Jewish Extremists Arrested in Murder of Palestinian Teen

Reportedly an act of revenge for the murders of three Israeli teens this month

Relatives of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdair mourn his death, on July 2, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images)

Six suspects have been arrested in last week’s grisly murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose body was found charred in a forest outside Jerusalem an hour after he was reported missing from the East Jerusalem town of Beit Hanina, the Times of Israel reports. The suspects reportedly belong to a Jewish extremist group, and the murder has been characterized as a nationalistic revenge act for the murders of three Israeli teens, Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19, earlier this month. (more…)

Shonda in the Supreme Court

The Hobby Lobby decision was bleak—and the outlook is worse still

U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

As a person who is both a) a committed crafter and b) in possession of female reproductive organs that, as far as I know, are in reasonably good working order, I have followed the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case with interest. Five conservative justices—depressingly, but not surprisingly—ruled that certain corporations, due to their ostensible religious convictions, had the constitutional right to deny their mostly female employees insurance coverage for several types of birth control on account of how it might cause abortion, because nobody knows how all that junk inside the sinful daughters of Eve actually works, certainly not the doctors who testified that this was in fact emphatically not the case. (Who trusts doctors anyway? They’re just a bunch of Jews and Indian people now or whatever.)

Hobby Lobby is not only America’s foremost authority on all your scrapbooking needs, they also have a God-given (really Scalia-given, but if you ask him it’s pretty much the same thing) right to tell you exactly how Jesus would want to you deal with your polycystic ovary syndrome. Who would know better? Certainly not you, you wanton Jezebel.

I understand I’m sounding slightly hysterical here. (You’ll forgive me a slight case of the “traveling womb.” I’ll be checking myself into the asylum later.) (more…)

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Dies at 89

The legendary spiritual leader was a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement

(Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi)

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, has died at 89 in Boulder, Colo. His wife, Eve Ilsen, announced the news on the online journal that the family was using to chronicle Schachter-Shalomi’s health complications throughout the month

The famed spiritual leader was born in Poland in 1924. His family fled to Vienna, them Belgium, then various other countries before arriving in New York in 1943. Schachter-Shalomi joined the Lubavitch branch of Orthodox Judaism, and in his early twenties was ordained as a rabbi.

In the late 1960s, he began embracing more liberal elements of Judaism and moving away from the Lubavitch movement, ultimately leaving it entirely. While still in the movement, though, he famously took LSD with Timothy Leary at an ashram in Massachusetts (“better than schnapps”), seeking the Rebbe’s blessing beforehand. He would go on to become one of the founders of the Jewish Renewal movement, which encourages a more spiritual, meditative practice and personal connection with God. (more…)

The Best Barbecue Recipes for the Fourth of July

A kosher BBQ maven’s Texas Dry Rub and Amar’e Stoudemire’s Short Ribs


Independence Day is upon us, and while it’s not a Jewish holiday, it does have a ‘they tried to rule us, we won our independence, let’s eat’ vibe to it. In the spirit of freedom, and grilling—which is, after all, the official fourth of July pastime—here are two of our favorite barbecue recipes from Tablet’s archives.

The first comes from kosher barbecue maven and El Paso native Ari White, who shared his All-Purpose Texas BBQ Dry Rub recipe with Tablet last year. It’s 12-spice rub that combines sweet, savory, and spicy flavors, and can be used on anything from meat to pineapples (there’s video proof).

The second is from New York Knicks power forward Amar’e Stoudemire, a part-owner of Israeli basketball team Hapoel Jerusalem whose interest in Judaism has been well-documented (by us, at least). His new cookbook, new cookbook, Cooking with Amar’e, includes the short rib recipe his family love to serve at their epic Shabbat dinners. (more…)

Are Ashkenazi Jews Descended From Khazars?

New research in the ongoing academic debate says no

Image of the Khazar fortress at Sarkel, constructed in the 9th century. (Wikipedia)

There’s a new chapter in the ever-heated, ongoing, and somewhat esoteric debate over whether Ashkenazi Jews descended from the Khazars, a Turkic people who lived in the Caucasus region between the 7th and 10th centuries. A long-held theory posits that members of the kingdom converted to Judaism at the behest of their ruler, a notion that anchored Yehuda Ha-Levi’s Kuzari and fascinated Stalin. But in a new article in the journal Jewish Social Studies, Hebrew University researcher Shaul Stampfer argues there is no evidence from Medieval Jewish, Islamic or Christian texts that such a conversion took place.

