NEWS BRIEFS

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ACLU Sues Texas Regarding its Anti-BDS Law

A 2017 Texas law that prohibits government contractors from engaging in boycotts of Israel is under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which claims it violates free speech rights, JTA reported.

The ACLU filed suit on Dec. 19.

“This lawsuit is about fundamental First Amendment rights, which protect us all from having the government use its power to force us to choose one side or another in a public debate,” said Edgar Saldivar, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Whatever you may think about boycotts of Israel, the bottom line is that political boycotts are a legitimate form of nonviolent protest. The state cannot use the contracting process as an ideological litmus test or to tell people what kind of causes they may or may not support.”

Texas was the 20th state approving a law to counter the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. But the legality of those laws has been called into question, and courts have struck down two of them.

Reform Rabbinical College Chooses Non-Rabbi as its 13th President

Political science professor Andrew Rehfeld — who is not a rabbi — was chosen as the 13th president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, JTA reported.

It will be the first time the college has not been led by a rabbi. Rehfeld will begin at the Reform movement’s flagship seminary in April. He succeeds Rabbi Aaron Panken, who died in a plane crash in May. Former President Rabbi David Ellenson has been serving as interim president.

Rehfeld, 52, has been an associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis since 2001 and has also led the Jewish Federation of St. Louis since 2012.

Lenny Dykstra Now Studying Torah

Troubled former Phillies centerfielder Lenny Dykstra now studies Torah every Wednesday, according to the New York Post.

Dykstra studies with Rabbi Shmuel Metzger, who runs the Chabad at Beekman-Sutton, in the basement of a wine shop on New York’s East Side.

“I’m on a spiritual journey,” he told the Post, adding that he has no plans to convert. “I’m trying to find if God exists. I want to deal with people who are smarter than me.”

Since his playing days ended, Dykstra has owned a car wash, offered financial advice, written his memoirs, served prison time and was arrested earlier this year for alleged cocaine and methamphetamine possession and for menacing an Uber driver.

Julian Edelman Honors Pittsburgh Shooting Victims by Wearing Tribute Cleats

New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman — whose father is Jewish — wore special cleats during a game on Dec. 16 against the Pittsburgh Steelers to honor Tree of Life shooting victims, JTA reported.

Edelman’s cleats included the words “The Tree of Life” in Hebrew, the logo of the Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation and an Israeli flag, with the hashtag #strongerthanhate. In a tweet that included a photograph the cleats, he also listed the 11 victims of the Oct. 27 attack.

The Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Boston sponsored the cleats. Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is Jewish, visited Tree of Life and attended Shabbat services there ahead of the game. l