Jessie Kahnweiler’s Bold Brand of Comedy

The Jewish comic brings her in-your-face physical comedy to a new web series


The marvelously talented and wickedly funny Jessie Kahnweiler has released a preview of her newest project, a web series called “Jessie Goes There.” The first few episodes are called My Boyfriend is Homeless, which is exactly what it sounds like. After dating every guy in L.A., she explains, she’s trying her luck in the homeless community.

“Let me dumb it down for you,” her producer says to her from behind the camera after she meets a nice, Jewish, homeless guy. “You said you want baggage. You said you want to fix somebody. Who has more baggage than a homeless guy?” (more…)

Rabbi Wolpe’s Picks: Questions of Boundaries

‘Collected Essays, Volume 1,’ by Haym Soloveitchik


Rabbi David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and the author, most recently, of Why Faith Matters. In this Scroll series, Wolpe examines a work of Jewish scholarship, either contemporary or classic, which has relevance for modern Jewish life.

Religion is preoccupied with the question of boundaries. What practice, idea, or allegiance puts this person or that community beyond the pale? Why can some Jews observe in ways that would be inadmissible to others (for example, Sephardim eating rice on Passover and Ashkenazim forbidding it)?

To address these questions competently it is not enough to know the halacha; a mastery of halachic literature is a prerequisite of course, but so is vast historical knowledge, sociological sensitivity, and detailed familiarity with the area under examination. Since Jewish law was practically coextensive with Jewish life, to understand halacha historically is a scholarly statement, essentially saying that nothing Jewish can be alien to me. (more…)

Celebrated IDF Soldier Meir Har-Zion Dies at 80

Elite unit fighter helped shape ethos of Israel’s army in its early years

Members of 890th Paratroop Battalion in November 1955. Meir Har-Zion is standing on the far left, with Ariel Sharon and Moshe Dayan next to him. (Wikimedia)

Meir Har-Zion, one of Israel’s most celebrated combat soldiers, died today on his ranch in the Lower Galilee. He was 80. While he last saw combat more than 40 years ago and his public appearances were few and far between, he leaves behind a towering legacy, having helped shape the IDF’s warrior ethos in its early, instrumental years, reinventing the model soldier very much in his own image. Prime Minister Netanyahu called him “one of our greatest heroes—a bold warrior full of love for the land and its people.” President Peres called him a legend in his own time, and quoting the prophet Nehemiah, said Har-Zion had “one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.” (more…)

Celebrate Purim With a Glass (or Two) of Shiraz

The ancient Persian city of Shiraz was known for its wine


Purim begins tomorrow evening, and, while there are many ways Jews celebrate (delivering gift baskets, helping the poor) one of the most publicized elements of the Purim festivities is the Talmudic imperative to drink. “Drinking is not only permitted but encouraged,” explains Tablet’s handy Purim guide. “The Talmud tells us that one should drink on Purim until one can no longer distinguish between the blessed Mordechai and the cursed Haman. The Hebrew phrase for “no longer tell the difference”—ad lo yada—has become the name for drunken Purim carnivals celebrated annually across Israel, in which Haman (or Hitler, or Saddam Hussein, or any other enemy of the Jews) is traditionally hanged or burned in effigy.”

So you’re supposed to drink. But drink what exactly? (more…)

Purim Parody Videos Are Missing Something

The problem with leaving the Book of Esther’s namesake out of the revelry


Ah, Purim. For some, it’s the time when drunken exes call to find out if you’re single, or when family members wield knives at their grandchildren (true story). For others, it’s the time of year when a host of holiday videos aimed at the religious communities flood your Facebook page with post-modern takes on the holiday and its narratives.

In fact, Purim has, since the rise of YouTube, become an interesting lens into the minds that create these videos, for it presents these would-be viralists with a curious paradox: on the one hand, there exists in the Haredi world an exhortation against staging women; on the other hand, there exists the irrefutable fact that the hero of the Purim tale is Esther, after whom the, uh, Book of Esther is named. (more…)

Why St. Patrick’s Day Is My Jewish Family’s Favorite Holiday

The parade was what my father first saw when he arrived from Nazi Germany

The author's father's immigrant identification card issued March 17, 1939. (Courtesy of the author)

My father arrived in America from Germany in 1939, 75 years ago. It was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day—a holiday my father had never heard of—and New York City’s marching bands and colorful parade amazed him. If this was how America welcomed immigrants, it was truly fantastic.

St. Patrick’s Day would become my family’s special holiday, as unfailingly celebrated as Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July in our Chicago home. It was a day to wear green, see the Chicago River dyed emerald, watch the parade, and throw a party for my father.

Yet in the story of my father’s escape from Nazi Germany—a story he told hundreds of times until his death at 93—the bright St. Patrick’s Day arrival was inextricably linked to the dark memory of Kristallnacht, the violent night that marked the beginning of the Holocaust. (more…)

Cruise Line Drops Tunisia Over Anti-Israel Bias

Israelis on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship not allowed to disembark in Tunisia

The Norwegian Getaway, a member of the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet. (David Hecker/Getty Images)

Norwegian Cruise Line has pulled Tunisia from its list of travel destinations following an incident in which Israeli citizens were kept from entering the country. Upon the cruise liner’s recent arrival at the Port of Tunis, 20 Israeli passengers were not allowed off the boat, JTA reported. While the rest of the passengers disembarked, the Israeli citizens were told to remain onboard the Norwegian Jade because the Tunisian government didn’t want them in the country.