“The silence of so many sources about the Khazars’ Judaism is very suspicious,” Stampfer tells Haaretz. “The Byzantines, the geonim [Jewish religious leaders of the sixth to eleventh centuries], the sages of Egypt—none of them have a word about the Jewish Khazars.” (more…)

A Familiar Name Fights Presbyterian Divestment

Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr’s nephew takes on the U.S. church

Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. (AP Photo, File)

For Gustav Niebuhr, the former New York Times religion reporter, this month’s controversial decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest from companies that do business with Israel is an affront—both spiritual and personal.

The 58-year-old grand-nephew of famed Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr—once described by Barack Obama as “one of my favorite philosophers”—is fighting back against what he sees as the Church’s misguided take on Israel and attack on his great-uncle.

In “Zionism Unsettled,” a study guide published by a national committee of the Presbyterian Church that blames the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “on pathology inherent in Zionism,” the authors attack not only the Jewish State, but also its supporters— including Reinhold Niebuhr. (more…)

German Teacher Caught Stealing From Auschwitz

Arrested for taking 10 items he wanted to bring back to his classroom

Entrance gates to the former Auschwitz concentration camp. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

People really like taking stuff from Auschwitz. In April, an Italian tourist was arrested for trying to smuggle 16 inches of barbed wire from the former Nazi concentration camp, and last month, administrators at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, which operates on the site, reported a rise in visitors taking “souvenirs” like railway spikes and other small items from the grounds. (School groups are apparently also carving their names into walls in the former barracks.)

The latest case of theft from Auschwitz allegedly comes in the name of education. A German teacher was arrested at the former concentration camp with 10 stolen items on his person, including a fork, shards of pottery, and a piece of a scissor, taken from where a warehouse once stood, JTA reports. His defense? He wanted to use them in his classroom. (more…)

Want Joan Rivers To Officiate Your Wedding? Just Ask

The online-ordained minister married a gay couple during her book signing

Joan Rivers on Feb. 26, 2014. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for GLOBAL GREEN USA)

Joan Rivers, the patron saint of I Don’t Care What You Think, is also, apparently, a woman of god. The Jewish comedian got ordained online last year with the Universal Life Church so that she could officiate at a friend’s wedding atop the Empire State Building. Her ordination was called upon again this week at the decidedly less formal Barnes and Noble in New York City’s Union Square, the New York Post reports, when an attendee at her book signing asked if she could marry him and his boyfriend. Right there. At Barnes and Noble.

Rivers, of course, was game. Someone found flowers and the crowd of 400 (!) serenaded Jed Ryan and Joseph Aiello as they (I imagine) walked down the almanac or new fiction aisle, where Rivers (Reverend Rivers? Rabbi Rivers??) was waiting to officiate. (more…)

Setting the Mood for the Fourth of July

A freedom-themed playlist for however you’re celebrating Independence Day


It’s the fourth of July. You’re having a barbecue. Or maybe you’ll be going to one. There’s potato salad to make. Or eat. Corn to shuck. Watermelon to slice. Meat to sear. Beers to drink.

All the while you think you might want to contemplate independence. Or liberty. Or freedom. Or your Bill of Rights. Your Constitution.

Well, friends, it’s your lucky day. We’ve made a playlist to gird you in these admirable endeavors. (more…)

Visiting the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Grave in Queens

Thousands flock to New York for the 20th yahrzeit of the Hasidic leader


During the 24 hours of yesterday’s 20th yahrzeit for Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, tens of thousands of people descended on a Queens cemetery to pay tribute to the beloved Hasidic leader, who died on June 12, 1994. They are there to visit the graves (Schneerson is buried at the Montefiore Cemetery next to the grave of his father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson, and near their spouses as well as the wife of fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Sholom Dovber Schneersohn) as well as tour the visitor center and yeshiva that is housed in the various buildings near the Ohel, as the site is known by members of Chabad.

While waiting in line under a tent in the blazing sun yesterday, with fans and water coolers set up for the crowds of visitors, and videos of the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe playing on large screens, I heard a symphony of Jewish languages from around the world. Chabad emissaries and their families and friends traveled here from around the world for the chance to spend two minutes at the graves at the Ohel. (more…)

Nazis’ Aryan ‘Poster Child’ Was Actually Jewish

She’s now an 80-year-old chemistry professor in New York City

Image of a photograph of Hessy Taft taken in 1935 and used as Nazi propaganda. (YouTube/USC Shoah Foundation)

When the Nazis held a contest in the 1930s to determine the most beautiful Aryan baby, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels probably didn’t mean to choose an image of a Jewish child out of the stack of baby photos submitted. But according to Hessy Taft, now 80 and a chemistry professor in New York City, the image selected was a professional photograph taken of her as a six-month-old in Berlin in 1935.

