewitness described as a “lynch situation” left 17-year-old eastern Jerusalem resident Jamal Julani unconscious after being pummeled from punches and kicks. Julani, who reportedly regained consciousness in an Israeli hospital nearly three days later, said he had no memory of the incident. On Monday, Israeli police arrested seven Jewish teens for the assault. Their legal troubles go on, as does the debate over how to handle the problem they represent.

Rabbi David Goldberg has been quietly shepherding the small Jewish community of Hof in Germany for the past 15 years. But last week he became the subject of international attention after a doctor complained to authorities about his performing a Jewish circumcision ritual. The complaint followed a recent court ruling in Cologne that declared that non-medical circumcision of boys there amounts to a criminal act. The country’s politicians have said they will act to overturn the ruling, and the court in Hof has yet to decide whether to charge Goldberg, 64, with causing bodily harm. Goldberg told the Israeli news site Walla: “The attitude here in Germany is that circumcision is a religious ceremony and if you don’t like the law, then you can go back to where you came from.”
Josh Block is set to take over The Israel Project, a pro-Israel outfit founded by Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi that generally goes about its business by cultivating reporters through assistance and friendly outreach. Block has certainly cultivated good relations with some reporters while serving nearly a decade as spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and then establishing his own consultancy. But he also swings sharp elbows — Twitter wars with rivals, bomb-throwing quotes he insists reporters use in full or not at all — especially at organizations and pundits that he publicly accuses of crossing into anti-Israel territory. And he isn’t shy about haranguing reporters. One signature TIP program among many: Helicopter overflights of Israel for visiting journalists. Attention, scribes: Now that Josh is on the ride — whether you see him as a bully or happy warrior — you might wanna make sure you’re strapped in nice and snug.

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