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Fiddler on the Roof Heading Back to Broadway

Tradition, Tradition

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Fiddler on the Roof cast on the show's first-ever opening night, Sept. 22, 1964, featuring Zero Mostel, Maria Karnilova, Tanya Everett, Julia Migenes, and Joanna Merlin. (AP)

Though it seems like the sun just set on the last Broadway incarnation of Fiddler on the Roof, it looks like Tevye, Golde, Tzeitel, Hodel, Chava, Shprintze, and Bielke are heading back to the stage one more time. While it may seem a bit formulaic to revive the shtetl classic for the fifth time on Broadway, it’s not really a surprise—Fiddler has become one of the most ubiquitous shows around. (You can hear Alisa Solomon, author of the new book, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof, discuss the musical’s enduring legacy with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry here.) Plus, with attention newly being paid to Tevye and his daughters in light of their upper-crust Edwardian simulacra on the PBS hit Downton Abbey, the timing is actually pretty smart.

ArtsBeat reports that the new musical will feature choreography by Israeli-born Hofesh Shechter, who was profiled in Tablet last summer. (more…)

Why Are Jews So Afraid of Stepan Bandera?

Historians explain the man of the moment in Ukraine

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Activists of 'Other Russia' opposition party rally in support of ethnic Russians in the Crimea and Eastern Ukraine in St. Petersburg, on March 3, 2014. (OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

Over the past week, one man has become, seemingly, a symbol of everything to be feared by Jews and other minorities—chiefly ethnic Russians—in Ukraine: Stepan Bandera. Who was he?

Born in 1909 in what was then Austria-Hungary, Bandera led one of the factions of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, a proto-fascist movement that advocated sovereignty for ethnic Ukrainians—and the removal of other ethnic groups from Ukrainian territory. In the 1930s, this meant primarily Poles, because Ukraine was then under Polish rule. Bandera spent five years in prison, and was only released after the Soviet invasion in 1939.

Under Soviet occupation, the OUN had a new barrier to Ukrainian independence and thus a new enemy to fight against. But they also found themselves with a new—or perceived—ally: The Nazis. At the time, Ukraine’s Jews were naturally Soviet partisans, and that made them targets for Bandera and the OUN. “Ukrainian nationalists who wanted a Ukrainian state saw the Jews rejoicing when the Soviets invaded, getting top positions in Soviet government, and they decided to take out their ire against the Jews,” said Jeffrey Veidlinger, an expert in modern Russian and Eastern European Jewish history at the University of Michigan. (more…)

Tel Aviv Fashion Week: High Fashion, High Drama

After a year-long hiatus, the Holy Land’s fashion festival begins this weekend

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A model presents a creation by Israeli designer 'Tovale during the Tel Aviv Fashion Week on November 22, 2011 in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Though Israel used to host fashion weeks in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when its textile industry was booming, the country’s modern fashion week history only began in 2011. That year, two different fashion weeks took place for the first time. The Holon Fashion Week, the less commercially oriented of the two, was started to promote fashion as part of a wider cultural discourse (its fourth annual event will take place in October. The Tel Aviv Fashion Week, produced by fashion entrepreneurs Motty Reif and Ofir Lev, was created as the more mainstream, commercial affair. But the following year the two men parted ways acrimoniously, and two competing Tel Aviv Fashion Weeks were born.

Nobody seems to know exactly what happened between the former partners. “According to the rumors it is a case of money and ego—as always,” Yael Ben Israel, a fashion writer at Israel’s Globes financial newspaper, told me.

After holding two competing events in 2012, and skipping 2013 all together, this year they’re back. Or at least one of them is. (more…)

Teenage Crossword Puzzle Maven Goes Digital

How a 17-year-old New York Times-published puzzler is changing the game

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(Shutterstock)

It may surprise you to learn that this Saturday’s New York Times crossword puzzle—the most difficult puzzle of the week and a wicked mental undertaking—was built by a 17-year-old who lives with his parents in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes. But David Steinberg, a friendly, articulate high school junior, is in fact a crossword puzzle veteran, having had his first puzzle published by the Times when he was 14—making him the second-youngest person to enjoy such an honor.

