World Briefs

World Briefs

Rabbi Riskin to step down from liberal Orthodox network he founded
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin will step down from running the network of liberal Orthodox schools and seminaries he founded.

The Israeli-American leader will retire in July 2018 as chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone, a network of educational institutions that has pushed the limits of traditional Jewish law to be more inclusive of women and converts. Rabbi Kenneth Brander, an administrator at Yeshiva University, will lead the organization as president and rosh yeshiva, or head of school, according to a statement issued last week.

Riskin, 77, received rabbinic ordination more than 50 years ago, and transformed Manhattan’s Lincoln Square Synagogue into a popular and growing hub of Modern Orthodoxy. In 1983, he moved to Israel with congregants and co-founded Efrat, a West Bank settlement and suburb of Jerusalem with a mixed religious-secular population that today has 8,000 residents.

Riskin serves as chief rabbi of Efrat, and will continue in that role after stepping down from Ohr Torah Stone.

Ohr Torah Stone runs modern Orthodox schools ranging from junior high to graduate programs. The network includes a five-year program to train women as Jewish legal authorities on par with rabbis, the first school to train women as advocates in Israeli rabbinical courts, and Midreshet Lindenbaum, a women’s Jewish studies college that was one of the first to teach Talmud to women.

Riskin has also been an outspoken advocate of liberalizing Israel’s strict Orthodox conversion system, and has privately conducted his own Orthodox conversions for years. His activism has drawn the ire of the country’s haredi Orthodox Chief Rabbinate, which controls authorized Jewish conversion in Israel. The Chief Rabbinate threatened Riskin’s chief rabbi position in 2015 but retained him in the role.

Brander serves as Y.U.’s vice president for university and community life, and also teaches at the school’s rabbinical seminary. Like Riskin, he has promoted Torah study for Orthodox women, formerly heading Y.U.’s Graduate Program of Advanced Talmudic Studies and Biblical Interpretation for Women.

Brander also founded Neal’s Fund, which provides micro-grants to students engaged in community service. Before joining Y.U., he served as rabbi of the Boca Raton Synagogue in Florida.

Mark Cuban considering run for president

The Jewish owner of the Dallas Mavericks of the National Basketball Association said he is “considering” a run for president.

Mark Cuban, 59, said in a podcast released last week that he is “Considering, yes. Ready to commit to it, no,” to a White House run for 2020. He appeared on the podcast of Bakari Sellers, an attorney and former South Carolina congressman, the Washington Post reported.

“If I can come up with solutions that I think people can get behind, and truly solve problems, then it makes perfect sense for me to run.
If it comes down to, do I think I can win because I can convince more people to vote for me? Then no, I won’t run.”

Cuban, who grew up in Mt. Lebanon, Pa., said on the podcast that he is an Independent when it comes to politics.

He said in a December 2015 email interview with CNBC that running for president was “a fun idea to toss around,” and that if he were running in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, he “could beat both Trump and Clinton.” Cuban later clarified that he did not intend to enter the race.

A billionaire, Cuban regularly appears as an investor on the ABC reality series “Shark Tank.”

Greta Gerwig regrets signing an Israel boycott letter

Indie film darling Greta Gerwig may have changed her mind on the issue of Israel boycotts.

In July, she signed a letter along with 60 other artists urging the Lincoln Center to cancel performances of “To The End Of The Land,” a play based on a novel of the same name by famed Israeli novelist David Grossman. The signees, who all oppose Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians, took issue with the fact that the play was funded by Israel’s Office of Cultural Affairs in North America.

Gerwig told the New York Post that she was not knowledgeable enough on the issue to have taken a stand on it.

“This past summer, a close friend asked me to lend my name to a letter,” Gerwig said. “I am generally careful about the causes I support, but in this case I was not. I was unfamiliar with the complexities of the letter and I did not take the time to study them.”

She added: “Instead, because the letter had already been signed by many other friends and collaborators I know to be thoughtful and honorable people, I agreed to add my name. While I respect the passion and integrity of others who signed this letter, for me to put my name to something outside of my personal realm of knowledge or experience was a mistake — my mistake — and I am sorry for any confusion or hurt I may have caused.”

Earlier the Post reported — and Gerwig’s representative vigorously denied — that journalists at the recent Toronto and Telluride film festivals had been instructed not to ask Gerwig questions about the Israel letter, possibly because she is gearing up for a lobbying campaign for an Academy Award. Her directorial debut — titled “Ladybird,” and starring Saiorse Ronan — has picked up Oscar buzz this festival season.

The 34-year-old actress has starred in several films directed by Jewish director Noah Baumbach, including “Greenberg” and “Frances Ha.” The pair have also been dating since 2011. pjc

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