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World’s Oldest Man, Alexander Imich, Dies at 111

Imich, a Holocaust survivor born in Poland in 1903, lived in New York City

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Alexander Imich in May, 2014, at 111 years old. (Guinness Book of World Records)

One month after receiving the title, the world’s oldest man has died. Alexander Imich, the oldest male supercentarian—a person over 110—died yesterday on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at the age of 111, the New York Times reports.

In an interview with the Times in May, Imich attributed his longevity to his genes, not having any children, and a lifetime of exercise (plus chicken soup). Imich willed his body to Mount Sinai Medical Center for study. (more…)

Man With Ax Chases Jewish Teens in Paris

No injuries to boys, grandfather on their way to synagogue on Shavuot

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(Shutterstock)

Two French teenagers walking to synagogue with their grandfather last week to take part in the Shavuot tradition of staying up all night studying Hebrew texts were chased by an axe-wielding man and three accomplices, JTA reports. No one was injured in the incident, which took place in the French suburb of Romainville. The three were wearing yarmulkes, making this the latest in a series of assaults on visibly identifiable Jews across Paris.

The teens, aged 14 and 15, said they were walking to the Lilac Synagogue with their grandfather to attend Tikkun Leil Shavuot, a custom in which Jews study scripture all night. While crossing the town’s Market Square, the two boys and their grandfather, all wearing kippahs, said they were followed by a tall man in his 20s wearing a long beard. They described the man as having an athletic figure and an Arab appearance.

Producing a hatchet, the man began to chase the two boys, according to the BNVCA report, then whistled to three other men who joined the chase. The boys and their grandfather filed complaints with police, BNVCA President Sammy Ghozlan wrote.

The recent report that a whopping 75 percent of French Jews have considered emigrating is contextualized by recent incidents such as this one. (more…)

Klezmer Band Golem to Appear on ‘Louie’

The group will perform on tonight’s episode of comedian Louis C.K.’s show

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Golem. (Pascal Perich)

With a recurring role for David Lynch in the final episodes of last season’s Louie, it was hard to imagine how the show could top the cult-level star-studdedness it has come, among other things, to be known and loved for. But that’s partly why we adore Louie C.K., the genius behind the program—he’s able to corral the talent necessary to execute the compelling narrative twists that keep us addicted.

This season has maintained the high level of off-beat excellence, thanks in part to the likes of Charles Grodin, Ellen Burstyn and Eszter Balint. But C.K. doesn’t just doff his cap at members of Actors Equity, as viewers who are also Vox Tablet listeners will learn tonight, when the klezmer punk band Golem makes an appearance as itself. (more…)

Israel Approves 1,500 New Settlement Homes

In response to new Hamas-backed Palestinian unity government

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Palestinian houses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Beit Hanina, backdropped by a view of Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the eastern sector of Jerusalem, on June 5, 2014. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Israel has approved the construction of nearly 1,500 new homes in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, the Associated Press reports. The move, Israeli officials say, is in response to the Palestinian unity government reached between Fatah and Hamas leadership, which was sworn in last week, and which has garnered widespread international support.

Netanyahu’s housing minister, Uri Ariel, said Thursday that tenders had been issued to build about 900 homes in the West Bank and about 560 more in east Jerusalem, territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war and which the Palestinians seek as parts of a future state.

In a statement, Ariel said the construction was a “fitting Zionist response to the formation of a Palestinian terror government.

Israel’s announced settlement construction has been condemned by political factions within Israel, and foreign allies like the United States, Britain, and France have expressed disappointment in the move. (more…)

Holocaust Survivor’s $40 Million Estate Lingers

Two years after Roman Blum’s death, a woman in Poland claims to be his heir

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(Shutterstock.com)

Holocaust survivor and real estate magnate Roman Blum left behind an enormous fortune when he died in 2012—and an even bigger mystery. Tho 97-year-old Staten Island real estate developer had amassed a $40 million estate, but had no will and no surviving relatives. An 18-month international search for heirs to Blum’s fortune, the largest unclaimed estate in New York history, was conducted without success, the New York Post reports.

That’s not for lack of trying. Gary Gotlin, the Staten Island public administrator who led the search, said he received more than 400 emails from people around the world making claims to Blum’s estate. Only two individuals, however, have officially submitted claims in Staten Island Surrogate’s Court since then. One will, submitted by Anthony J. Allegrino II in October 2013, is still being processed. A second will, submitted last week, offers a captivating story of epic love that managed to survive World War II and decades of separation. Whether it’s true, however, is up to the court to determine. (more…)

Rabbi Wolpe’s Picks: Considering Conversion

Pledges of Allegiance, by David Ellenson and Daniel Gordis

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(Shutterstock)

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.

