‘Fire and Fury’, National Jewish Book Awards, MLK Day and more
Donald Trump has Jewdar, says the author whose book about the president is roiling the White House. Michael Wolff, who wrote “Fire and Fury,” spoke Sunday with Katy Tur on MSNBC. Trump has been accused of a range of bigotries, and Tur ran them by Wolff, who for months last year had unusual access to the White House. Sexist? Check. Racist? Check. Xenophobe? Check Anti-Semitic? Wolff, who is Jewish, equivocates. “I’ve had this specific discussion with Steve Bannon. He thought maybe he’s a racist, he didn’t think [Trump] was an anti-Semite,” the author said. (Bannon, who for seven months was Trump’s top strategic adviser and helmed his presidential campaign, has himself been accused of offering dog whistles to racists and anti-Semites.) “But I don’t know,” Wolff said of Trump. “I think he thinks about, I think he’s aware of who is Jewish in a way that might give … that feels creepy,” he said. —JTA
Bannon and Breitbart
Steve Bannon, the former top strategic adviser to President Donald Trump, is leaving his powerful perch at Breitbart News. Breitbart News in a statement said Bannon is a “valued part of our legacy,” but various media, including The New York Times, said he was ousted because of a falling-out with Trump over quotes he gave to the author of an incendiary book about the Trump White House. The book, “Fire and Fury,” by journalist Michael Wolff, quoted Bannon at length attacking Trump’s family, with special rancor aimed at Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Bannon, calling himself an “economic nationalist,” helmed Breitbart after the sudden death of its founder, Andrew Breitbart, in 2012, and again after he left the White House in August. Under his watch, Breitbart News was seen as strongly pro-Israel, with a dedicated Jerusalem bureau. Bannon was also said to have urged Trump to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and to refuse to meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Breitbart’s Jewish employees said he made sure they were able to observe Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Yet he was also portrayed by Jewish liberals as inimical to Jewish interests. Joining Trump’s presidential campaign in its last three months, he introduced terms like “globalists” and theories of international banking conspiracies that often recalled anti-Semitic propaganda, although neither Bannon nor Trump explicitly named a Jewish conspiracy. Bannon called Breitbart a “platform” for the “alt-right,” a loosely organized nationalistic movement whose followers include white supremacists and anti-Semites, but he also told reporters that he rejected both and was confident they would “wash out” of the movement. According to The Times, influential conservative political donor Rebekah Mercer, who has a minority stake in Breitbart, led the effort to push out Bannon.
Gay men can now give blood
In a policy change, gay men will be allowed to freely donate blood in Israel. Under the new procedure announced Wednesday by the Health Ministry and Magen David Adom, the blood will be checked for certain infectious diseases at the time of donation, and then frozen for four months and checked again in a special double testing system. Last year, Israel’s Health Ministry announced that gay men could donate blood provided that a year had passed since their last sexual encounter with a man. That was challenged by gay rights groups in Israel. Knesset lawmaker Meirav Ben-Ari of the Kulanu party worked with the Israel Aids Task Force and Israel’s LGBT Task Force to craft the new testing system, which is being implemented for a two-year trial period. The United States requires gay male blood donors to have been celibate for 12 months before donating.—JTA
Jewish banker named world’s best
Brazil’s Central Bank president, an Israeli native, was chosen the world’s best central banker of the year by a British magazine. Ilan Goldfajn, who was born in Haifa and raised in Rio de Janeiro, was selected by The Banker magazine due to his successful performance taming Latin America’s largest nation’s annual inflation below the official target range to 2.95 per cent in 2017, the lowest in nearly 20 years, reported O Globo newspaper. “This is far from easy success in a country that struggles with double-digit inflation growth in the recent past,” wrote the magazine, which is part of the Financial Times group, during an interview held late last year and published now. Goldfajn, 51, assumed the position of president of Brazil’s Central Bank in May 2016. He has an acknowledged career in both the public and private sectors, served as chief economist at Itau, Brazil’s largest private bank, and deputy to the bank governor of Brazil, as well as adviser to the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Fluent in Hebrew, English, Portuguese and Spanish, the economist is an active member of the Brazilian Jewish community. He was educated in Rio’s Liessin Jewish day school. At a meeting held by the Brazil-Israel Chamber of Commerce one month before he took over the Central Bank, Goldfajn said “Brazil has a lot to learn from Israel.”