The Telegraph reported the story, first published in Germany’s Bild, of how the photographer, knowing full well that the child pictured was Jewish, entered the photograph into the contest “to make the Nazis ridiculous.” The joke was certainly on somebody, because when the photo appeared on the cover of the Nazi magazine Sonne ins Hause—and on postcards and other widely distributed forms of Nazi propaganda—the family panicked, worried that the Nazis would discover the identity of the child, and learn she was Jewish.

“I can laugh about it now,” the 80-year-old Professor Taft told Germany’s Bild newspaper in an interview. “But if the Nazis had known who I really was, I wouldn’t be alive.”


How One Victim of Hamas Terrorism Responded to the Murder of an Arab Teen

Israelis and their leaders react to possible revenge killing outside Jerusalem

Israeli policemen search the area after a body of a Palestinian youth was found in Jerusalem's forest area on July 2, 2014. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning, the body of 16-year-old Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir was found in a Jerusalem forest. While the perpetrators have not been identified, police are investigating whether the murder was committed in retribution for the three slain Israeli teens whose bodies were discovered earlier this week, or if it was the result of clan violence in the area.

Israelis and their leaders, however, did not wait to discover the murderers and their motives before condemning the brutal act. Prime Minister Netanyahu called it a “despicable murder” and ordered that “investigators act as quickly as possible” to find who committed the killing and why. Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat labeled the murder “a horrible and barbaric act.” Similar statements of outrage and calls for swift justice were made across the political spectrum from Justice Minister Tzipi Livni to Housing Minister Uri Ariel, while a rally against hate was organized in Jerusalem, drawing thousands of Israelis.

But one of the most powerful Israeli condemnations of the crime came not from any public official, but from a woman named Kay Wilson. (more…)

Paul Mazursky: ‘I Was Born Eating Kreplach and Matzoh Brei and Lox’

An excerpt from Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish

Director Paul Mazursky on November 7, 2012 in Beverly Hills, California. (Valerie Macon/Getty Images)

In 2005, Abigail Pogrebin published Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish. The following is an excerpt from the chapter about Paul Mazursky, the director and actor who died Monday at 84 in Los Angeles.

“Halvah is probably the closest thing I have to being religious,” says director/actor Paul Mazursky, sitting in an office so spartan it looks temporary. “I’ve been on a diet for 20 years, but if you give me a piece of halvah, it’s over; I’m going to eat it.”

Mazursky, 75, writer and director of An Unmarried Woman, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, and Tempest, among other films, is acting these days in Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm on HBO. “I don’t have a good psychological explanation for why I’m Jewish,” he says from under his baseball cap. “I was born eating kreplach and matzoh brei and lox. The Jews don’t make good main dishes, by the way. They’re only good at making what you call ‘fore spice’—the stuff before the meal. And some of the desserts. Rugelach is a treasure.” (more…)

Body of Palestinian Teen Found in Forest

Riots in East Jerusalem as Palestinians call the grisly murder a revenge act

An Israeli police investigator stands at the scene where a body was found on July 2, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Two days after the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teenagers were discovered buried in a field in Hebron, the charred body of a Palestinian teen was found in the Jerusalem Forest. Muhammad Hussein Abu Khdeir had been reported missing from the East Jerusalem town of Beit Hanina several hours earlier.

According to the New York Times, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said that authorities “received a report early Wednesday of a teenager being forced into a vehicle in the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Hanina and immediately put up roadblocks to try to locate the vehicle.” The body was discovered soon afterward in the nearby forest, and “Rosenfeld said the police were investigating both criminal and nationalistic motives for the killing.”

The timing of the murder, so soon after the bodies of Naftali Fraenkel, 16, Gilad Shaar, 16, and Eyal Yifrach, 19 were discovered in the West Bank following an expansive 18-day search, has only heightened tensions in the region, as the suggestion that Abu Khdeir’s murder could have been an act of revenge gains traction. (more…)

Two Women Arrested for Attacking Elderly Jewish Man

79-year-old Brooklyn resident treated for minor injuries at the hospital


Two women were arrested early Sunday morning for assaulting an elderly Jewish man in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Raven Small, 20 and Tatyana Bone, 18, were charged with the assault of 79-year-old Naftali Lebovits, the New York Daily News reports. The two women attempted to leave the scene but were apprehended by police shortly after 1 a.m., according to JTA. Police said that the motive was unknown.

Lebovits, a member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Williamsburg, was reportedly hit on the back of the head and knocked to the ground; he was treated in the hospital for minor injuries. (more…)

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