Holocaust Diarist’s Photos Found at Estate Sale

Vast photo collection chronicling Mary Berg’s life discovered at local auction

(Mary Berg)

“I’m calling about photos of Mary Berg,” said the man on my voicemail at work earlier this week. He wanted to know where he might send them for safekeeping.

The name Mary Berg was vaguely familiar to me. Several years ago, Tablet’s predecessor site, published an essay by Amy Rosenberg about Warsaw Ghetto, a war memoir Berg had published in 1944, the year she had arrived as a young woman in the United States. Though Berg had spent two years in the Warsaw Ghetto, having fled there from Lodz, her mother was an American, a critical fact that entitled Berg, her sister and her parents to be included in a prisoner of war exchange program that saved their lives.

By the time they had arrived in New York, Berg had filled 12 volumes of a diary with vivid, brutal detail of what she witnessed during the years of German occupied Poland. These volumes became Warsaw Ghetto, which was well received in the New Yorker, the New York Times and other publications, and which briefly made Berg a minor celebrity.

In spite of the book’s critical success, it went out of print by the 1950s and, according to Rosenberg, Mary Berg tried hard to disappear along with it. (more…)

Iraqi Insurgents Boast They’re Building an Arab Super-State

They’re hardly the first to try, or make this claim

Iraqi families fleeing violence in the northern Nineveh province gather at a Kurdish checkpoint in Aski kalak, 40 kms West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on June 10, 2014. (SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

In seizing Mosul, Tikrit and other northern Iraqi cities over the last 48 hours, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham has moved closer to what some Middle East experts believe is the organization’s end goal—to create an emirate, an Islamic rump-state, encompassing large parts of Iraq and Syria. This, some fear, is a symptom of the region-wide sectarian war, from Beirut to Baghdad, threatening to jeopardize the Arab state system and crash the borders imposed by the British and French with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.

Certainly, ISIS is boasting as much. Its propaganda outlets claim the organization is in the process of restoring the caliphate, and erasing the lines secretly drawn by French diplomat François George-Picot and his British counterpart Mark Sykes before the end of World War I.

Still, it’s worth putting ISIS’s claims, and the predictions of Middle East experts, in context. (more…)

Subtitle Writers Strike Scrambles Israeli TV

Mixed messages onscreen as English language translators demand fair pay


In season five of The Wire, Baltimore cop-turned high school teacher Roland Pryzbylewski stares at his class and asks a bizarre question.

“Which ass should I stick a rat into?”

Or sort of. In English he says, “who gives a rat’s ass?” but this particular Hebrew translation posted online has the teacher mangling the expression in a way that should probably see him lose his teaching license.

Mistranslated subtitles like this one have become increasingly common in Israel as a result of a television and film subtitle writers strike that has stretched on for several weeks, a number of striking workers say. (more…)

Which Dayan Said It?

Can you tell rocker Aviv Geffen from security expert Uzi Dayan?

Aviv Geffen and Uzi Dayan. (L: Mick Hutson/Redferns; R: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Dayan Family Day at Tablet, with two different relatives of legendary Israeli general-turned-politician Moshe Dayan featured in articles on the site. One, Dayan’s nephew Gen. Uzi Dayan, is Israel’s lead security negotiator and previously served as national security adviser to Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. The other, Moshe Dayan’s cousin Aviv Geffen, one of Israel’s most iconic and enduring rock stars.

Both pieces—David Samuel’s Q&A with Uzi Dayan and Adi Gold and Yoav Sivan’s profile of Aviv Geffen—are worth reading, especially given how wildly different their subjects appear to be. Or are they?

Here’s a pop quiz to see just how different the Dayan relatives sound. (more…)

Galliano Gets on the Couch

Atoning designer opens up to French psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik

British designer John Galliano gives a press conference on his new work as a consultant for Russian cosmetics retailer L'Etoile in at the Barvikha Luxury Village Concert Hall just outside Moscow, on May 22, 2014. (KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)

John Galliano, the former Christian Dior designer whose reputation and career imploded in 2011 after a video surfaced of a drunk, racist rant in which he said things like “I love Hitler” to French café patrons he thought were Jewish, is back in the news, this time with a journalist-accompanied psychiatry session.