The New York Times crossword, edited by Will Shortz, is popularly regarded as the crème de la crème of mainstream puzzles. And while solvers toil through Steinberg’s Saturday grid over a cup (or three) of coffee, the teenager will be in Brooklyn at the 37th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, or ACPT, speaking about his newest brainchild: a collaborative online database of New York Times crossword puzzles published between 1942 and 1993, when Shortz began as editor (puzzles published since then are already available online). Steinberg calls it the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project. (more…)

Jewish Gravestones Destroyed in Poland

Just months after Myslowice residents restored the town’s Jewish cemetery

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Jewish cemetery in Myslowice, Poland. ( Sztetl.org)

Unidentified vandals destroyed six 19th-century gravestones in a Jewish cemetery in Mysłowice, Poland earlier this week, JTA reports. Resident Ireneusz Skwirowski told a local website that police would be informed of the incident, adding that she had photographs of the people reportedly behind the vandalism. Skwirowski was part of a group of local residents who, working with a councilman and an historian, restored the long-neglected Jewish cemetery late last year—making the act of vandalism one that very much impacts the community.

Jewish cemeteries throughout Poland, in many towns and villages the last vestiges of pre-war Jewish life, are today a haunting reminder of the country’s lost Jewish community—both for visiting Jews, like myself, searching for their family’s roots, as well as for local Poles living in their midst. (more…)

Netanyahu Gives Tour of Israel Tonight on PBS

The prime minister leads journalist Peter Greenberg through the Holy Land

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Peter Greenberg accompanied by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, departing Eilat Naval Base.(Copyright Nina Dietzel)

Interested in a tour of Israel led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu? You’re in luck. Tonight at 8 p.m. on Channel 13, PBS will be premiering the hour-long documentary Israel: The Royal Tour. In it, Netanyahu gives journalist Peter Greenberg a tour of the Holy Land, from the snow-topped peaks of the north to the deserts of the south. Together they float in the Dead Sea, take a boat through the Red Sea, and raft down the Jordan river. They visit the ancient site of Masada before traveling to Haifa to see the high-tech world of the Technion. (more…)

Israeli Navy Intercepts Rockets Heading to Gaza

Syrian-made rockets reportedly flown to Iran then shipped to Gaza

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Israeli's Brigadier General Yaron Levi, the Navy's intelligence chief, gives a press conference at the Defence Ministery in Tel Aviv, on March 5, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

The Israeli Navy intercepted a ship off the coast of Africa filled with rockets and reportedly headed for Gaza, the Wall Street Journal reports. Israel military officials say the rockets were made in Syria, flown to Iran, and then sent towards their final destination in Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is currently visiting the U.S. to encourage Washington to tighten economic sanctions against Iran, called the interception “a perfect mission.” (more…)

University of Colorado Gets Largest Private Holocaust Archive

Collection of  500,000 documents will be made available to the public

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Image from the 500,000-piece Mazal Holocaust Collection, which has been donated to the University of Colorado.(Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado)

The late Harry W. Mazal built a 3,000-square foot addition to his San Antonio, TX, home to house his enormous collection of Holocaust documents and materials—the largest private Holocaust archive in the world. Now the impressive collection has a new home: the University of Colorado Boulder. The Daily Camera reports that Mazal’s daughter, Aimee Mazal Skillin, has donated the full collection to the university.

The collection, which encompasses more than 20,000 books and 500,000 documents, pamphlets and photographs—and includes original transcripts of the Nuremberg trials and other war crimes trials—is estimated to be worth up to $1 million. (more…)

The Obscenity of Blaming Zionism for the Holocaust: A Response

Wolfgang G. Schwanitz answers Tablet’s review of his and Barry Rubin’s book

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Amin al Husseini and Adolf Hitler in 1941.(Deutsches Bundesarchiv via Wikimedia Commons)

In his Feb. 3 review in Tablet, David Mikics misrepresents our book Nazis, Islamists, and the Making of the Modern Middle East. It is not a biography of the grand mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husaini, though one is in the making, and Mikics fails to show how it compares to related works. He bit off more than he can chew. Thus, he exaggerates: the book, he alleges, purports to demonstrate that “Zionism caused the Holocaust.” He then calls this invention “their logic, a “flawed conclusion,” as if he were refuting what he has in fact attributed to us. In the light of Barry Rubin’s passing—see the obituary by Lee Smith in Tablet—I will answer here. (more…)

Did Jews ‘Sell Out Israel’ By Supporting Obama?

Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann thinks so

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U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) speaks during a news conference May 16, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Minnesota Republican Michelle Bachmann, former kibbutznik and failed Yiddishist, has some harsh words for American Jews who voted for President Obama. Namely, that in supporting a president who lobbied Congress to hold off on additional sanctions against Iran, they sold out Israel.

