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Warsaw Will Return 1,000 Gravestones to Jewish Cemetery

The looted matzevot had been used to build a structure in a city park

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Warsaw's Okopowa Street Jewish Cemetery(Wikimedia)

The city of Warsaw has announced plans to recover 1,000 gravestones, or matzevot, that were taken from the city’s Jewish cemetery and used to build a structure in a city park. The gravestones, JTA reports, are “currently part of a pergola and stairs at a park in Warsaw’s Praga district.” The city plans to return the matzevot to the Jewish cemetery.

The city’s change of heart was the result of months of campaigning by an organization called From the Depths, whose Matzeva Project locates and restores misused Jewish gravestones across Poland.

The practice of removing Jewish gravestones from cemeteries and using them for other purposes was actually quite common in Poland since the 1940s. (more…)

A Map of Jewish Literary New York City

Graphic pinpoints iconic scenes from novels, writers’ homes, and more

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Scene from All-of-a-Kind Family outside the New York Public Library. (Helen John, from All-of-a-Kind Family, Random House)

So much of Jewish literary culture—the writers, the scenes, the references–are rooted in New York City, it’s a wonder no one ever thought to map it all out before. The Jewish Book Council has taken the project on, producing a Jewish Literary Map, an impressive graphic that “marks the landmarks, descriptions, and allusions found in the works of some of our heritage’s greatest writers.”

Highlights are Isaac Bashevis Singer’s longtime home in the Belnord on West 86th Street (the block now bears the Yiddish writer’s name), the All-of-a-Kind Family’s East River, the Williamsburg synagogues of Chaim Potok’s The Chosen, and Portnoy’s City Hall. More recent entries skew delightfully female, and come courtesy of authors Nicole Krauss, Dara Horn, and Molly Antopol. The map also pinpoints Nathaniel P’s hyper-contemporary Brooklyn, as rendered by novelist Adelle Waldman. (more…)

Europe’s Jews: Endangered But Empowered

The climate is tense, but Europe’s Jewish leaders are more engaged than ever

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A girl waves an Israel national flag and a French national flag during a pro-Israel demonstration organized by the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) outside the Jewish state's embassy on July 31, 2014. (DOMINIQUE FAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

For many observers, Europe is once again on a path to becoming Judenrein. Rocked by a series of ugly attacks targeting Jews and the rise of political extremism, the fatal shooting of four people at a Jewish museum in Brussels, and widespread riots as the war between Israel and Hamas raged, all the signs point towards a possibly significant departure of Jews. Government leaders, commentators and Jewish organizations laudably demand high-level interventions and the need to protect Jewish facilities and Jews themselves from the onslaught.

Yet there is another fascinating and important side to this dynamic—Jewish empowerment on a scale never imagined after the Holocaust and decades of Communist oppression. In fact, for the last three decades, Europe’s emerging Jewish leaders have been molded at a Jewish summer camps, educational and leadership development classes, synagogues, holiday festivals, and other activities that were created and invested in, by the tens of millions, by organizations and philanthropists who wanted to help revive Jewish civilization in this part of the world. (more…)

ADL: Surge in Global Anti-Semitism

Report lists anti-Semitic incidents outside the U.S. during Gaza operation

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Man removes 'Free Gaza' graffiti from Holocaust memorial in Gorinchem, Netherlands. (gp-foto)

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a report citing a “dramatic surge” in global anti-Semitic incidents and attacks on Jewish institutions during Israel’s operation in Gaza in July and August. “From France to the Argentina, from Canada to Chile, synagogues were attacked, Jewish cultural centers were vandalized, Jewish shops were threatened and identifiably Jewish individuals beaten on the street,” ADL National Director Abe Foxman said.

The report, which lists anti-Semitic incidents outside the United States over the past two months, paints a bleak picture of the current global landscape for Jews. While it’s not entirely surprising that anti-Semitic incidents spike during an Israeli military operation, particularly one in which the Palestinian casualty count is so high, or that anti-Israel protests devolve so quickly into anti-Semitism, the scope of countries included on the list is certainly troubling. (more…)

My Complicated Relationship With ‘Annie Hall’

I know Woody Allen’s 1977 film is a classic, but I just can’t seem to enjoy it

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(Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in 1977's Annie Hall)

My relationship with Annie Hall got off to a rocky start. Last January, home with a cold on a Sunday morning during winter break, I figured I’d use the opportunity to relax, curl up in bed, and watch the film that I had heard so much about. When I finished, though, I felt worse than when I’d started.