Galliano, who was given the ADL’s blessing after his lengthy rehabilitation, in which he sought help for substance abuse issues but also reportedly met with rabbis and Holocaust survivors and read books about Judaism, recently brought along a journalist from French newsweekly Le Point to a session with well-known French psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, WWD reports. And while the coverage of Galliano’s every potentially offensive move—and outfit—has grown from tedious to downright exhausting (we’re guilty, too; le sigh), this latest news from the Galliano front seems a bit, well, therapeutic. Also, a Nazi-fleeing Jewish psychiatrist treating a designer whose downfall-inducing anti-Semitic rant involved references to people being “gassed” sounds like a something out of a seriously dark movie. That I’d totally watch. (more…)

Germany Rules Matisse Belongs to Jewish Heirs

The 1921 work, ‘Woman Sitting in an Armchair,’ was found in Munich in 2011

(Photograph of the painting "Sitting Woman," by Henri Matisse)

The German task force investigating the trove of Nazi-looted art discovered in the Munich apartment of the late recluse Cornelius Gurlitt announced today that one of the paintings found, Matisse’s 1921 “Woman Sitting in an Armchair,” was stolen by the Nazis and rightfully belongs to the heirs of Paris art dealer Paul Rosenberg, the Associated Press reports.

The piece was one of more than a thousand works found in Gurlitt’s apartment, which were discovered by German authorities in 2011 and made public in 2013. Gurlitt inherited these pieces from his father Hildebrand Gurlitt, an art dealer who was was reportedly ordered by Hitler to acquire and sell the art to help finance Nazi activities. Gurlitt had initially claimed that all of the art belonged to him; however, a month before his death in May at the age of 81, he agreed to a deal with the German government under which the works would be investigated to determine their ownership. (more…)

EU Official Goes Off On ‘Zionist Bullshit’ Emails

A lesson in how not to unsubscribe from email newsletters


This weekend, European Union official Mattia Zilli decided he had enough of the United with Israel email newsletter he had been receiving regularly since 2011. The European Commission’s Research Executive Agency employee sent an angry email from his work account to Rabbi Ari Enkin, United with Israel’s rabbinic director of United with Israel, the Jerusalem Post reports. It said, plainly, “STOP fucking writing me about your Zionist bullshit.”

The organization says Zilli has since sent a letter of apology, attributing his frustration to the fact that he had tried, unsuccessfully, to unsubscribe to their newsletter before. (According to the Jerusalem Post, a United With Israel spokesperson said the newsletter’s automated ‘unsubscribe’ function is working correctly.) (more…)

Australian Ambassador: We Wouldn’t Use the Term ‘Occupied’

Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma explains why they’re dropping the adjective

The Australian Parliament in Canberra (Shutterstock)

Last week, the Australian government caused a stir when it issued a statement declaring that it would no longer refer to East Jerusalem as “Occupied East Jerusalem.” The announcement drew immediate protest from Palestinian representatives, but Australia has shown no signs of backing down. On the contrary, in an interview with Tablet, Australia’s Ambassador to Israel Dave Sharma not only defended the rationale behind the controversial move, but said that the same reasoning also informed his government’s outlook towards the West Bank, though it has not taken an official position on the matter. “The statement that came out that was issued in Canberra last week didn’t make reference to this,” he told me, but “I think we just call the West Bank, ‘the West Bank,’ as a geographical entity without adding any adjectives to it, whether ‘occupied’ [the Palestinian position] or ‘disputed’ [the Israeli position]. We’ll just call it what it is, which is ‘the West Bank.’”

Though some of Israel’s critics and supporters have characterized this move as adopting the Israeli position, Sharma explains that the policy is actually designed to ensure that Australia is not taking sides in the conflict at all. (more…)

Yearbook Spells Israeli Student’s Name ‘J-E-W’

California high school prints 1,600 copies without catching misspelling prank


If you happened to be flipping through this year’s Monta Vista High School yearbook, you may have come across an unusual sight: a team photo caption identifying a student with a last name ending in “Jew.” But it’s no quirky family name—the last three letters of the Israeli student’s name were purposely tweaked by a classmate, and the crassly edited version made it all the way through the yearbook’s editing and printing process, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

The insult passed unnoticed by the yearbook adviser — and was published in all 1,600 copies — because the boy did not use an obvious racial slur. Instead, he has admitted to school officials that he intentionally changed the last three letters of his classmate’s name to “jew” while labeling a team photo.

Discovered during the last week of classes, the subtle taunt has created heartache for the victim’s family, who fled Eastern Europe after barely surviving the Holocaust. It’s also created a predicament for the school, which prides itself on its diversity and is struggling with few options to fix the problem since the yearbooks have already gone out.