According to Talking Points Memo, Bachmann made the assertion in an interview with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “What has been shocking has been seeing and observing Jewish organizations who it appears have made it their priority to support the political priority and the political ambitions of the President over the best interests of Israel,” Bachmann said. “So in some respects, they sold out Israel.” (more…)

Rabbi Arrested on Child Pornography Charge

Samuel Waldman, a teacher at a girls’ seminary, admits obtaining films online

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(Shutterstock)

Samuel Waldman, a 52-year-old Brooklyn-based rabbi who teaches at a girls seminary, has been arrested on the charge of distributing child pornography, the AP reports.

A criminal complaint in federal court in Manhattan charged Waldman with distributing child pornography over the Internet in November by enabling others to download multiple videos depicting children in sexual acts, including girls ages 4 to 11.

Waldman was charged with one count of transporting or distributing child pornography. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison.

(more…)

Apply For a Summer Internship at Tablet

We’re hiring a full-time, paid editorial intern

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

Check Out This Season’s Most Stylish Seder Plate

Isabel Halley’s porcelain and gold plate gets Lena Dunham’s stamp of approval

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Seder plate by Isabel Halley(Rachael Scharf)

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find a stylish, modern, cool-looking seder plate. I don’t know why, since I’ve never hosted a seder, but I feel like it’s something important to have. Thanks to a particularly frenzied trip to the Jonathan Adler warehouse sale a few years ago, I got my hands on one of these Futura Seder Plates (plus a peacock menorah and more mod porcelain dreidels than I know what to do with)—which, in the grand tradition of Jonathan Adler Judaica looks just barely like Judaica and can be used year-round, which is good, since it’s too big to fit into any of my cabinets.

But just like 2012′s strikingly intense paschal mezuzah, this year there’s a new kind of seder plate in town. Isabel Halley’s porcelain and gold seder plate is one of the loveliest Jewish objects I’ve seen yet, and not just because Halley confirms you can use the small bowls to store things like jewelry once you wash the bitter herb off of them. (Handwash, she stressed.) There’s an artful balance of ritual and aesthetic in the design, which features six small pinch bowls atop a large, gold-rimmed plate, with the option of Hebrew script identifying each bowl and its spot on the plate. (more…)

Putin Defends Ukraine’s Jews, Slams Ukraine’s Jewish Oligarchs

Cites Ukraine’s appointment of oligarchs as governors as reason for unrest

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Russian President Vladimir Putin gives a news conference at his country residence of Novo-Ogaryova, outside Moscow, on March 4, 2014. (ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday morning, Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation, gave his first post-Crimea invasion press conference. What rapidly became apparent, as he slouched in a gilded hall studded with Russian flags, was that the combination of Putin’s surreal interpretation of events with his lavishly baroque epistemology has given form to some bizarrely contradictory dualities in his worldview. He railed against a politicized judiciary selectively prosecuting the enemies of the chief executive, overlooking that it’s exactly what the Russian Judiciary does routinely; he argued the change of government in Kiev was an armed coup, but the one in Crimea was entirely legitimate. The usage of force by Ukrainians is unjustified, but completely justified from the Russian side.

The Russian leader also insisted that Ukraine’s deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, retains authority as the country’s elected head of state, but also described him as a corrupt failure whose political career was finished. Putin also admitted that he understood well popular demands for “cardinal changes in government” by Ukrainians—demands, he asserted, that simply stemmed from their “having become habituated to switching one thief and opportunist for another thief and opportunist.” He spat out the word “opportunist” in disgust. (more…)

NYU’s Secret Anti-Israel Conference Revisited

An exchange with NYU American Studies professor Lisa Duggan

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(NYU)

About that headline? Just kidding: it’ll be hard for me to have an exchange with Lisa Duggan, because the organization she heads, the American Studies Association, decided that people like me, namely Israeli academics, should, alone of all God’s children, be denied the right to engage with their colleagues in research and conversation.

Now, if she were talking to me, Duggan might have argued that the ASA’s boycot applies only to Israeli academic institutions, not individuals, as if institutions could somehow be separated from the men and women who run and inhabit them, and as if such a distinction did anything to dull the sting of bigotry inherent to the decision to single out one group of people as untouchable. That would be just the kind of semantic obfuscation that, judging by her comment to my piece yesterday about a secret anti-Israel conference she helped organize this past weekend, seems to characterize Professor Duggan’s thinking.

Because these issues matter very much—at stake is the future of academia, an institution on which we all dearly depend, and the soul of at least one great American university, NYU—it’s worth while taking a few moments to study Professor Duggan’s response. (more…)

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