There were parts that I really enjoyed, such Keaton’s performance as Annie, but any enjoyment I had was clouded by Alvy’s portrayal of the neurotic New York Jew, which I found irksome and headache-inducing. I realized that this may have been the point, that the character wasn’t supposed to be entirely likeable, but nevertheless, I couldn’t get past my annoyance. I wrote the movie off as a particular shtick that many might love but that just didn’t appeal to me.

But this past week, as I asked around for recommendations of the next Jewish classic to write about, all anyone could talk about was Annie Hall. (more…)

Writer and Activist Leonard Fein Dies at 80

Longtime Forward columnist co-founded Moment magazine with Elie Wiesel

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(Leonard Fein)

Leonard Fein, prominent Jewish activist, author and thinker, died Thursday morning at the age of 80, the Forward reports.

A longtime columnist for the Forward, Fein was still writing for the publication as recently as last week. Fein was also responsible for several significant contributions to American Jewish life. While teaching political science, social policy and Jewish studies at Brandeis in 1975, Fein worked with Elie Wiesel to co-found Moment magazine, a publication of Jewish politics, culture and religion; he also served as the magazine’s first editor. In 1985 Fein founded Mazon, a national Jewish nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger in the U.S. and Israel, and in 1997 he founded the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, a group that fights against illiteracy by organizing volunteer tutoring programs for at-risk children. (more…)

Last Call: Apply for a Fall Internship at Tablet

We’re hiring two paid, part-time editorial interns at our New York office

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Tablet is hiring two paid, part-time fall editorial interns. If you have experience in journalism and are familiar with the landscape of American Jewish life, we’d love to hear from you. (more…)

LA Memorial for U.S.-Born IDF Soldier Killed in Gaza Draws 1,000

Max Steinberg, 24, was killed in July during gunfire with Hamas in Gaza City

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Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of their comrade Max Steinberg, draped with Israel's national flag, during his funeral on July 23 2014 at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

A Los Angeles memorial for Max Steinberg, the 24-year-old IDF soldier from Southern California who was killed last month in Gaza, drew a crowd of 1,000 as family, friends, and strangers gathered to honor the lone soldier, who had moved to Israel two years earlier. Steinberg was killed during the second week of Operation Protective Edge in July, when his unit, the Golani Brigade, exchanged heavy fire with Hamas gunmen in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya. The confrontation led to 13 Golani casualties, a major blow for the IDF and to the Israeli public.

Steinberg’s funeral in Jerusalem drew 35,000 people, many of whom were moved by his personal story: He went on Birthright in 2012, made aliyah one year later and joined the IDF. (more…)

Tiny French Hamlet is Called ‘Death to the Jews’

Simon Wiesenthal Center wants La-Mort-aux-Juifs to change its name ASAP

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La-Mort-aux-Juifs in France. (WSJ)

A tiny hamlet 60 miles south of Paris has a very strange name, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center wants them to change it. La-Mort-aux Juifs, which translates to ‘Death to the Jews,’ consists of a farm and three houses, and according to the Wall Street Journal has been so named since the 11th century.

Perhaps inspired by the Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios’ (‘Camp Kill Jews’) recent vote to change its name in response to public pressure (they went with the rather uninspired ‘Hill of the Jews’), the LA-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has written to France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve asking him to consider a new name for the hamlet. (more…)

The Little League Legend Who Lied

‘Kid Danny’ opens up in filmmaker Andrew Cohn’s new ESPN documentary

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Danny Almonte (C) and other members of the Rolando Paulino All-Stars Bronx Little League baseball team hold their keys to the city during a ceremony honoring the team August 28, 2001 in New York City.(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Andrew Cohn’s new 30 for 30 short film, Kid Danny, which was posted today on Grantland, tells the story of Danny Almonte, a Dominican-born little league pitcher whose unstoppable slingshot arm helped his team from the Bronx reach the U.S. Little League World Series Championship in 2001.

Almonte was an absolute force on the pitcher’s mound, striking out 62 of the 72 batters he faced​, and pitching the first perfect game in Little League World Series competition since 1957. His team became known as the “Baby Bombers” for their proximity to the Yankees, and even received a key to the city from then-mayor Giuliani.

Along the way, however, Almonte’s record-setting performances raised questions about his age and ultimately his eligibility. (more…)

Has Mourning Gone Viral?

When celebrities die, tributes flood social media—and I can’t help but ‘dislike’

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(Shutterstock)

A tweet posted this morning noted that with the death of actress Lauren Bacall yesterday at 89, all of the icons mentioned in Madonna’s 1990 HIT “Vogue” are now deceased. I marveled at the vacuousness of this milestone, and the compulsion to pile on factoids to an ever-growing, crowd-sourced obituary. Maybe (hopefully) I misread the post’s tone, and it was in fact a cynical joke, serving up a bit of trivia to emphasize how trivial death can feel in the age of social media.

