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Even AIPAC Has Trouble Mustering U.N. Outrage

A year of deadlock and diplomatic failure has defanged the organization

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A United Nations Security Council meeting takes place on March 3, 2014 in New York City. (Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

One indication of the fading relevance of the United Nations in the public consciousness is how few people showed up to today’s AIPAC panel about it. In the past, few subjects would fire up pro-Israel activists more than the international body’s long-standing inquisition against the Jewish state. After all, while many issues arising from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are morally complex, the U.N.’s mistreatment of Israel has no such nuances. From labeling Zionism a form of racism, to barring Israel from serving on any committees for decades, to passing scores of resolutions against the Jewish state and few to none against any other countries, to putting a promoter of Holocaust denial in charge of prosecuting Israeli human rights abuses, the U.N. has subjected Israel to “a barrage of obsessive, unbalanced, and relentless criticism,” in the words of President Obama’s former ambassador to the body, Susan Rice.

And yet, despite a set of all-star panelists–U.S. Ambassador to UNESCO David Killion, Israeli Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar, and human rights NGO head Hillel Neuer–only a third of the seats were full at this afternoon’s session: “Report Card: Israel at the U.N.” Last year, by contrast, the house was packed. But as the U.N. has been exposed as increasingly impotent when it comes to global crises ranging from Syria to Ukraine, it has become increasingly irrelevant in the eyes of activists. Even its arch-enemies no longer take it seriously. (more…)

French Jew Beaten on Paris Metro

Assault reportedly carried out by four unidentified Arab men

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(Shutterstock)

A 28-year-old French Jewish man was beaten on a Paris Metro train Sunday, JTA reports. The attack took place on a west-bound train from Nogent Sur Marne to Gare de Lyon and was reportedly carried out by four unidentified Arab men, according to France’s National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism, known by the acronym BNVCA. The victim, an Orthodox Jew identified as A. Levy, was strangled and beaten and sustained several injuries.

His attackers shouted the Arab word for “Jews” before attacking Levy, who is a religious Jew belonging to the Chabad-Lubavitch movement, the report said. One of them also told him: “Jew, we are going to lay into you, you have no country,” according to the report.

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Obama: Ball in Bibi’s Court on Peace Process

The two leaders had a brief, tense meeting today in Washington, DC

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U.S. President Barack Obama (R) speaks while Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu listens during a meeting in the Oval Office, September 30, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Washington, DC for the annual AIPAC policy conference, his meeting this afternoon with President Obama has been looming large on the schedule. Obama sat down with Jeffrey Goldberg in the run-up to the meeting, putting pressure on Netanyahu to ensure the success of the next phase of the peace process. “Obama made it clear that he views Abbas as the most politically moderate leader the Palestinians may ever have,” Goldberg wrote. “It seemed obvious to me that the president believes that the next move is Netanyahu’s.”

Obama took a carefully scripted page from the Jewish scholar Hillel, maintaining that time was of the essence on the peace talks: “When I have a conversation with Bibi, that’s the essence of my conversation: If not now, when? And if not you, Mr. Prime Minister, then who? How does this get resolved? (more…)

French Jews Want a Chief Rabbi Elected

Jewish community demands new leader amidst rising tide of anti-Semitism

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People sit outside the'Florence Kahn pastries shop on July 12, 2013 in the Rue des Rosiers, the Jewish area of the Marais district in Paris(MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Hundreds of French Jews are calling for the election of a chief rabbi of France within three months, JTA reports. Their request was officially announced in a letter sent to Joel Mergui, the president of the Consistoire, the French Jewish institution responsible for electing a chief rabbi. Since former Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim stepped down in April 2013 over admissions of plagiarism and falsifying academic titles, the post has been filled by two rabbis, Michel Gugenheim and Olivier Kaufmann. But French Jews are fed up with the temporary arrangements, and they want a permanent appointment. (more…)

Massive Protest Against Haredi IDF Conscription

Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rally against proposed new law

