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A Rosh Hashanah Meal With Meaning

Recipes featuring the Talmud’s five ingredients for a sweet new year

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Rosh Hashanah Beans n' Greens. (Photo by the author)

A Rosh Hashanah meal shared with family and friends is one of the first acts of the New Year, and it’s as positive and life affirming an act one can perform. After all, nothing says ‘We’re here, we made it through another year, L’Chaim!’ like a festive meal shared and savored with loved ones.

There are five foods the Talmud says we should eat on Rosh Hashanah to ensure a year of good fortune: gourds, black-eyed peas, leeks, beets, and dates. These foods all have names that are a play on words for a particular wish for the new year: For example, the Hebrew word for dates is tamar, which sounds like yitamu, which means ‘to be removed’—as in, remove our foes from our midst.

With these auspicious ingredients in mind I’ve put together a Rosh Hashanah menu sure to start the year off right. (more…)

Can Data Predict the Next Genocide?

New project uses statistics to spot—and publicize—potential mass killings

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(Shutterstock)

Wondering who will win the next presidential election? Ask Nate Silver.

Wondering which country’s regime could be the next to begin a large-scale slaughter of its own people? Ask Jay Ulfelder.

While data-cruncher Nate Silver’s political prognostications have become the gold standard for American election predictions, political scientist Jay Ulfelder has been working on applying similar statistical techniques to a different, more intense question: Where and when will the next mass killing occur? (more…)

Former AP Reporter Confirms Matti Friedman Account

Says Jerusalem bureau pulled his 2009 story about Israeli peace offer

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(Shutterstock )

Last month, former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman published an essay in Tablet highlighting how, and why, news organizations get Israel so wrong. The AP’s Jerusalem bureau, where Friedman used to work, was the subject of much of his criticism. He argued that the bureau stuck to a preexisting narrative of Israeli extremism and Palestinian moderation. One of his examples that his former employer stifled stories that presented a divergent narrative came from 2009, when two of his colleagues had a story about a peace proposal from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Palestinian leadership rejected. Both the Israelis and Palestinians confirmed this, but editors pulled the piece.

Steven Gutkin, the former AP bureau chief in Jerusalem, who hired Friedman in 2006, wrote a response in which he denied the charge that the story was pulled due to editorial bias, asserting that the information discovered by the reporters, namely a map depicting a proposed land swap, was old news. (more…)

Pickling Pioneer Preaches Gospel of Fermentation

When it comes to brines, Sandor Katz bubbles with enthusiasm

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Sandor Katz teaching in Hobart, Tasmania in February 2014. (Kate Berry)

If you have friends who brew kombucha, ask around for kefir grains, have a jar of kimchi bubbling away on the counter, or wax poetic about salty dill pickles fermented in brine, you can probably thank Sandor Katz.

The grandson of Jewish immigrants who came to New York from Belarus in 1920, Katz grew up on the Upper West Side, and has written about his fond memories of “yummy garlic-dill sour pickles [from] Guss’ pickle stall on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Zabar’s on the Upper West Side.” (more…)

Yiddish Goes Virtual With Online Classes

More proof the language isn’t dying: interactive online courses

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(Shutterstock)

Forget the trend stories decrying the death of Yiddish or proclaiming Yiddish’s trendy revival: the Jewish language remains very much alive in the United States, and by the looks of things, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The Workmen’s Circle, which bills itself as “the largest provider of Yiddish language classes in the United States outside of academic institutions”—and where your humble blogger took an introductory Yiddish literacy course several years ago—is now offering online Yiddish courses. While those might be three words your bubbe would never expect to hear in the same sentence, the virtual classes are further proof that the language of our Eastern European forebears is continuing its long tradition of adapting to fit the needs of its speakers. (more…)

Kentucky Senate Candidate: With Jews, We Lose

Anti-Semitic write-in candidate affiliated with white supremacist group

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(WLWT TV)

A Kentucky man is running a write-in campaign for Senate, plastering the area with signs proclaiming, “With Jews, we lose.” The aspiring anti-Semitic senator is Robert Ransdell, a longtime white supremacist who has spoken at KKK-type rallies and is affiliated with the National Alliance, an organization whose web site bills itself as “your single source for pro-White news.”