The day before, I went online in the evening, after hours of having been Internet-free, and learned in a rush of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide. Then I learned how many people I follow were huge devotees of his—fans whose depths of fandom I had never before suspected. Have I been blind to their passions? Perhaps it was a thing too sacred for them to even utter? On Facebook and Twitter, their tributes streamed endlessly. (more…)

The Wall Street Journal Needs a Linguistics Lesson

Hundred percent, as the Orthodox say

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(Shutterstock)

It’s always worth reading John McWhorter, because unlike many opinion writers, whose primary expertise seems to be that they can always manufacture an opinion (in 700 words, and on time), McWhorter, who holds a Ph.D. in linguistics, actually has a useful scholarly background, a real expertise that matters in what he writes. Last Thursday he wrote a column in the Daily Beast that should have been titled, “McWhorter schools Noonan.” Instead it was called, “For a President Today, Talkin’ Down Is Speaking American.”

The background is that Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, had attacked President Obama for dropping his g’s and generally sounding too folksy, which she believes undermines the dignity of his office. Now, she never wrote this column about George W. Bush, one of the great g-droppers of all time. But fortunately when she directed her armchair linguistics toward our darker-hued president, McWhorter was there to call her out, noting that by dropping g’s, and by using some black vernacular expressions—“folks” for “people” is one example—Obama is in fact being typically American, shifting between formal and informal registers. (more…)

Orthodox Jewish Tourist Assaulted in Switzerland

Attacker yelled ‘Juden Raus’ at man visiting Davos with his wife and four kids

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View of Davos, Switzerland. (© Davos)

Add Switzerland to the list of countries in Europe where Jews have been targeted in recent months. A 26-year-old from Antwerp, Belgium, visiting Davos with his wife and four children, was assaulted by a man who yelled “Juden raus” are him while his family watched from inside a car, JTA reports.

The victim, identified only as A. Wachsstock, was walking toward his car, where his wife and four children were waiting for him, when a man in his sixties began hitting him and shouting anti-Semitic profanities, including “Juden raus,” or “Jews, get out” in German.

Wachsstock entered his car with lacerations on his right hand from the assault and drove away, Tachles reported. The man’s family witnessed the assault.

(more…)

Israel Expands Law of Return to Include Interfaith Gay Couples

Non-Jews can now make aliyah with their Jewish, same-sex spouses

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Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Shutterstock)

The intersection of Religion and State in Israel often seems permanently mired in the status quo. However untenable that status quo may seem, it usually will not budge without severe prodding. But sometimes—as in the decades-long effort to have the state recognize civil unions—even such prodding bears little fruit. That’s why a decision announced yesterday by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar came as something of a surprise: In a letter to the Population and Immigration Authority, Sa’ar ordered that the granting of citizenship to the non-Jewish spouses of women and men who are themselves eligible for aliyah to Israel would also apply to same-sex couples.

Aliyah—immigration to the Jewish State—is governed by the Law of Return. Enacted in 1950, it is the gateway to Israeli citizenship. Though its original scope was exclusively limited to Jews, since 1970 the law has been expanded to grant aliyah rights to all children and grandchildren of Jews (implicitly eschewing the traditional stance that Judaism is matrilineal—that is, conferred only by Jewish mothers, rather than fathers), and to the spouses (or partners) of Jews. (more…)

Fabulous, Formidable Lauren Bacall Dies at 89

The captivating queen of Old Hollywood was a Jewish girl from Brooklyn

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Lauren Bacall after the last ever haute couture show of French designer Yves Saint Laurent on January 22, 2002 in Paris. (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/GettyImages)

Okay, when I wrote yesterday how I feel like all I ever write anymore is obituaries, I was kidding. Apparently, someone didn’t get the joke, because less than an hour after those very words were published, it was announced that the legendary actress Lauren Bacall passed away at the (blessedly) ripe old age of 89. I was devastated, naturally, and immediately called my friend Michael.

“Oh my God,” I shrieked, before he had even said as much as hello. “Do you remember that time we went to Joel Grey’s book party and Lauren Bacall was there and that publicist came up to us and was like, look, whatever you do, do not attempt to speak to, or touch, Miss Bacall.”

“Of course,” he said, “and I really hope you still have that picture on your phone that you took from all the way across the room.” He sighed sadly. “All the fabulous old ladies are gone now.” (more…)

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