The school district expressed outrage at the incident, and brought in the police to investigate. (more…)

New Jewish Publishing House To Launch in 2015

Fig Tree Books promises novels, short stories, and out-of-print classics


Would-be novelists of the Jewish American experience, rejoice! There will soon be a new place to shop your brilliant manuscripts (or to have them join a slush pile of wannabe best-sellers). Fig Tree Books is launching in March 2015 as a venue for “original high quality literary fiction” and the revival of the classics, according to its website. Editor-in-chief Michelle Caplan told the blog The Whole Megillah they’re looking for, “epic, weighty novels that make you think; quirky contemporary stories; accessible literary fiction; life-affirming, emotional narratives; cross-over mysteries; classics that could change your life—as long as they share an authenticity, integrity and originality at their core.” In short—everything! (more…)

Jewish Teen Wearing Yarmulke Tasered in Paris

Third attack on young Jews in the French capital in the past week

Place de la République in Paris. (Shutterstock/Alexander Demyanenko)

In the third disturbing incident from French capital this week, JTA reports that a Jewish teenager was attacked with an electric Taser by a group of teens at Paris’ Place de la République square yesterday. One of the teens, all of whom fled after a passerby intervened, was reportedly also carrying a club. The victim was wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit when he was targeted—just as the two teens chased by a man with an ax last Wednesday, as well as the two teens sprayed with tear gas this weekend, were wearing yarmulkes.

This week’s attacks add to the already combustible climate facing France’s Jewish community. A report released last month revealed that a whopping 75 percent of French Jews have considered emigrating. (more…)

Are Nike’s Soulless Soccer Robots Jewish?

Some see troubling signs in the company’s new World Cup video

Screengrab from Nike's World Cup video, "The Last Game." (YouTube)

Celebrating the upcoming world cup, Nike released a five-minute animated video earlier this week. Entitled “The Last Game,” it’s a dystopian tale of a future dominated by cloned soccer robots who play so mechanically and flawlessly that they drain all the suspense and the pleasure out of the beautiful game, androids who have black hair and large noses and a symbol on their shirt that looks like a soccer ball or maybe, if you squint at it just right, a star of David.

That, at least, is the opinion of Yaakov Hagoel, the head of the World Zionist Organization’s Department for Countering Antisemitism. “We would love to work with you at Nike to understand what’s the real meaning behind these symbols and solve the problem,” Hagoel wrote in a letter to the athletics giant’s chairman and co-founder Phil Knight. “We in the Department for Countering Antisemitism take very seriously the complaints we have received, and we will act resolutely to verify the facts in full.” (more…)

Popular 1950s Actress Mona Freeman Dies at 87

Was named New York City’s first ‘Miss Subways’ in 1941, when she was 14

Mona Freeman with 'Streets of Laredo' co-star William Holden in 1948.(Paramount Pictures)

Mona Freeman, first ‘Miss Subways’ and Longtime Actress, Dies at 87
Freeman, whose screen career lasted from 1940s-1970s, died in her Beverly Hills home

Mona Freeman, a regular both in Hollywood and on the New York subway lines, died May 23 at the age of 87, the New York Times reports. Freeman, who was born in Baltimore and moved as a child to Pelham, N.Y., began modeling at age 14. She was selected to be the inaugural ‘Miss Subways’ in 1941, a competition organized by the New York Subways Advertising Company and the John Robert Powers modeling agency, which ran through 1976. Placards with the Miss Subways’ photos and biographies were placed in thousands of cars on the IRT, IND and BMT lines. (more…)

Eric Cantor Loses Republican Primary

Virginia Republican is first majority leader to lose since 1899

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor on February 5, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

In a stunning upset, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary this evening in Virginia’s 7th congressional district to Tea Party challenger David Brat. Nearly every observer, from the Washington Post to Cantor’s own internal polling, indicated he would win by a comfortable margin. While Cantor had raised over $5 million for his campaign, his challenger Brat collected only $207,000. Astonishingly, it was not enough.

With the loss, Cantor became the first sitting majority leader to fail to be renominated since the office was created in 1899, and the Republican party likely lost its only Jewish member of Congress. (Cantor’s only recourse at present is to launch a long shot write-in campaign for the general election.) He is the highest ranking elected Jewish official in American history.

Cantor originally joined Congress in 2000, and rose to Majority Leader in 2011 when Republicans retook the House. His dramatic defeat has prompted shock in many quarters, including among his Jewish allies like Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition: (more…)

Jewish Teens Targeted With Tear Gas in Paris

Two boys wearing yarmulkes sprayed by a group of teens on Saturday night

(FCG /

Yesterday we reported on the disturbing incident in the Paris suburb of Romainville in which two Jewish teenagers and their grandfather were chased by a man with an ax on their way to synagogue last week for Shavuot. Over the weekend, in an equally bizarre attack, two Jewish teens were sprayed with tear gas on Saturday night in Sarcelles, a Paris suburb about 16 km from Romainville, JTA reports. As in the previous incident, the boys were wearing yarmulkes.

The attack was caught on tape by a security camera. The National Bureau of Vigilance against Anti-Semitism, an organization that monitors attacks on Jews throughout France, said the attack was carried out by a group of teenage boys who appeared to be North African. (more…)

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