How a Hasidic Jew Came to Write for a Popular Indian Children’s Cartoon

When Menachem Wecker noticed his son watching a children’s cartoon created in India, he was surprised to see that the screenplay was written by one Dov Ber Naiditch—a name that stood out in the credits. Wecker soon tracked down the name’s owner, an observant Jew who was raised in a devout family of Lubavitch Ḥasidim and has a passion for writing. Naiditch spoke with Wecker about how he found his current vocation:

Through a friend of a friend, [Naiditch] connected with Marc Lumer, a Los Angeles-based children’s book artist, and the two collaborated on Babel, [a retelling of the biblical story for children]. When Lumer landed a job with India’s largest animation company, Green Gold Animation, he asked Naiditch to join him.

At Green Gold, Naiditch started writing for Mighty Little Bheem—the show my toddler was watching—a spinoff of the country’s most popular show, Chhota Bheem. “It’s about a kid with super strength,” Naiditch said. . . . Since joining Green Gold, Naiditch has written for the PBS-affiliate children’s show Sounder & Friends, which teaches phonics, and is pitching his own shows to networks.

Naiditch also discussed his own disillusionment with his religious upbringing during his youth, and how he eventually came to appreciate Judaism as an adult:

Naiditch’s “rebel-without-a-cause” teenage years soon gave way to his own understanding of his place within religion, which he could explore on his own terms.

“[Orthodox Judaism] is institutionalized, yes, and anachronistic, and parts are pathological, but my God, it’s like a grand old, dilapidated castle, and I’d been pointing at the mold in the basement but never bothered to look at the upper floors,” he said. “So I gained something like a foundational, personal interest in religious practice as a thing that provided meaning and value to me in the moment, despite my skepticism.”

In his thirties, Naiditch has come to understand better his place across time, as a religious person transmitting both knowledge and meaning from the past to the future.

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Read more at Rough Sketch

More about: Children, Hasidim, India, Judaism, Television

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy