Friday Five: Superstorm Sandy, Sandi Firth, Hector Timmerman, Alex Clare, Oleg Tyagnibok

The main building at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in Falls Village, Conn., sustained damage on Oct. 29, 2012 when Hurricane Sandy sent a 100-year-old tree slicing through the roof. (Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center Facebook)The Empire State Building remaining lit as Lower Manhattan became dark due to power outages following Hurricane Sandy, Oct. 29, 2012. (Alexander Rea via Creative Commons)A haredi couple waiting for Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn, Oct. 29, 2012. (Azi Paybarah via Twitter)

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A haredi couple waiting for Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn, Oct. 29, 2012. (Azi Paybarah via Twitter)

It came in the form of high winds, rain and a deadly storm surge. It left behind a trail of death and destruction, fire, floods, downed trees, darkness. This time, tragedy struck not in some far-off land or distant state but in the world’s most Jewish city — for many of us, our home. Sandy, however, will be remembered for more than just calamity: It brought communities together, it engendered comity between elected leaders of different political stripes, and it served as a reminder that though we need electricity, gasoline, public transportation and wet-dry vacs, we also need each other.

Sandi Firth may have been crowned “Jewish Mum of the Year” by Britain’s Channel 4 show of the same name, but that has hardly put to rest the raging debate among viewers over whether the program stereotyped Jewish women or offered a rare showcase of Jewish diversity in the United Kingdom. At least it got British Jews talking. Mazel tov!

There’s at least one Jew negotiating with Iran right now — though not about Tehran’s nuclear program. Representatives of Hector Timmerman, a Member of the Tribe and Argentina’s foreign minister, sat down in Geneva, Switzerland, this week for three days of talks with Iran over its responsibility for the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. That attack, which killed 85 people, has been linked to Iran and its Lebanese proxy militia, Hezbollah. Israel, the United States and Argentine Jews oppose the talks, and B’nai B’rith International slammed Argentina for giving “undue legitimacy to a terror-sponsoring regime” by holding the talks. But Timmerman has described the negotiations as “very positive” and scheduled another round for later this month.

British pop sensation Alex Clare may not be performing stateside until the end of this month (he’s in Russia next week), but this Orthodox Jew already has mobs of teenage girls chasing him around Europe. Clare’s career got a huge boost this past summer when Microsoft chose his song “Too Close” for the commercial for the latest version of Internet Explorer. Now Clare needs bodyguards to keep the girls at bay. It’s a good thing, too, because Clare’s religious beliefs forbid him from touching women.

You may not be able to pronounce Oleg Tyagnibok’s name, but after Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Ukraine — in which Tyagnibok’s anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party made unprecedented gains, capturing 12 percent of the vote — you can be sure the country’s Jews do. Among other things, Tyagnibok has called for purging Ukraine of its Jewish population. After Sunday’s vote, Rabbi Menachem Margolin of the European Jewish Association said, “We are very concerned about the safety of Ukrainian Jews and are seeking to prevent expansion of anti-Semitism in Europe.”

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