“We want to send a strong message to Tunisia and ports around the world that we will not tolerate such random acts of discrimination against our guests,” Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian Cruise Line’s CEO, said in a statement. Sheehan maintained that the company had no prior knowledge of the Tunisian government’s policy. (more…)

Northeastern Bans Pro-Palestine Student Group

Students for Justice in Palestine faces year-long campus suspension

Northeastern University(Wikimedia)

Boston’s Northeastern University suspended its campus chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, JTA reports. The group, which was put on probation last spring after organizing a silent walk-out during an event attended by Israeli soldiers, now faces a one-year suspension over a controversial campus campaign.

Northeastern suspended Students for Justice in Palestine, or SJP, from the campus on March 7 for at least a year and barred its current executive board from serving on any future board in the organization for its campaign distributing mock eviction notices last month to student residences at the university. The notices were designed to mimic those that appear on illegal Arab construction slated for demolition. Similar campaigns have been used on other campuses.


Video: Arafat Recognizes Israel as a Jewish State

Newly rediscovered footage upends Palestinian negotiating position


One of the key points of contention in the current Israeli-Palestinian peace talks is whether the Palestinians will agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This Israeli claim, which originated on the Israeli left at the height of the Second Intifada and has been part of the negotiations ever since, has been a major sticking point for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has thus far categorically rejected it.

But newly-rediscovered footage of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may upend his successor’s argument that Israel’s demand is an unprecedented one that no Palestinian leader could accept. In the video, apparently of a 1988 press conference in Sweden, Arafat clearly states–in English–that “the PNC [Palestinian National Council] had accepted two states, a Palestine state and Jewish state–between brackets ‘Israel.’” Watch it below: (more…)

Purim is More Than Just ‘Jewish Halloween’

Why the common comparison sells the Jewish holiday short


This past Halloween, a non-Jewish acquaintance at the gym asked me what my children would be dressing up as when they went trick-or-treating. As Orthodox Jews, I explained to her, we don’t celebrate Halloween. The next thing out of my mouth surprised me.

“We have a holiday in the spring called Purim where the kids dress up in costumes and receive candy and other gifts.”

I knew Purim had absolutely no similarities to Halloween beyond the costume tradition, but I felt obligated to appease my gym friend. I wanted her to know that my kids weren’t deprived of the joy and art of costumes and treats. (more…)

Anne Frank Library Vandalism Suspect Arrested

Tokyo police nab man caught on tape ripping pages out of the book

Ripped pages of three books of Anne Frank's 'Diary of Young Girl' are displayed at a library in Tokyo on February 21, 2014. (JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)

Tokyo police have arrested a man suspected in connection with last month’s wave of vandalism directed at copies of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl in libraries and bookstores across the city. Pages had been torn out in more than 200 copies of the Japanese translation of the book, a surprising development in a country that has so widely embraced both the story and the figure of Anne Frank. (more…)

St. Louis Congregation Seeks To Convert Jews

Local Jews object to Messianic-Lutheran congregation’s misleading services

Congregation Chai v’ Shalom(Flickr/Creative Commons)

A congregation in the Dogtown section of St. Louis, Mo., is stirring controversy among local Jews who find its services and preaching offensive, the Washington Post reports. Housed in a small storefront and frequented by a handful of members, Congregation Chai v’ Shalom is a Messianic-Lutheran congregation backed by the Lutheran Church: Missouri Synod. Their mission is to preach that Jesus was the messiah and to convert their Jewish follows to Christianity. (more…)

Rockets From Gaza Strip Land in Southern Israel

No casualties reported in largest attack since 2012

Israeli soldiers and civilians stand next to a hole caused by a rocket launched from the Gaza strip, in the Israeli city of Sderot in the southern Negev desert on March 12, 2014. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

In the largest attack on southern Israel since late 2012, at least 30 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip Wednesday evening, Reuters reports. ‘Code Red’ sirens sounded in the late afternoon in Sderot and the nearby Eshkol Regional Council, sending students home school and ushering residents into bomb shelters.

Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted at least three of the incoming rockets, according to the Associated Press, with most of the others falling in open areas and just one in a residential neighborhood. No casualties or injuries have been reported. (more…)

Anti-Semitic Incidents in the Netherlands Spike

Watchdog group reports 23 percent increase in incidents since 2012

The Hague, Netherlands. (Wikimedia)

Anti-Semitic incidents in the Netherlands have been on the rise recently, JTA reports. According to a Dutch Jewish watchdog group, there has been a 23 perfect increase in anti-Semitic incidents since 2012.

The Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, known as CIDI, reported an increase of 33 incidents from 2012 to 2013 (with a total of 147 incidents in 2013). These involve both physical violence and threats. (more…)

Israel Passes Ultra-Orthodox Draft Law

Calls for quotas to gradually increase annual Haredi IDF enrollment numbers

Ultra-Orthodox Jews take part in a mass prayer vigil in Jerusalem on March 2, 2014 in protest at plans to conscript young ultra-Orthodox men for Israeli military or civilian service. (DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel’s Knesset passed a highly controversial bill today which requires army service from many ultra-Orthodox citizens who would have previously been exempt if they pursued religious studies, the New York Times reports. The new legislation sets annual quotas for drafting yeshiva students for military or national service, and mandates criminal penalties against draft evaders. However, the law doesn’t entail complete Haredi conscription, instead calling for a gradual annual increase in the number of ultra-Orthodox 18-year-olds drafted, and still allowing for small numbers of exemptions until 2017.

With the opposition boycotting the vote, the 120-seat Knesset was nearly empty during the plenary proceedings and the bill was ushered in with 67 votes in favor and only one vote against. An amendment dealing with civilian national service also passed. (more…)

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