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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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Holocaust Survivor’s Purse Tells Story in the Smithsonian

The handbag and its contents will be on display through May

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Holocaust Survivor Camilla Gottlieb's Purse (Smithsonian)

It’s said that the contents of a woman’s purse say a lot about her. In the case of Holocaust survivor Camilla Gottlieb, however, they say a lot more than that. In a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History titled “Camilla’s Purse,” a number of letters, official documents, and personal possessions from the Holocaust, which Gottlieb collected in a black leather purse, are on display. The collection of objects chronicle her deportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, her liberation, and her immigration to the United States, amounting to a tale that represents many more people than just Camilla Gottlieb herself. (more…)

New York Times Readers Annoyed at Number of Jewish Writers

Complain about over-representation of Jews on popular parenting blog

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(Shutterstock)

I enjoyed reading this New York Times Motherlode blog post by a Jewish writer describing her experience letting go of a superstition against baby showers, until I got to the comments. Midway through them, I found myself wondering when someone would make an explicit pejorative reference to the “Jew York Times.” It may as well have been there, given the umbrage a handful of readers took at what they characterized as an over-representation of Jewish voices and concerns in the popular parenting blog.

A commenter named Sharon thusly kicked off the fracas: “The topics presented in this blog seem to always have some sort of direct or indirect Jewish tie-in… this one, Zachary’s shiva, the acne lady mentioning that her secular school friends left her alone but the Hewbrew [sic] school kids were merciless, the over-priviledged [sic] pre-school couple was Jewish.” (more…)

Records From Christie Bridge Scandal Feature Top Officials Mocking Rabbi

“We cannot cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we?”

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie with Rabbi Mendy Carlebach (far right) (Chabad of Central New Jersey)

Uncensored records released today by the legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge lane closings in New Jersey revealed an ugly exchange between David Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly, two key players in the unfolding scandal. The top officials joked openly about causing traffic problems for Rabbi Mendy Carlebach, an Orthodox Rabbi who runs the Chabad of North and South Brunswick and serves as a chaplain for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department. Rabbi Carlebach is also a close friend and ally to Gov. Chris Christie, the Newark Star Ledger reports. (more…)

Israel’s Most Sexist Ads

Women’s Zionist group names most shameful Israeli advertisements

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(Shutterstock)

Shame is the name of the game for the Women’s International Zionist Organization. As part of their “Mark of Shame” campaign this month, the organization announced its top ten list for the most sexist Israeli advertisements of the year, reports the Jerusalem Post. The list’s release comes right before International Women’s Day, which will be celebrated around the world on March 8th.

A panel comprising Knesset members, psychologists, and academics compile the list, which has been published each year for the past six years. This year’s main offenders include the Israeli Postal Service–which ran an ad of an elderly woman experiencing pleasure while a robber touched her body–Mei Eden Water, and ALDO shoes. (more…)

Israeli Artist Under Fire at Moroccan Cultural Festival

Keren Cytter becomes lightning rod in country’s debate over Israel

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Sunset in Marrakech, Morocco (Shutterstock)

Yesterday, the fifth Marrakech Biennale opened in Morocco, showcasing the works of over forty contemporary artists, both local and international. The theme of this year’s iteration of the artistic festival is a question: “Where are we now?” It is answered through a mix of exhibits of visual arts, cinema, literature, and performing arts, all of which will run until the end of March.

So, where are we now? Apparently we are at the point where five Moroccan parties, including the country’s ruling Justice and Development Party (PJD), have sponsored two bills to outlaw relations with Israel. And the Marrakech Biennale, founded in 2004 and celebrating its 10th anniversary, is therefore proceeding under a cloud of controversy—thanks to the inclusion of an Israeli artist, Keren Cytter. (more…)

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