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Hundreds of thousands of Ultra Orthodox Jews gather on March 2, 2014, in Jerusalem to demonstrate against any plans to make them undergo military service. (THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images)

The road leading to Jerusalem, eerily tinted a hazy yellow, was empty of traffic Sunday afternoon as hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews rallied in protest against legislation calling for the conscription of Haredi youth. If passed, the new law would mark an end to a status quo that dates back to the state’s inception, a deal put in place by Ben-Gurion effectively exempting ultra-Orthodox Jews from military and national service, allowing them instead to devote their lives to Torah study in yeshivas. In 2012, the Israeli Supreme Court found that arrangement to be unconstitutional and demanded the Knesset come up with a more egalitarian solution. When it became clear that the solution—the cornerstone of Yair Lapid’s platform in last year’s elections, and the product of three ministerial committees—would soon become the law of the land (“Zionism has returned,” Lapid crowed in a press conference last month), a day of protest was declared.

The highway leading to the capital was closed down early in the afternoon, as was the central bus station. Loudspeakers played heart-wrenchingly somber Hasidic music that carried as far east as the Mahane Yehuda market. An emcee interrupted the songs intermittently, urging the modest and righteous women of Jerusalem not to veer off Jaffa street—where the impromptu ezrat nashim, or women’s section, was located—so as not to spoil what he called the grandest event since the revelation on Mount Sinai. (more…)

Welcome to AIPAC, the Greatest Show on Earth

The first day brings sound and fury, but signifying what?

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Image from the 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference In Washington, DC. ( KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images)

American Jews have long been renowned for their talents in show business, and last night, they put on a clinic, complete with a rousing climactic musical number that brought down the house. No, I’m not talking about the Oscars, I’m talking about the opening plenaries of the AIPAC Policy Conference.

The annual three-day gathering of the country’s largest pro-Israel lobby is political theater at its finest—sleek, sensational and scripted. With TED talk-style keynote speakers, wall-to-wall jumbotrons, slick testimonial videos, and even musical acts, AIPAC’s Policy Conference is a spectacle to rival the national political conventions. And as at those conventions, the message is so tightly controlled, and the speeches so carefully choreographed, that news is rarely made on stage. Yesterday’s opening events were no exception. (more…)

Two Signed Copies of ‘Mein Kampf’ For Sale

Bidding on Hitler’s anti-Semitic manifesto starts at $20,000

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A signed copy of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf is displayed on June 2, 2005 in London, England. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Signed copies of Mein Kampf for sale. That’s right, two rare copies of Mein Kampf signed by Adolf Hitler are being auctioned online this week—and bidding for these early editions of the Nazi leader’s manifesto begins at $20,000. Hitler reportedly gave the volumes to Josef Bauer, an early leader of the Nazi party, as a holiday gift. (more…)

AIPAC Bingo!

Play along at home with Tablet in Washington

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Wishing you could participate in AIPAC’s Policy Conference? We have just the thing for you. Play along at home with our exclusive Tablet AIPAC 2014 Bingo boards! How frequently will Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasize that “no deal is better than a bad deal” when it comes to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear program? How many times will American and Israeli officials insist that Israel must be recognized as “the nation state of the Jewish people” in any peace agreement with the Palestinians? And will either Secretary of State John Kerry or Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew dare to raise the issue of settlements? (more…)

Are Jews in Ukraine Under Threat?

Racist nationalists are not determining the direction of the Maidan movement

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The amount of recent discussion about Ukraine’s ethnic minorities among bloggers and academics may seem surprising, given the larger political issues at stake—like who will lead the country, and whether Ukraine is at risk of division. I have waded into this conversation, arguing that the concept of “pogroms” is being manipulated in discussions of the Maidan movement. Adam Weinstein, while hopeful about the Maidan, undercuts his optimism with the rather hyperbolic statement that “No side is especially friendly to Jews or any other religious, ethnic, or sexual minority, because this is Ukraine.” In a recent interview, the historian Alexei Miller has disturbingly linked the protesters to fascists, claiming that “people who are ready to die are also ready to kill.”