“When the proselyte emerges from a mikveh, he is an Israelite in all respects,” we are told in the Talmud. Yet the Talmud and later literature also record negative views of a proselyte. People who convert are at times considered a blessing, at other times a curse.

Some sources consider why one chooses to convert to be important and even decisive. At other times the simple decision to become Jewish seems to be enough. In a famous anecdote, Hillel appears prepared to convert a man (or begin the process?) while standing on one foot without questioning his motivation at all. When it comes to conversion, Talmudic sources differ and as a result so do the attitudes of rabbis throughout the centuries. (more…)

Israeli Curling Aims For The Big Leagues

American and Canadian curlers face off for a spot on Israel’s growing team

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The Israel Curling Federation's first national team training camp in Blaine, Minnesota. (Sharon Cohen)

“Hello, I’m Terry Braunstein. I’m a curler. And I’m Jewish.”

And so kicked off the Israel Curling Federation’s first national team training camp, held last weekend at the Four Seasons Curling Club in Blaine, Minnesota. The event drew 20 Jewish curlers—15 men and 5 women—from the United States and Canada, all vying to represent Israel at the European Group C championships in October in the Netherlands.

Braunstein, widely regarded as the most accomplished Jewish curler of all time, is serving as an advisor to the ICF as it works to build winning men’s and women’s teams ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Braunstein’s accolades include being, at 18, the youngest skip to ever lead a team at the Canadian nationals, in 1958, and the only Jewish skip to ever go to the world championships, in 1965. (more…)

Spielberg’s Niece Auditions for ‘The Voice Israel’

Aspiring singer Jessica Katz, 25, moved to Israel from the U.S. in 2011

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Jessica Katz. (The Voice Israel)

Does talent run in the family? Steven Spielberg’s niece, auditioning for the Israeli version of reality singing competition The Voice next week, has set out to prove that it does. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jessica “Jessy” Katz, the 25-year-old daughter of Spielberg’s sister and Playmount Productions President Nancy Spielberg-Katz, will be a contestant on the show’s third season, which premieres in Israel on Sunday, June 8.

Katz made aliyah to Israel three years ago after graduating from the University of Maryland. She sings in local Tel Aviv bars, performing solo and with her band, Jessica Rabbit & the Blues Bunnies—a nod to the 1988 movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, produced by her uncle. (more…)

‘Commentary’ Opens Its Archives

Here’s what you should read

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On the eve of the holiday of Shavuot, on which Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah, a very different sort of Jewish textual heritage was made available to the public. Commentary Magazine dropped its paywall and opened its archives to the Internet’s readers. “Every visitor to our site will have free access to 8 pieces every month—whether blog items or magazine articles,” announced editor John Podhoretz. After reaching that limit, readers must subscribe to view more.

For students of both American and Jewish history, the Commentary archives offer a veritable treasure trove. Since its founding in 1945, the venerable Jewish magazine has transformed from a vanguard of the American left to a bastion of the neoconservative right—from publishing Hannah Arendt and Gore Vidal to printing scathing critiques of their work. As a consequence, its contents have been inextricably tied up with the evolution of the American left, center, and right. But the magazine’s mark has been far from limited to politics. (more…)

Church Takes Down Billboard With Hitler Quote

Alabama children’s ministry apologizes for questionable quote in massive ad

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A billboard. (Shutterstock)

A billboard bearing a strange message went up last week at Village Mall in Auburn, Ala. The billboard, rented by Life Savers Ministries, based in Opelika, Ala., featured a stock image of happy children and the quote “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future”—attributed, right there on the massive sign, to Adolf Hitler, the Ledger-Enquirer reports. The church group had the sign removed several days later.

The billboard went up Friday and will be taken down Tuesday, per LSM’s request.

“We are pulling the billboard and certainly never intended to cause confusion. … Herbert Hoover would have been a far better one to quote when he said, ‘Children are our most valuable resource,’” founder James Anderegg told the Ledger-Enquirer. “We are a children’s organization and had honorable intentions and nothing less.”