USA Today reports that Ransdell has vowed to raise his profile, and is currently actively campaigning in the state. “I am absolutely chomping at the bit going forward with my campaign,” he wrote last month at the white supremacist forum Stormfront. (more…)

Excavation Unearths Gas Chambers at Sobibor

Discovery enables further research of the Nazi extermination camp

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Sobibor railway yard. (Wikimedia)

An archaeological excavation at Sobibor, a Nazi extermination camp in Poland, has yielded an invaluable result. The excavation—which began in 2007, JTA reports, and has uncovered various personal items belonging to Jewish prisoners—has now unearthed the death camp’s gas chambers.

Yoram Haimi, an archeologist working on the project, said finding the gas chambers was the goal of the excavation. “We were amazed at the size of the building and the well-preserved condition of the chamber walls,” he said. “The most poignant moment was when we found a wedding band next to the gas chambers, on which was the Hebrew inscription: “Behold, you are consecrated unto me.” (more…)

Editor Misreads Press Release, Thinks He Won MacArthur Genius Grant

A case of mistaken MacArthur identity

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(Image via Shutterstock; Photoillustration Tablet Magazine)

NEW HAVEN, CONN. – Westville neighborhood resident Mark Oppenheimer was up early on Wednesday, ready for his favorite annual ritual: checking the news to see if this was the year he’d win a MacArthur “genius grant.”

As in previous years at this time, he began with his award-day routine: cold shower, extra conditioner, trim the ear hair (in case of press conference), walk the dog, stop at “the ’buck” for a no-whip Frappuccino, quickly peruse the Times dining section.

Then he turned on his computer and saw that, at last, his work had paid off. (more…)

The Road to the New Jerusalem, Part 2

If Israel and the Holocaust are most Jews’ points of identification, which holidays are really the High Holidays?

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Annual Israel Day Parade in New York City on June 01, 2014. (lev radin / Shutterstock.com)

Earlier this summer, my brother-and-sister-in-law made aliyah. To say the timing was poor would be a dramatic understatement. Objectively, the timing was terrible.

Granted, there’s never a very good time to move to Israel, or go there even: The same way an observant Jew might mark time by the holidays (he was born around Purim, she was married by Hanukkah-time), a visitor to the Holyland generally recalls his stay by the conflict that was raging then (I was on Birthright during the Gaza pullout; on our last visit they were drilling for possible gas attacks from Syria). (more…)

Listen to Jews, Not Just Ted Cruz, on Middle East Christians

Controversy over the senator’s remarks has distracted from the real issue

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Iraqi Christians who fled the violence in the village of Qaraqush, about 30 kilometres east of the northern province of Nineveh, rest upon their arrival at the Saint-Joseph church in the Kurdish city of Arbil, in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region, on August 7, 2014.(SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz walked off the stage at a dinner supporting Middle Eastern Christians, after the pro-Israel portion of his remarks drew heckling from some in the audience. “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews,” he declared, “then I will not stand with you.” The incident has sparked a heated but thoughtful debate among conservatives about the moral complexities of supporting both the Jewish state and persecuted Middle East Christians, given that the latter are not always favorably disposed towards the former. While this conversation is important, and Christians, Jews, conservatives and liberals alike could benefit from reading some of the sharper takes on the subject, the firestorm over Cruz’s walkout has had several less salutary consequences.

First, it subordinated the dire plight of the Middle East’s Christians–who are being brutally cleansed from the region–to a partisan squabble. And second, it has turned Israel into a litmus test over whether those Christians deserve outside support, when in fact Jews and the Jewish state have been actively working to bolster that support, without making any such demands. Whether one agrees with Cruz’s actions or not, then, it is important to refocus our attention on those in desperate need, and to emphasize the many Jewish efforts to assist them. (more…)

A Halva-Inspired Recipe for Rosh Hashanah

Ringing in the Jewish New Year with an artisanal tahini and honey spread

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Kale-pomegranate salad with almond halva dressing. (Photo by the author)

Shahar Shamir as a child loved eating halva, the dense sesame confection he found at markets in his native Israel. But as an adult living in New York City, he began to crave a less sweet version of his beloved treat. A fair amount of kitchen tinkering birthed Brooklyn Sesame a deconstructed halva spread made from rich tahini stirred with honey. Today, Shamir makes six different versions of his spread: sesame seed, almond, pistachio, black caraway seed, toasted coconut, and cocoa and sea salt.

