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Mossad Looks For New Recruits Online

Israel’s elite intelligence force now accepts virtual applications

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(Mossad website)

Today the AP reports that the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, will join its international brethren MI6 and CIA by listing jobs within the agency on a website. It may seem completely unremarkable that in 2014 an organization should be offering online applications, but over the last half century Mossad’s recruiting techniques have been a lot more Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy than Monster.com. Gone are the days when Mossad hopefuls would have to post an envelope with their resumes and a list of family secrets to the bottom of a mailbox on a deserted street. (more…)

Mickey Cohen is What ‘Boardwalk’ is Missing

The real-life gangster was a few years too late for the Prohibition-era show

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Mickey Cohen's 1961 Alcatraz mugshot. (Wikipedia)

If the Boardwalk Empire storyline were to trail into the following decade, we would inevitably be introduced to the dealings of distant Meyer Lansky associate Mickey Cohen.

Like most Jewish mobsters, Cohen was born in New York to Eastern European parents after the turn of the century. Cohen, however, started his career in crime a bit earlier than most—he started moonshining gin at age seven in the back of a drugstore. His frequent, although not surprising, absences from school led to an extended, year-and-a-half stay in first grade. At nine, he was apprehended for trying to hold up the box office of a theater with a baseball bat. After that, Cohen participated in a string of robberies, graduating from baseball bats to proper firearms. (more…)

Neil Diamond Heads Home to Brooklyn

The rocker will perform a free concert at his former high school tonight

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Neil Diamond performs on July 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Kris Connor/Getty Images for Capital Concerts)

Neil Diamond is coming home. This morning the singer, who grew up in Brighton Beach, announced he was heading to Brooklyn tonight for a free concert at Erasmus High School, his alma mater. Fans can line up at 3 p.m. at the high school—after classes let out—to claim one of a limited number of tickets.

The intimate concert is part of a promotional effort for Melody Road, Diamond’s first studio album in six years. (more…)

Jews Not Allowed in Palestinian University

Haaretz writer booted from Birzeit conference; will an academic boycott ensue?

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Birzeit University in Ramallah. (Birzeit.edu)

Last week, Amira Hass showed up at Ramallah’s Birzeit University to attend a conference entitled “Alternatives to Neo-Liberal Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territories—Critical Perspectives.” Hass is a columnist for Haaretz; alone among all Israeli journalists, she has lived both in Ramallah and in Gaza, and her work, often sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, has earned her the World Press Freedom Hero Award from the International Press Institute, alongside other coveted laurels. Yet when Hass sat down at the conference, she was surprised to learn her hosts had other plans.

“During the first presentation on Tuesday,” she wrote in a candid account, “two lecturers from the CDS approached me within ten minutes of each other, asking me to step outside, saying that they needed to talk to me. I asked them to wait until the break, but after they asked me a third time, I stepped out of the conference hall. ‘Am I not allowed to be here?’ I asked, half-kidding, but one of the lecturers answered that there was a problem.” (more…)

Relearning Polish History Through the Eyes of a Resistance Fighter

Visiting Warsaw with my uncle, I saw a different part of WWII history

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Warsaw Rising Monument during a commemoration ceremony. (Image by the author)

As a child in the New Jersey suburbs in the 1970s, I grew up hearing harrowing tales of the Holocaust, often while playing in the backyards of the grandchildren of survivors. In the summer, glimpses of numbered tattoos peaked from loose clothing, permanent proof of what this generation had gone through, sometimes leading to reluctant conversations against the watery backdrop of sprinklers, iced tea, and swimming pools.

I was raised in a non-Jewish family in what was essentially a suburban shtetl. Come December, our house was among the few on the street with a Christmas tree. The holiday season was when our Polish-born uncle Eddie, who had married into the family via my aunt RoseAnn, would come to visit. He too had stories of the Nazis. The most vivid was his escape from a work camp hidden inside the wheel carriage of a departing train. (more…)

Finding an Unlikely Serenity at Yiddish Vokh

Annual retreat draws a diverse group with a love for the Jewish language

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Yiddish Vokh 2013. (Flickr)

When my mother passed away two and a half years ago, I realized that I had lost not only her but Yiddish, too. It’s not that she spoke it much, but she lived it and because I loved her, it became a primitive, pressing need for me to memorialize her by speaking the language of her early life.

So last year, when I saw an ad for Yiddish Vokh, the annual summer retreat for Yiddish speakers held in Maryland, I jumped at the chance to go. (more…)

Judea Pearl Speaks Out Against Klinghoffer Opera

Father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl calls production a ‘moral deformity’

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Protesters demonstrate as people arrive for the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera season at Lincoln Center on September 22, 2014 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images)

On Monday, a rally against the Metropolitan Opera’s decision to stage the controversial 1991 opera The Death of Klinghoffer this fall drew nearly 1,000 protestors, many of them Jewish. They argued that the opera, which depicts the 1985 hijacking of an Italian cruise ship by the Palestinian Liberation Front and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger, is anti-Semitic and sympathetic toward terrorist acts.

The Met Opera’s production of The Death of Klinghoffer, scheduled to begin performances Oct. 20, has sparked a heated dialogue about thorny questions of art, representation, and trauma. Judea Pearl, the father of journalist Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and killed by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002, denounced the cultural institution’s decision to stage the opera in a moving letter to the editor published in the New York Times this week. (more…)

Orthodox Man Refuses To Sit Next to Feminist Activist on Airplane

Elana Sztokman flies the not-so friendly skies home to Israel

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(Shutterstock)

Last week I traveled to the United States for the publication of my book The War on Women in Israel: A Story of Religious Radicalism and the Women Fighting for Freedom. It was a whirlwind week—I traveled to events and book signings across five cities in four states in 10 days. I signed lots of books, met some fabulous people, and heard from many people—men and women—who were deeply grateful for a moderate voice calling for an end to the religious extremism that is hurting women. That’s why what happened to me on the flight home to Israel was so shocking, and so upsetting.