(more…)

The Beastie Boys’ Next Chapter

Court battles replace rap battles as the band pledges no new music or tours

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Adam Horovitz ' Ad Rock' and Mike Diamond 'Mike D' of The Beastie Boys on January 26, 2013. (Roger Kisby/Getty Images)

When Adam Yauch, better known as MCA of The Beastie Boys, died of cancer in May 2012, his will included a provision stating that “his image, music and any art he created could not be used for advertising.” That stipulation, largely consistent with the band’s longtime philosophy, has since become the basis of a series of legal battles for the band’s remaining two members, Mike D. and Ad-Rock (Michael Diamond and Adam Horovitz), first with toy company GoldieBlox over the use of the song “Girls” in a clever commercial, and now with Monster Energy Drink.

The New York Daily News reports that Diamond and Horovitz both testified in Manhattan federal court last week in a $1 million suit against the energy drink company for using the song “Sabotage” in an ad without the band’s permission. (Monster is trying to negotiate a lower fee.) (more…)

The Child Who Hated Cheesecake

The idea of a cake made of cheese repulsed my younger self. How wrong I was.

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(Shutterstock)

As a child I subsisted on four things: chicken wings, green salad, fruit, and cream cheese on toast. In fact, I ate so much cream cheese that in high school I had a vision of my arteries growing ever more narrow as layers of Temptee coated their walls. It seemed to me that if I ate any more, I’d soon prevent blood from making its way through my system.

Cream cheese was my true love. Given that, you’d think its status as key ingredient in cheesecake would mean that I’d have loved that, too. No way. To my younger self, the idea of a confection made of cheese repulsed me. The very phrase an affront, and a perfect representation of the ways in which ideas and tastes go awry as people age. Grown-ups ate cottage cheese, for crying out loud. I was told sweet potatoes tasted like candy. Really, how could their tastes be trusted? (more…)

Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Memorial Dedicated

Ending controversial debate over commemoration and government grounds

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Official rendering of Daniel Libeskind's winning design for the Ohion Statehouse Holocaust memorial. (Studio Daniel Libeskind)

A Holocaust memorial at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus designed by Daniel Libeskind was dedicated yesterday in an official ceremony that drew 1,500 attendees. It’s only the second Holocaust memorial to be built on state-owned land in the United States, and the dedication of the privately-funded monument marks the end of a controversial three-year process.

As Rebecca Meiser reported last year, it all began at the 31st annual Ohio Statehouse Holocaust Remembrance Event in May 2011, when a survivor’s account compelled Gov. John Kasich to stand and propose a Holocaust memorial on the statehouse grounds.

Meiser wrote:

Kasich’s decision to put a memorial in the statehouse was unprecedented: There are no Holocaust memorials at any other statehouse in the country. It was also technically illegal. In order for any kind of changes to be made to the Ohio statehouse grounds, it has to first pass through the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board, which controls the house grounds. The last monument to be approved was a statue of William McKinley about 100 years ago.

(more…)

An Online Universe Without the Holocaust

Illustrated series ‘Radzyn’ reimagines shtetl life in a mysterious Polish town

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Image from 'Radzyn.' (Joel Golombeck)

I, like many who are the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, grew up within my own personal Yad Vashem. I dreamt of concentration camps, my head forever full of stories of death and courage. But unlike the children of Holocaust survivors, the so-called second generation, who seem more viscerally linked to the trauma of the Holocaust, the third generation comes at it differently. To us, it can be approached more fluidly, with greater creativity, playfully even, if such a word can even be used in this context. To an outsider, such an approach may sound weirdly morbid, but how else is one to handle the strange tension that comes from living memories of a tragedy not one’s own?

A wonderfully (perhaps blasphemously) imaginative answer to this question comes from the new illustrated online story series Radzyn by writer Michael Weber and illustrator Joel Golombeck. The story begins in 1933, as the Rebbe, the Holy Master of Radzyn, offers an ominous Sabbath day sermon. From there, the story moves back to 1889, where it explores the tensions and challenges of shtetl life. The central question of the story is this: What would a shtetl look like, if somehow, miraculously, it made it through the Holocaust wholly unscathed? (more…)

Book of Ruth Retold in Animated Shavuot Video

G-dcast’s latest production features original music by Alicia Jo Rabins

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Still image from 'Ruth.' (G-dcast)

G-dcast, the Jewish production company known for its animated depictions of the Bible, is back just in time for Shavuot with a short animated film that tells the story of the Book of Ruth through vibrant imagery and an original song, “As Long as You’re With Me.”

The video’s song is written and performed by singer-songwriter Alicia Jo Rabins, founder of the band Girls in Trouble, which plays original art-pop songs about the women of the Torah. Rabins discussed the band with Vox Tablet in 2009. (more…)

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