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The Jewish Starlets of Old Bollywood

March 21 2016

While the prominent role of Jews in the early years of Hollywood is well known, more obscure is the part played by Jews in the founding of “Bollywood,” the Indian film industry. Indian Jews were filmmakers and occasionally actors but, most of all, actresses. Navras Jaat Aafreedi writes:

[O]f all the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the world’s second-most-populous country, these earliest female stars came from a minority within India’s smallest religious minority, the Jews, who constitute no more than 0.0004 per cent of its total population. The Baghdadis (as the Jews who came from a number of Middle Eastern countries . . . came to be called), were one of the three Jewish communities in India; they were [also] among those [ethnic and religious] communities in India who completely Anglicized themselves. . . .

Baghdadi Jewish women, highly Westernized in their lifestyle and outlook, . . . did not have the reservations [about the] performing arts that women from other communities in India—including the other Jewish communities, the Bene Israel and the Cochin Jews—had. By doing so they paved the way for women from respectable families from other communities to follow suit. . . .

The first star of Indian cinema was Sulochana (née Ruby Myers, 1907-83). . . . A hugely popular dance of Sulochana’s from the film Madhuri was added to a short film on Mahatma Gandhi . . . which also happened to be India’s first “talkie.”

Read more at Asian Jewish Life

More about: Arts & Culture, Film, India, Indian Jewry

Why a Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza Is Unlikely

Feb. 16 2018

High-ranking figures in the IDF, along with some Israeli and foreign officials, have been warning that economic troubles combined with severely deficient public works could lead to an outbreak of starvation or epidemic in the Gaza Strip; their warnings have been taken up and amplified in sensationalist stories in Western media. Hillel Frisch is skeptical:

The most important factor behind real humanitarian crises—mass hunger and contagious disease—is first and foremost the breakdown of law and order, and violence between warring militias and gangs. This is what occurred in Darfur, Somalia, and the Central African Republic. In such situations, the first to leave are the relief agencies. Then local medical staffs evacuate, along with local government officials and anyone professional who can make it out of the bedlam. The destitute are left to fend for themselves. Hospitals, dispensaries, schools, and local government offices are soon abandoned or become scenes of grisly shootouts and reprisals.

Nothing could be farther from such a reality than Gaza. Hamas, which is the main source of [misleading reports] of an imminent humanitarian crisis, rules Gaza with an iron fist. Few developed democracies in the world can boast the low homicide rates prevailing in the Strip. Nor have there been reports of any closings of hospitals, municipal governments, schools, universities, colleges, or dispensaries. . . .

Nor have there been news items announcing the departure of any foreign relief agencies or the closure of any human-rights organizations in the area. Nor is there any evidence that the World Health Organization (WHO), which rigorously monitors the world to prevent the outbreak of contagious disease, is seriously looking at Gaza. And that is for good reason. The WHO knows, as do hundreds of medical personnel in Israeli hospitals who liaise with their colleagues in Gaza, that the hospital system in Gaza is of a high caliber, certainly by the standards of the developing world. . . .

Hamas, [of course], wants more trucks entering Gaza to increase tax revenues to pay for its 30,000-strong militia and public security force, and to increase the prospects of smuggling arms for the benefit of its missile stockpiles and tunnel-building efforts. How Israel should react is equally obvious. You want more humanitarian aid? . . . Free the two mentally disabled Israelis who found their way into Gaza and are imprisoned by Hamas.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinian economy