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Santos faces criminal charges + Kagan refused Russ & Daughters as Thomas traveled with billionaire

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Is it OK for a Supreme Court justice to accept a gift basket of bagels and babka? The ethics of the Supreme Court have been in the spotlight following a ProPublica investigation documenting lavish gifts to Justice Clarence Thomas from Texas billionaire Harlan Crow. Our Beth Harpaz has a different kind of story — about a justice who rebuffed an appetizing offer from her high school classmates for fear of violating the court’s ethics rules.

 

“It must be so lonely and difficult:” Justice Elena Kagan graduated from Manhattan’s Hunter College High School in 1977. (Beth was in her class.) In February 2021, amid the solidifying of the court’s conservative majority, a member of an alumnae Facebook group proposed sending Kagan a gift basket in solidarity.

 

Not “without the babka”: Several dozen women chipped in for a spread to remind Kagan of home, complete with Russ and Daughters’ famous babka. Some added tchotchkes with a personal touch: a handmade work of crochet, an autographed memoir.

 

“I mean, she said no to lox and bagels!” Before the organizer, Ann Starer, sent the package, she had a moment of questioning: Would the gift violate any ethics rules? So she reached out to Justice Kagan, who said she wouldn’t feel comfortable accepting it. But, Kagan wrote, “I’m very grateful.” Read the story ➤

ALSO FROM THE FORWARD

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A civil rights demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. (Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty)

Opinion | Do the economics that helped end segregation hold the key to gun control? After a gunman killed eight at a Texas shopping mall this weekend, our columnist Robin Washington found himself thinking about the Jewish merchants in Birmingham, Alabama, who helped stop racial segregation in the 1960s. Many were motivated by self-interest; they had experienced lengthy sit-in protests, and wanted to get back to business. Similarly, Robin argues, today’s retailers should consider the economic benefits of gun control: “I’m betting that today’s Armani and The North Face and Ralph Lauren and Brooks Brothers would prefer shoppers not bleed to death in the fitting rooms.” Read his essay ➤

 

Biden picked up from where Trump left off to expand Abraham Accords: President Joe Biden’s administration made discreet attempts to bring more Middle Eastern countries into the Abraham Accords, Israeli journalist Barak Ravid writes in a book newly translated into English. The accords, spearheaded by the Trump administration, normalized relations between Israel and several Gulf states, and Biden made public commitments to continue his predecessor’s work. But Ravid, whose book was originally published in Hebrew in 2021, says Biden’s efforts to broker an agreement with Mauritania met a tepid response. Read the story ➤

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The Jewish Studies graduate programs at Spertus Institute make advanced Jewish learning conveniently available. Taught by skilled and distinguished faculty, the programs are offered in a flexible, part-time format. Courses meet online and during seminars at our award-winning downtown Chicago campus. 

 

Our programs draw students who are involved and engaged. Are you ready to join them? 

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

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The IDF engaged the Iron Dome defense system on Wednesday morning. (GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty)

😔 Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a barrage of rockets toward Tel Aviv Wednesday morning, as the Israeli military continued to conduct airstrikes in Gaza, a day after an assault killed 13 people there, including three leaders of the terror group Islamic Jihad. Separately, Israeli soldiers killed two Palestinians during an overnight raid in the occupied West Bank. An IDF spokesperson said the Palestinians had fired at the soldiers near the city of Jenin. (Haaretz)

 

😨  A gunman shot and killed four people near a Tunisia synagogue during an annual Jewish pilgrimage. The authorities said the gunman, a guard at a naval institution, killed two security officers and two visitors to the synagogue, one of whom was French, before being shot dead himself by security forces. The pilgrimage draws hundreds of Jews from Europe and Israel to the Ghriba synagogue, Africa’s oldest, in the coastal city of Djerba. (Reuters

 

👀  Rep. George Santos has reportedly been charged by federal prosecutors. The freshman Republican who fabricated his family’s Holocaust history, among many other audacious lies about his past, could appear in court in New York as early as today, CNN and The New York Times reported last night, citing unnamed sources. The specific criminal charges remain unclear, but prosecutors have been investigating Santos for possible campaign-finance improprieties.  (CNN, NYT)

 

👋  U.S. Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides will leave his post in May, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday. Nides, a senior State Department official in the Obama administration, has been the envoy to Jerusalem since December 2021. (JTA)

 

😢  Parents are demanding a Colorado school district address what they describe as “systemic, rampant antisemitism” after middle-school students drew swastikas on their classmates’ arms after a presentation about the Holocaust. Separately, multiple students at the University of Denver have had mezuzahs ripped off their dormitory doors in recent weeks. (ABC 6, Colorado Public Radio)

 

😞  IDF guards fatally shot an Israeli Jewish woman who ran through a West Bank checkpoint holding an airsoft gun and shouting “God is great” in Arabic. The woman had previously said she suffered from PTSD after her military service, and told a friend she intended to commit “suicide by cop.” (Times of Israel)

 

💎  A Christie’s auction of jewels owned by a German billionaire who profited from the Holocaust will continue despite protests from Jewish groups. The lot, valued at 120 million pounds, belonged to the wife of Helmut Horten. Critics say Horten his fortune by seizing property from Jews during the Nazi era. (Guardian)

 

🎙️  Tucker Carlson announced plans to launch a new iteration of his trademark show on Twitter after being fired from Fox News last month. Under Elon Musks’s ownership, Twitter has seen a rapid escalation in antisemitic hate speech on the platform. (CNN Business, JTA)

What else we’re reading ➤  “What happened to the Nazi treasure buried in this Dutch village?” … Meet the influencer teaching her 1.6 million followers about her Orthodox lifestyle … Why some Jewish fans think anime has a “Nazi problem.”

 

ON THE CALENDAR

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‘Gone with the Wind’ was produced by David O. Selznick. (MGM)

On this day in history (1902): Film producer David O. Selznick was born to Lithuanian Jewish parents in Pittsburgh. Selznick, who added the middle initial to distinguish himself from an uncle with the same name, produced Gone with the Wind and Rebecca — both of which won the Academy award for Best Picture —as well as the original A Star is Born. 

VIDEO OF THE DAY

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Israel’s Noa Kirel made it to the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest after her Tuesday night performance of her hit “Unicorn.” Semifinalists from 16 other nations will compete Thursday in Liverpool, England; the grand finale, where Kirel will be one of 26 acts, is slated for Saturday.

Thanks to Benyamin Cohen and Rebecca Salzhauer for contributing to today’s newsletter. You can reach the “Forwarding” team at editorial@forward.com.

 

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