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Joseph Lovett Documents Lives of Converso Jews

See clips from his film-in-progress, “Children of the Inquisition”

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For ten years, veteran documentary filmmaker Joseph Lovett has been working on a project close to his heart, Children of the Inquisition, which tells the stories of descendants of Jews who fled Spain and Portugal in 1492—some of whom remained practicing Jews, others who are only now discovering their lineage.

“It’s something that I always found fascinating,” said Lovett, who grew up Jewish in Providence, Rhode Island. His rabbi had gone to Madrid in 1958 and when he asked about Jews and Judaism, no one would talk to him. “The shadow of the Inquisition still reigned.”

Many years later, visiting Spain during the commemoration of Columbus’s quincentennial, Lovett noticed that “there suddenly was so much interest in the Jewish diaspora and the expulsion,” he said. “I realized this story has never been told.”

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Argentinian Rabbi Skips Parliament for Shabbat

Sergio Bergman, newly elected lawmaker, honors day of rest

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In this Dec. 12, 2012, picture provided by the NCI-Emanue El, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), lights the menorah during Hanukkah celebrations in Buenos Aires, Argentina. At left is Rabbi Sergio Bergman, and at right is Rabbi Alejandro Avruj. (NCI-Emanu El/AP)

Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a newly elected lawmaker in Argentina’s parliament, has announced that he will be skipping tomorrow’s mandatory opening session because it takes place on Shabbat.

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Hipsters and Hasids Turn to Beard Transplants

Playing “Hipster or Hasid” is about to get harder

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Hipster or Hasid?(Shutterstock)

The next big thing in cosmetic surgery: facial hair transplants.

DNAinfo reports that New Yorkers are paying thousands of dollars to ensure that their beards remain full and luscious, and Hasidic men are among the prime consumers of this popular hair therapy, requesting sidelock implants for “denser payot.”

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Rabbi Wolpe’s Picks: Charismatic Leaders, False Messiahs

‘The Mixed Multitude’ by Pawel Maciejko

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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.

Speaking of the conversion of Jacob Frank and his followers to Christianity in the mid-1700s, historian Pawel Maciejko writes: “In contrast to typical reactions of sadness, anger, or despair, many Jews saw the conversion Frank and his group as a God-given miracle and a great victory for Judaism. Entire communities celebrated.”

Why would a Jewish community be glad that others were converting? In his detailed and important book, The Mixed Multitude, Maciejko recounts the tale of Jacob Frank, a charismatic heretic turned Muslim and Christian, whose name was anathema to generations of Jews before the memory of the Frankist debacle disappeared, save among scholars, in the mists of shamed forgetfulness.

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Donning Tefillin for the First Time with the Munkatcher Rebbe

Composer Yossi Green ushers his grandson into Jewish adulthood

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Yossi's son-in-law Moshe Bergstein, Shimi Bergstein, and the Munkatcher Rebbe on the morning on February 23.(Yossi Green)

On a Sunday morning in Brooklyn, in the regally beautiful and iconic Munkatcher synagogue, hundreds of people are assembled for the morning prayers. The sun, having finally made an appearance from where it’s been hiding this icy-cold winter, is at last pouring its warm light through the high stained-glass windows, illuminating the faces of the congregants. People are swaying slowly, eyes raised in supplication, anticipating the presence of Rabbi Moshe Leib Rabinovich, the Munkatcher Rebbe, who is known for his selfless devotion to all who come asking for a favor, comfort, or advice. I am sitting off to a side between my son-in-law and my first and oldest grandson, who is finally approaching the day of his bar mitzvah.

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Jewish Films and Filmmakers Nominated for 86th Academy Awards

Woody Allen abuse allegations cast shadow over reception of ‘Blue Jasmine’

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In preparation for the Oscars this Sunday, a primer on all things Jewish about this year’s nominated films:

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