Golda Meir bio named Book of the Year
A biography of Golda Meir was named Book of the Year for 2017 by the Jewish Book Council, one of about 20 books honored as part of the 2017 National Jewish Book Awards. “Lioness: Golda Meir and the Nation of Israel,” an 800-page work about the late Israeli prime minister by Francine Klagsbrun and published by Schocken Books, was awarded the Everett Family Foundation Book of the Year in the council’s announcement on Wednesday. It is the 67th year of the awards.
Three novels won awards for fiction:
- “The Weight of Ink” by Rachel Kadish and published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which the council called “a book about books,” won The Miller Family Book Club Award in Memory of Helen Dunn Weinstein and June Keit Miller.
- “Barren Island,” a historical novel about the Brooklyn shore’s last resort for poor immigrant families by Carol Zoref and published by New Issues Poetry & Prose/Western Michigan University, won the Goldberg Prize for Debut Fiction.
- “A Horse Walks into A Bar,” by Israeli novelist David Grossman and translated by Jessica Cohen, won the JJ Greenberg Fiction Award, his second novel to win the award.
The winners will be honored March 6 at an awards dinner and ceremony at the Prince George Ballroom in Manhattan.
A Royal Mazel Tov
When Edna Levi looked through her mail on Sunday, she was shocked to find an envelope delivered from Buckingham Palace. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the soon-to-be-married British royal couple, had answered her letter. Levi, who lives outside Leeds and is in her 80s, had sent the couple a note of congratulations after their recent engagement, The Yorkshire Evening Post reported. “Dear Prince,” Levi, a member of the Leeds Jewish community, had written in her note. “I’m British-born but a member of the Jewish faith and we say Mazel Tov on a happy occasion. This is why I am saying it to you and wishing you well and good health.” Levi’s sentiments left the British royal and his American actress fiancee “incredibly touched.” “It really was most thoughtful of you and greatly appreciated,” the couple wrote in response. “His Royal Highness and Ms. Markle send you their warmest thanks and very best wishes.” Last year, several media outlets wrote that Markle’s father was Jewish, repeating a claim made in a British tabloid article. Markle had been married to Jewish film producer Trevor Engelson, but the actress’ publicist confirmed to JTA that she is not a member of the tribe.
It’s Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week again!
Baltimore Winter Restaurant Week starts tomorrow and runs through Jan. 21. Restaurant Week is a promotion designed to help restaurants fill up their rooms during a traditionally slow time of year — that long stretch between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day. The selling point for diners is the specially designed, fixed-price menus that give them a good glimpse into a restaurant’s cuisine without breaking their dining budget. This year, two-course lunch options are available for $12-$20 and three-course dinners range from $20-$35.
See Richard Gorelick’s top 10 menu picks here.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Don’t forget the holiday is observed on Jan. 15 and there are a couple things happening around town that you can do to commemorate the day. On Jan. 14, the Creative Alliance is hosting a Day of Service. Attendees can make relief kits for Heart to Heart, which delivers supplies to refugees around the world. And, Soul to Soul at the Gordon Center on Jan. 14 examines the common threads between the seemingly disparate musical traditions of African-American and Yiddish American cultures. On Jan. 15, the American Visionary Art Museum will be free in honor of MLK Dare to Dream Day.
Go to facebook.com/JMORELiving every Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. to watch Need to Know with Editor-in-Chief Alan Feiler. Join the discussion on the week’s news and current events.