Friday Five: Sukkot smuggler, Adam Greenberg, Maria Chudnovsky, Sheldon S. Cohen, David Kaye

The four species has made it to Iran and Syria thanks to one risky rabbi. (Graphic by Uri Fintzy)

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The four species has made it to Iran and Syria thanks to one risky rabbi. (Graphic by Uri Fintzy)

He smuggled goods to Syria in the midst of its civil war and to Iran in the face of international sanctions, but Rabbi A.H. is no arms dealer or James Bond. He’s just a guy selling lulavs. A.H., a community rabbi in Europe who insists on anonymity, told Ynet that he managed to get 150 etrogs and five lulav kits to Jewish communities in Iran and Syria through a network of secret messengers and collaborators — and by handing out plenty of bribes. Last year, the rabbi told Ynet, he tried to send etrogs to Iran through official channels, but they arrived at the Jewish community there full of holes. “These operations are so heroic and complex that they are just like Mossad activities,” he said. “If the details were revealed, people would faint.” 

It may have been the happiest strikeout of Adam Greenberg’s career. Greenberg, who was beaned in his only Major League at-bat while playing for the Chicago Cubs in 2005, returned to the bigs Tuesday on a one-day contract with the Miami Marlins. The lefty-swinging outfielder had never returned to the show, in part because of excruciating headaches he experienced as a result of the beaning. But an online campaign resulting from renewed interest in his story following his appearance last month as a player for Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers afforded him a second opportunity. Despite being retired on three pitches by the Mets’ R.A. Dickey — a knuckleballer and perhaps the best pitcher in the National League this season — Greenberg carried a smile back to the dugout along with his bat.

It’s official: Maria Chudnovsky is a genius. The 35-year-old Israeli-American researcher received a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” this week for her research on graph theory in the field of theoretical mathematics, which she began studying at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology after immigrating to Israel from Russia at age 13.

After Wednesday night’s free-for-all, some folks (President Obama especially) might be despairing of the presidential debate system. But Sheldon S. Cohen is a true believer, and he’s doing his part to keep America’s favorite political blood sport alive by serving as the only individual among the seven sponsors of the Commission on Presidential Debates (the others are corporations and foundations). There had been 10 sponsors, but three — Philips Electronics, the YWCA and BBH advertising — pulled out after boycott threats from groups that want the debates to include more than just the major-party candidates. Cohen, who broke a glass ceiling for Jews when President Johnson appointed him tax commissioner in 1964, is now a leading Washington tax attorney. After all, who boycotts tax lawyers?

Rabbi David Kaye says he just wants to pray, but he won’t be doing his davening at Adat Shalom in suburban Washington. Kaye, 61, was convicted in 2006 of sexual solicitation of a minor and served several years in prison, and since February he’s been worshiping at the Reconstructionist congregation in Bethesda, Md. But before Rosh Hashanah, the synagogue’s board — following what it called “backbreaking” deliberations — decided he was no longer welcome. “I’ve done teshuvah,” Kaye told the Washington Jewish Week, “and I feel that God has forgiven me.”

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