Are Politicians the Only People Visiting Israel?

Rick Santorum says tourism is down 95 percent. That’s not exactly true.

Jerusalem's Old City. (Shutterstock)

Former Pennsylvania Senator—and possible 2016 presidential hopeful—Rick Santorum is wrapping up a three-day trip to Israel. “It’s very sad to be here right now,” he told a Philadelphia radio station when he arrived.

Why? Because he’s lonely.

“Tourism is down 95 percent… You drive around Jerusalem and it feels like a ghost town,” said Santorum, a strong supporter of Israel and a member of the historically Jewish Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity. “It’s quite sad.” (more…)

‘Duck Dynasty’ Duo to Host Fundraiser for Messianic Jewish Group

Controversial reality show patriarch and preacher son headlining annual event

Members of Duck Dynasty's Robertson family. (A&E)

Over at Religion Dispatches, Sarah Posner reports that the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute’s annual banquet will be hosted by Phil and Alan Robertson of the enormously popular reality show Duck Dynasty. Phil, the family’s patriarch, is perhaps best known to those who don’t follow the A&E show about the Robertsons, a family of entrepreneurial duck hunters in Louisiana, for the homophobic remarks he made in a GQ interview earlier this year (he was briefly suspended from the show as a result). His eldest son Alan, who joined the show in its fourth season, is a preacher, and the Robertson family’s devout Christian faith is prominently featured on the show.

They’ll be talking the Messianic mantle from George W. Bush, who headlined the event last year. His participation rankled Jews, who objected to his involvement with an organization that, as Posner explained at the time, aims “to ‘restore’ Israel and the Jews and bring about about the second coming of Christ.” (more…)

Germany Orders Nazi-Looted Painting Returned to Jewish Heirs

Max Liebermann painting part of massive Munich trove discovered in 2012

'Rides At The Beach' by Max Liebermann, photographed on November 18, 2013 in Berlin, Germany. The work is among the nearly 1,400 works German authorities confiscated from the Munich residence of Cornelius Gurlitt, son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer who worked for the Nazis. (Lost Art Koordinierungsstelle Magdeburg via Getty Images)

German experts investigating the trove of Nazi-looted art stashed in the home of the late Cornelius Gurlitt announced Friday that a 1901 Max Liebermann painting, “Two Riders on the Beach,” was stolen during World War II and must be returned to the heirs of German-Jewish art collector David Friedmann, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Friedmann’s 89-year-old great-nephew, David Toren, the heir to the painting, filed a lawsuit against the Bavarian and German governments in March to have the painting returned.

He last remembers seeing the work as a child at Friedmann’s home. Friedmann died in the early 1940s, and his daughter committed suicide to escape Nazi persecution soon after his death. Toren and his brother were the only members of their family who survived the Holocaust. Toren’s brother, who died several months ago, is survived by three daughters, and Toren has one son. According to the Wall Street Journal, the family hasn’t decided who will get the painting. (more…)

Is This the Best Yiddish Rap You’ve Ever Heard?

Cantor Lee Schwartz kicks it way, way old school


Can I get an oy vey? Lee Schwartz, cantor emeritus at Sinai Free Synagogue in Mount Vernon, N.Y., drops some old school Yiddish beats in what might be the most charming rap video ever posted to YouTube.

I dropped out of my adult education Yiddish class after only one semester, so I’m not exactly sure what he’s talking about, but it sounds pretty hardcore. (more…)

Holocaust Survivor Arrested in Ferguson Protests

During demonstration in St. Louis sparked by fatal police shooting of teen

Downtown St. Louis. (Shutterstock)

As clashes between police and protesters intensified over the past week in Ferguson, MO, surrounding the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, dozens of people, including a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor, have been arrested.

Hedy Epstein, who was born in Freiburg, Germany and escaped to England at age 14, was arrested yesterday afternoon in downtown St. Louis for “failure to disperse,” KMOV reported.

