Remembering Rubin Sztajer, Fred Malek dies and James Beard Award finalists

Holocaust survivor Rubin Sztajer dies

Rubin Sztajer was never one to mince words. He didn’t have the time or patience for false pleasantries or the politesse of polite society, and he didn’t fret over who might be offended by his frankness, writes Editor-in-Chief Alan Feiler. After all, Rubin, a local survivor of six Nazi death camps who died March 26 at age 94, had been to the depths of hell and back. And he was a man on a mission – to let the world know about the horrors of the Holocaust and to prevent that memory from receding into the dustbin of history. But that meant always talking tachlis and being completely accurate about the Shoah. “Trust me, it was horrible enough,” he said to me on many occasions. “There is no need for any exaggerations or creativity.”

Read more: Survivor Rubin Sztajer Was Committed to Telling the Truth about the Holocaust

Yad Vashem runs ads urging an end to ‘divisive anti-Semitic language’

Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, ran an ad in The New York Times and The Washington Post during the AIPAC conference urging politicians to stop using “divisive anti-Semitic language and distorted Holocaust references.” The ad read, “We implore all leaders and citizens to refrain from hateful discourse, and to reaffirm the common humanity that binds us together. Divisive anti-Semitic language and distorted Holocaust references voiced by politicians and too many others is deeply troubling.” The top half of the ad is a quote from famed Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel which states: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” The ad refers to recent “horrible results of unbridled hatred,” namely the attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue building that left 11 dead, and attacks on two mosques in New Zealand that left 50 dead.—JTA

The Facebook logo at an innovation hub in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Facebook and Instagram to ban white nationalist/separatist posts

Facebook and Instagram announced a ban on posts that involve “support and representation of white nationalism and separatism.” The social networking giant announced the ban on March 27 and will begin enforcing it next week. “It’s clear that these concepts are deeply linked to organized hate groups and have no place on our services,” a post by Facebook, which owns Instagram, said. “Our policies have long prohibited hateful treatment of people based on characteristics such as race, ethnicity or religion — and that has always included white supremacy.” Facebook did not at first extend that ban to white nationalism out of concern that it could also end up censoring movements like Basque separatism or pride in the United States. But conversations with experts convinced the company that “white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups.” Facebook also announced that it would begin connecting people who search for hateful terms to resources that help people leave hate groups. Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sparked backlash when he said the site would not remove posts denying the Holocaust.–JTA

Fred Malek
Fred Malek poses in his home in McLean, Va., Sept. 8, 2014. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Fred Malek, GOP official who tallied Jews for Nixon, dies at 82

Fred Malek, a former White House aide who recorded the number of Jews working in the Bureau of Labor Statistics for President Nixon, has died. His death at age 82 was announced March 26 by the American Action Network, a conservative advocacy group he formed with former Republican senator Norm Coleman of Minnesota. In 1971, Nixon complained to members of his staff about a “Jewish cabal” in government working against him. He specifically set out to demote members of the Bureau of Labor Statistics who he believed were tweaking employment statistics to make him look bad. At Nixon’s request Malek, the White House personnel chief, sent a list of names he thought sounded Jewish to White House aides H.R. Haldeman and Charles Colson in September 1971. Three employees Malek named were demoted to different positions within the bureau. The story resurfaced in 1988, and Malek resigned from his post as deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee. Malek was a finance co-chair of John McCain’s presidential campaign in 2007 and then became an adviser to Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate. In 2017, President Donald Trump appointed Malek to chair the board of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a prominent think tank affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution.—JTA

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett speaks at the Children’s Defense Fund California’s 28th Annual Beat The Odds Awards at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, Dec. 6, 2018. (Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

Criminal charges dropped against Jussie Smollett

Criminal charges against “Empire” star Jussie Smollett have been dropped. The Prosecutor’s Office in Chicago announced March 26 that all the disorderly conduct charges alleging that Smollett lied to police about a racist and homophobic attack have been dropped. In addition, a judge agreed to grant a motion to seal the case and expunge Smollett’s record, according to reports. Smollett had volunteered in the community and agreed to forfeit his $100,000 bond to be released from jail the day after he was charged on Feb. 20, the Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement. It is not clear why the actor, who is Jewish, black and gay, had to forfeit his bond or what community service activities he performed. The statement called it “a just disposition and appropriate resolution to this case.” “I have been truthful and consistent on every level since day one,” Smollett told reporters on March 26 following the court hearing after thanking his family, friends and fans for supporting him and his version of events in the Jan. 29 attack in downtown Chicago.

Read more: Criminal Charges Dropped Against ‘Empire’ Star Jussie Smollett

Michael Twitty
Michael Twitty speaking at the annual Food Book Fair in New York, May 13, 2017. (Clay Williams)

James Beard Awards announces finalists

The James Beard Foundation announced its 2019 slate of finalists on March 27. This “short list” of nominees honors the year’s outstanding restaurants, chefs, and food-centric journalism, books, and broadcast media. Among the finalists were Baltimore’s Cindy Wolf of Charleston for Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic. In the journalism awards category, Michael Twitty was honored for “Back to Where It All Began: I Had Never Eaten in Ghana Before. But My Ancestors Had” in Bon Appetit and in the Innovative Storytelling category, Tablet Magazine was recognized for its “100 Most Jewish Foods.”

Here’s the 2019 list

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