The plane took off 20 minutes late because an ultra-Orthodox man was negotiating with passengers so as not to have to sit next to a woman—me—on the 11-hour flight. (more…)

Is There a Biblical Sperm Donor in the Rosh Hashanah Haftorah?

Hannah visited the high priest before conceiving Samuel. What happened?

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Medieval painting depicting Hannah presenting her son Samuel to the priest Eli, circa 1665. (Wikimedia)

When you need a sperm donor, the Bible probably isn’t the first place you’re going to look. But when I was in my mid-twenties, planning to launch a family, I was single and didn’t need to be married, and I was a rabbinical student immersed in scripture. And so it was only natural that I found inspiration in the Torah.

One of the primary prophetic texts in Judaism, one that is read every Rosh Hashanah in congregations around the world, turned out to be a wonderful tale of unconventional family making. (more…)

The Hollywood Mogul Who Saved My Father’s Life

Universal Studios chief Carl Laemmle helped hundreds flee Nazi Germany

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The author's father, Herman Einstein. (Photo courtesy of the author)

A few years ago, looking through my late parents’ papers, I spotted something I’d never noticed before. It was a 1937 letter from my father addressed to Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Studios. I knew a little about Laemmle’s relationship with my father, who had passed away in 1965 and never spoke much about his past. He had told me that Laemmle had helped him leave Germany, and that he’d gone on to teach Hebrew to Laemmle’s son, Carl Jr. But after I came across that letter, I wanted to find out more.

An Internet search led me to a scholarly article titled “Laemmle’s List.” The author, Dr. Udo Bayer, was the vice principal of a school in Laemmle’s birthplace of Laupheim, Germany. His paper detailed how Laemmle had issued affidavits during the late 1930s that saved more than 300 European Jews from probable extinction. Laemmle not only pledged to support the newcomers; he followed through when the immigrants arrived. (more…)

Haaretz Editor Stands By Gaza Coverage

Aluf Benn reflects on this summer’s war and its impact on the Israeli public

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(Flickr)

Israelis have few qualms about this summer’s Gaza war, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians and 70 Israelis, according to Haaretz editor-in-chief Aluf Benn. It’s not like the 2006 Lebanon war where the public questioned Israeli actions. Instead, their focus has shifted to a budget war with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And internationally, ISIS has taken the spotlight.

“There was no discernible effect on Netanyahu’s popularity or his public stance,” Benn said last week after a panel discussion at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York. “There’s still no challenger who would run against Netanyahu or is seen as a possible successor.”  (more…)

President Obama’s Rosh Hashanah Message

‘We’ve been reminded many times that our world still needs repair’

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President Barack Obama speaks in New York City on September 23, 2014. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

President Obama offered a Rosh Hashanah greeting to hundreds of U.S. rabbis on a conference call earlier this week, where he also discussed global anti-Semitism, ISIS, and Iran’s nuclear threat. JTA reports that nearly 900 rabbis called in for the off-the-record conversation.

According to a White House statement about the call, Obama spoke about “his commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and our collective responsibility to respond to the sharp increase in global anti-Semitism.” (more…)

Protest Against ‘Anti-Semitic’ Opera in NYC

Controversial Met Opera production said to be sympathetic to terrorism

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Protesters demonstrate as people arrive for the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera season at Lincoln Center on September 22, 2014 in New York City. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A group of nearly 1,000 people gathered across the street from Lincoln Center Monday evening, not to attend the opening night of the Metropolitan Opera’s fall season, but to protest the New York City institution’s decision to keep The Death of Klinghoffer in their fall lineup. (The Met agreed to cancel a scheduled international online simulcast in November.)

The controversial opera, which was composed by John Adams, depicts the 1985 hijacking of an Italian cruise ship by the Palestinian Liberation Front and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, a wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger. (more…)

A Jew by Rosh Hashanah

For a convert to Judaism, the Days of Awe mark a renewed commitment—this year more than ever

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(Shutterstock)

Five years ago this month (as I wrote in Tablet at the time), I entered the mikvah and finalized my conversion to Judaism. About two months before, in response to my timid query, the rabbi I was studying with promised, “You will be a Jew by Rosh Hashanah.” And I was.

The High Holy Days have had an enhanced meaning for me ever since. As I have taken part in the communal observance each year since 2009, I also have silently evaluated how my sense of being Jewish has intensified or altered over the intervening months. Those personal assessments have focused on my learning, praxis, and integration into the Jewish community here in my hometown, as well as in Israel on visits there, and have been a private and fairly prosaic process. (more…)

Another ‘Boardwalk’ Casualty: Waxey Gordon

This season’s time jump bypasses much of the bootlegger’s criminal career

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Scene from 'Boardwalk Empire.' (HBO)

The seven-year jump to this season of Boardwalk Empire has also meant skipping the bulk of another minor character’s entirely criminal activity. Waxey Gordon made appearances in the last few seasons, but by the time this season ends, the career as a bootlegger that made him one of the most famous Jewish gangsters will presumably be on its last legs.

Irving Wexler, son-in-law to a rabbi with a son of his own in med school, may sound like the ideal Jewish self-made man. And, in some sense, Waxey was a self-starter—in that that his reputation for stealing and racketeering caught the attention of Arnold Rothstein, who eventually asked Waxey Gordon to run his whole distillery operation. (more…)

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