“I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90,” Epstein told The Nation. (more…)

Latest Ceasefire Collapses as Rockets Fired at Israel

Gaza health officials report two children injured in retaliatory Israeli air strikes

Smoke billow following an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern of Gaza Strip, on August 19, 2014. Israel carried out at least four air strikes across Gaza and ordered its negotiating team back from truce talks in Cairo after three rockets hit the country's south. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Three rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip broke the latest ceasefire on the 43rd day of Operation Protective Edge, leaving the future of truce talks in serious doubt.

The rockets struck in open areas near the cities of Be’ersheba and Netivot in the Negev, and landed without a rocket siren going off or without the Iron Dome anti-missile system attempting an interception. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, no damages or injuries were reported in the strikes. Around 6:30 p.m., rocket sirens were reported in Netivot and in Gaza border communities.

Not long after the rockets were fired, the IDF announced that they would strike targets in the Gaza Strip in response. Gaza’s health officials said two children were injured in the air strikes that followed. (more…)

Listen to the First Single from Leonard Cohen’s New Album

At 80, the prophet is still busy at work

Musician Leonard Cohen performs at Madison Square Garden on December 18, 2012 in New York City. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

Leonard Cohen, who will celebrate his 80th birthday in a few weeks, will reportedly mark the occasion with a new album, his 13th. It will be titled Popular Problems, and because the summer that is mercifully about to end has been dense with nothing but problems, popular or otherwise, here’s a preview of the album’s first song, “Almost Like the Blues.”

“Though I let my heart get frozen,” Cohen sings, “to keep away the rot / my father says I’m chosen / my mother says I’m not / I listened to their story of the gypsies and the Jews / It was good, it wasn’t boring / It was almost like the blues.” (more…)

The Busiest Matchmaker in Pittsburgh

Tova Weinberg says she’s introduced 250 now-married couples


She’s like the Millionaire Matchmaker, but a little less flashy. Tova Weinberg, a 60-year-old matchmaker in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, estimates she’s introduced about 250 Jewish couples who have ended up tying the knot.

Mark Oppenheimer, our interim editor-in-chief, spoke to Weinberg for his latest New York Times Beliefs column, and while the modern Orthodox matchmaker doesn’t have a reality show (yet?), she seems like she’d be ripe for the task. “A conversation with her involves a lot of listening; a lot of Baruch Hashems; and talk of finding one’s bashert, one’s destiny, or soul mate,” Oppenheimer writes. (more…)

U.K. Supermarket Pulls Kosher Food Fearing Damage by Protestors

In case the Israel boycott advocates weren’t in the mood to differentiate

Empty kosher food shelves at U.K. supermarket Sainsbury's. (Colin J. Appleby/Facebook)

This weekend, U.K. supermarket Sainsbury’s stripped its kosher food shelves bare, fearing the products would be damaged by protesters outside the store calling for a ban on Israeli products, the Daily Mail reports. British actor Colin Appleby posted a photo of the Holborn store’s empty shelf on Facebook and Twitter, adding that when asked about the barren section, a staff member told him, “We support Free Gaza.” Many took to social media to denounce the store and call their decision an act of anti-Semitism.

The store’s action came on the same day that demonstrations against the stocking of Israeli food at a Tesco store in Birmingham got out of control, with protestors throwing produce on the ground, causing the store to close for several minutes. Protests for the boycott of Israeli goods have reportedly taken place at other Tesco stores across the U.K. recently as well. (more…)

Welcoming ‘Israel Story’ to Vox Tablet

The hit Israel radio show launches its new American version on Tablet


Vox Tablet listeners are in for a surprise today. In the place of Sara Ivry, our inimitable host, you’ll find a fellow named Mishy Harman, youngish, with a slightly nasal voice that reminds you of… who’s that guy? Oh yeah—Ira Glass. And then you’ll hear three stories, all based on a theme—this week: “Faking It”—and all centered around Israeli characters.