Like so many other artisanal food producers, Shamir works to honor a traditional food—in this case the Middle Eastern dessert, halva—while finding ways to bring it into a contemporary context. (more…)

Italy Now Has a Hotline to Report Anti-Semitism

‘Anti-Semitism Antenna’ will be accessible by phone and online

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(Shutterstock)

The leader of Italy’s Jewish community announced a new measure to deal with a recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents: a hotline. The Anti-Semitism Antenna will be accessible by phone and online, explained Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, and is intended for use both by Jewish victims of anti-Semitic acts as well as Italian witnesses or bystanders, Haaretz reports.

“The goal of the initiative is to nullify any threat of hatred and discrimination. It is a concrete effort for the benefit of the entire community especially now that old biases are back even in the most advanced and democratic societies,” Gattegna said in a statement. (more…)

App Lets You Atone From Your Smartphone

Inspired by Leviticus, eScapegoat lets users offload sins onto a virtual goat

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Image from eScapegoat app. (G-dcast)

As you prepare for Yom Kippur this year, you don’t have to look much farther than your iPhone for an opportunity to atone for your sins.

The eScapegoat app, created by Jewish media production company G-dcast in 2013, allows users to unload their sins onto a virtual, animated goat. While the app is certainly a modern invention, it’s based on a Biblical text. It’s modeled after the Yom Kippur ritual described in Leviticus, in which the community’s sins were figuratively placed onto a goat that was then sent off into the desert. (more…)

U.K. Store Security Guard Tells Boys ‘No Jews’

The 11-year-olds were wearing uniforms of local Jewish secondary school

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Sports Direct. (© Copyright Betty Longbottom and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons. )

A British security guard is the subject of a police investigation thanks to his attempt to bar two 11-year-old Jewish boys from shopping at Sports Direct, a U.K. sporting goods retailer.

“No Jews, no Jews,” the guard allegedly told the boys, students of Yavneh College, a Jewish secondary school in Hertforshire, when they tried to enter a local branch of the store. The boys, who had come to Sports Direct to shop for sneakers, were wearing their school uniforms. (more…)

On Martha’s Vineyard, the Jews are WASPs too

An excerpt from Lucinda Franks’ Timeless: Love, Morgenthau, and Me 

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Edgartown Harbor Lighthouse in Marthas Vineyard. (Shutterstock)

In Timeless: Love, Morgenthau and Me, journalist Lucinda Franks tells the story of her unlikely yet intensely durable marriage to longtime Manhattan District Attorney Robert M. Morgenthau—a man 27 years her senior. When they met in the early 1970s, she was a young radical who had cut her journalistic teeth—and won a Pulitzer Prize—writing about a member of the Weathermen who accidentally killed herself while assembling a bomb. Morgenthau—already the scion of one of America’s leading political dynasties—was about to begin his history-making 35-year tenure as District Attorney for New York County. Franks makes much of how he was synonymous with the establishment, with bourgeois respectability, and how she was an outsider, an iconoclast. Yet, at the same time, the book’s underlying current suggests that for all their surface differences, they are kindred spirits, whose union, after 35 years of marriage, is as strong as ever.

Wellesley, Massachusetts, had long ago closed its portal to Jews, and in my pure-blood secondary school I had been too intense, too emotional, and too spontaneous to adopt the required air of Waspy indifference. Once in college, I discovered a kinship with my Jewish friends. Mostly born of Eastern European stock, they were intellectual, voluble, clever, antic. I began to think of myself as a Jewish soul in a Gentile body. (more…)

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