Phoebe Maltz Bovy’s first week-in-review at The Canadian Jewish News

Ronscesvalles: Definitely not a shtetl.

Thank you, todah, and merci for all the kind notes in response to my introductory message to readers of The CJN. I enjoyed all of them, and was particularly delighted to learn that there are several Jews in the greater Roncesvalles neighbourhood of Toronto.

I’ve also started as a contributor columnist at the Globe and Mail, so you may have seen a large photograph of my face there as well:

And now, ahead of a new Jewish year, here’s new week-in-review feature. Not everything-everything that happened, just what’s on our (by which I mean my) radar. Please let me know your opinions about anything: [email protected]

Et voilà:

As a fan of thrift stores, vintage boutiques, sample sales, garment districts, and that episode of Broad City where Ilana and her mother shop for (literally) underground handbags, I’m delighted to learn that there is a store called Shmata in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood of Toronto, where clothes go for $4.99 a pound. Among the questions I have about the newish business: How did they decide on “Shmata” as a transliteration for the Yiddish word for “rag”? And do they have the pleated 1990s-style khakis I haven’t been able to find elsewhere?


From rags to riches: The late Queen Elizabeth II attracted memorials worldwide, but one stood out: A Holocaust memorial site in London, England’s Hyde Park, drew flowers and cards honuoring the monarch. Her recent death at 96, while also sad, was of a rather different scale and nature than the genocide of European Jewry. Credit for spotting this goes to journalist Grace Dean, who turned her initial tweet into an article—the crux of which is, some people found the new use of the memorial site offensive, so the flowers and such are being moved. Stories like this may become more common as the Holocaust recedes in time, and for some—but not all—in memory. See also: recent fashion shoots at the Ottawa National Holocaust Monument. The lesson here may be less one about use of public space (a lost cause), and more about the importance of teaching Jewish history to generations too young to remember 9/11 let alone the Second World War.


Woody Allen, is he or isn’t he? Retiring, that is. The auteur of Annie Hall, who was in Paris to film his 50th movie, sets the record straight: he’s still going strong.


And in the realm of younger controversial Jews: Ben Shapiro is battling the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, after it published an article claiming that Shapiro is radicalizing young men. Shapiro defended himself from the charge that he’s in favour of objectifying women by pointing out that he’s an Orthodox Jew. Case closed?


A yeshiva in New York asked a transgender teacher to resign, after parents at the school—and online trolls—objected to her gender identity. The teacher, an ultra-Orthodox woman named Talia Avrahami, has a husband and baby, and, it would seem, a dedication to the modest life. She was not, in other words, showing up to teach in giant prosthetic bosoms. In one school, an excess of tolerance; in another, a deficit thereof. It may be news to some, or rather, was news to me, that there are practicing haredi transgender Jews—but ours is a world that contains multitudes.


Of interest to readers of People Love Dead Jews and Jews Don’t Count, two books that stirred a lot of conversation about antisemitism in the past year: Bad Jews, a forthcoming book about American Jewish identity, by Emily Tamkin. What makes some Jews “bad”? Can’t wait to find out!


Finally, from Shmata to shmattes: Alyssa Shelasky has written the definitive New York Times essay about parents dressing for school drop-off: “I… splurged on a black Zadig & Voltaire bag because it was aggressively studded, and a little punk works well against all the shmattes. I agonized over a gold fanny pack from Rachel Comey, which cost $425, but in mom math that is one semester of hip-hop at Mark Morris, so I moved on. Instead, I got a much cheaper, neon-yellow ‘belt bag’ from Shinola.” And while she’s describing the Brooklyn scene, the downtown Toronto parents have been looking intimidatingly chic at drop-off as well—trust me on that one.

Now you can tell Phoebe what you think: pbovy[@]

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