This is Israel Story. It’s the brainchild of four Israelis—Harman, Roee Gilron, Yochai Maital, and Shai Satran—who were childhood friends and who have in common a love of long-format storytelling radio programs (or podcasts) like This American Life, Radio Lab, Snap Judgment, The Moth—a format that simply doesn’t exist in Israel. So they decided to make it themselves, despite the fact that none of them had any radio training whatsoever. (more…)

‘I Disagree With Him But I Love Him’

Niece of man saved by Dutchman who returned Yad Vashem medal says, ‘He is a righteous man’

Henk Zanoli, 91, who returned his Righteous Among the Nations medal to Yad Vashem last week. (Twitter)

If it weren’t for the efforts of Rivka Ben-Pazi, the role Henk Zanoli played in saving her uncle Elhanan Pinto Hameiri’s life during the Holocaust might never have come to light, nor would the Dutchman and his late mother have been awarded the Righteous Among the Nations medal from Yad Vashem in 2011 for his courage.

So when news broke last week that 91-year-old Zanoli had returned the award in protest of Israel’s operation in Gaza after six relatives of his were killed in an Israeli air strike in July, Ben Pazi was torn.

“He is a tzadik (a righteous man). He saved my uncle and I dont want to judge him during his pain and mourning,” Ben-Pazi told me in the first interview given by a relative of Hameiri’s. “I don’t agree with him, but I’m trying to understand him during this moment.” (more…)

Etgar Keret on the Language of the Gaza War

The Israeli novelist says we should use the word ‘compromise,’ not ‘peace’

Etgar Keret. (Yanai Yechiel)

Etgar Keret was interviewed by Granta last week, and the Israeli writer and Tablet contributor shared some characteristically sharp insights about fiction, his family, and the recent Israeli operation in Gaza.

He admitted to London-born writer and editor Sophie Lewis that since the conflict began more than a month ago, he hasn’t had any of his usual whimsical ideas for stories. In fact, all he has written are opinion pieces, originally published in Hebrew outlets and republished in places like the New Yorker and the L.A. Times. (more…)

Lauren Bacall, I Love You

And after years not caring about such things, I loved learning you were Jewish

Screen legend Lauren Bacall on September 13, 2007 in Toronto, Canada.(Malcolm Taylor/Getty Images)

When I was growing up in the 1950s, I knew all the movie stars who were Jewish but just somehow weren’t showing it in their names. Maybe that was because my family lived in L.A., home of the movies and a Jewish community absolutely catapulting itself into stellar new realms of achievement.

But it wasn’t the Jewish scientists or violinists or businessmen I was most aware of. It was the movie stars, and those who had changed their names, who most fascinated my mother, Pearl.

I don’t mean Eddie Cantor and Jack Benny and folks like that where it’s obvious. I’m talking about Tony Curtis (Bernie Schwartz) and Kirk Douglas—get ready for this one: Kirk Douglas was born Issur Danielovitch—and so forth. (more…)


Sam Harris reminds Andrew Sullivan to choose his words wisely on Gaza

An Israeli army armoured personnel carrier drives along Israel's border with the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on August 4, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Last month, as the fighting in Gaza was raging on, Sam Harris posted a thoughtful essay titled “Why Don’t I Criticize Israel?”. Andrew Sullivan replied. Sensing the possibility of a robust conversation, and neither man having a reputation for shying away from confrontation, Sullivan and Harris got on the phone for a 90-minute chat about Gaza. What followed was one of the finest pieces of contemporary theater I’ve read in years, equally remarkable for Harris’s level-headed and intelligent replies as it is for Sullivan’s rants, defying logic and morality in a wild effort to portray the Jewish State as a genocidal demon. (more…)

Man Returns Yad Vashem Medal Over Gaza War

Dutch Righteous Among the Nations cited death of relatives in Israeli strikes

Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, Israel(Yad Vashem)

In 2011, Henk Zanoli received Yad Vashem’s Righteous Among the Nations award for saving a Jewish child during the Nazi occupation of Holland. On Monday, Haaretz reports, the 91-year-old Dutch attorney returned the medal and certificate given to him by the Israeli institution, citing the death of six of his relatives in an Israeli air strike in Gaza.

Zanoli and his late mother, Johana Zanoli-Smit, received the medal for hiding Elhanan Pinto, born in 1932, in their home from the spring of 1943 until Holland’s liberation in 1945. (more…)

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