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A Jewish Reading Guide for Pride Month

Rabbis, writers, and poets select essential LGBT titles for Jewish readers

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(Erik Mace)

When my Jewish- and gay-themed novel Sweet Like Sugar came out in 2011, I wrote a blog post for the Jewish Book Council listing other LGBT books I thought might be of particular interest to Jewish readers. I named about two dozen titles, ranging from novels to memoirs to nonfiction.

But that was just my opinion.

In honor of Pride month, I asked several other people who know Jewish LGBT literature (including some who wrote books I’d included in my blog post) to name three essential books that Tablet readers should know about. They could define “essential” however they wanted: most accessible, most overlooked, most influential, best written, etc. The only thing they couldn’t do was choose their own books.

Narrowing down the choices to just three titles is difficult. (more…)

Paul Rudd Loves ‘Annie Hall’

Woody Allen’s 1976 flick is the Jewish actor’s favorite romantic comedy

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Paul Rudd arrives at the 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' Australian premiere on November 24, 2013 in Sydney, Australia. (Caroline McCredie/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures International)

Paul Rudd, lovable staple of the Apatovian canon and star of the occasional quirky romantic comedy, is back on the big screen with They Came Together, a comedy written by Michael Showalter and David Wain out this week. Vulture describes the parody film, which skewers the romantic comedy genre, as “Borrowing heavily from Nora Ephron, Woody Allen, and Jane Austen”—which is a nearly foolproof way to get us to see a movie.

The pop culture site asked Rudd and co-star Amy Poehler what their favorite romantic comedies were, and Rudd’s answer was entirely unsurprising for a Jewish boy from New Jersey. (more…)

The Lost Poems of Ka-Tzetnik 135633

Auction house offering Auschwitz survivor’s elusive pre-war book for $7,000; copies also available at several libraries

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Photocopy of the title page of Ka-Tzetnik's 1931 book of poetry, Twenty-Two Poems. (YIVO)

The most significant moment at the Eichmann Trial occurred when the Polish-born writer Yehiel Feiner collapsed while testifying on the stand in Jerusalem, after he was asked a simple procedural question at the beginning of his testimony—the reason why he concealed his identify behind the pseudonym Ka-Tzetnik 135633 (Ka-Tzetnik is the Yiddish term for a concentration camp inmate).

He responded:

“It was not a pen name. I do not regard myself as a writer and a composer of literary material. This is a chronicle of the planet of Auschwitz. I was there for about two years. Time there was not like it is here on earth. Every fraction of a minute there passed on a different scale of time. And the inhabitants of this planet had no names, they had no parents nor did they have children. There they did not dress in the way we dress here; they were not born there and they did not give birth; they breathed according to different laws of nature; they did not live—nor did they die—according to the laws of this world. Their name was the number Ka-Tzetnik.”

Later in his testimony, Ka-Tzetnik stood and turned around, and he then collapsed on the ground. (more…)

‘The Misfits’ Actor Eli Wallach Dies at 98

The prolific nonagenarian appeared in more than 90 films over 60 years

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Actor Eli Wallach speaks during the Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival Gala on November 14, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Eli Wallach, the character actor known for his roles in films like The Magnificent Seven, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and The Misfits, died Tuesday at 98, the New York Times reports. Wallach acted in more than 90 movies in the past 60 years, with recent appearances in The Holiday, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. He acted in various theater productions as well over the years, many of them Tennessee Williams productions, and regularly appeared onstage alongside his wife, the actress Anne Jackson.

Wallach was Jewish and played several Jewish characters in film and onstage throughout his career. But his breakout roles, and the roles for which he is best remembered, were distinctly Italian characters. (more…)

Former Madoff Accountant Pleads Guilty to Fraud

Paul Konigsberg faces up to 20 years in prison

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Bernard Madoff leaves a bail hearing at US Federal Court on January 14, 2009 in New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Paul Konigsberg, Bernard Madoff’s former accountant, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to aiding in Madoff’s $17 billion fraud, Reuters reports. Konigsberg, a former senior tax partner at Konigsberg Wolf & Co, admitted to one count of conspiracy and two counts of falsifying the records of a broker-dealer.

The 78-year-old accountant said that he and employees at Madoff’s firm manipulated customer account statements and filed tax returns based on the manipulated statements, but maintained that he wasn’t aware that Madoff’s entire business was a fraudulent operation. Konigsberg now faces up to 20 years in prison. (more…)

Is ‘Raiders’ the Most Audacious Holocaust Movie Ever?

Indiana Jones kicks off Spielberg retrospective at Museum of Jewish Heritage

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Harrison Ford in Raiders of the Lost Ark. (MV Film Society)

A little over 20 years ago, when Schindler’s List first appeared, Steven Spielberg gave a series of interviews in which he talked about how, as a child, he’d been uncomfortable with being Jewish.

“It isn’t something I enjoy admitting,” he told Parade, “but when I was 7, 8, 9 years old, God forgive me, I was embarrassed because we were Orthodox Jews. I was embarrassed by the outward perception of my parents’ Jewish practices…. My grandfather always wore a long black coat, black hat and long white beard. I was embarrassed to invite my friends over to the house, because he might be in a corner davening [praying], and I wouldn’t know how to explain this to my WASP friends.”

What his new movie meant, Spielberg suggested, was that he wasn’t embarrassed anymore. He’d figured out how to explain Jewishness to non-Jews, or, at the very least, he’d decided it was time to start trying. (more…)

Man Sues After Landing in Grenada, Not Granada

American with Spanish-Jewish heritage wanted to visit the Andalusian city

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(Milosz_M / Shutterstock.com)

An American dentist hoping to visit the Spanish city of Granada for a few days before a conference in Portugal got a rude awakening when what he thought would be a two-hour flight from London turned out to be a nine-hour flight—to Grenada, in the Caribbean. Time reports that Edward Gamson of Philadelphia is suing British Airways for mixing up the two cities (it apparently happens a lot) and refusing to reimburse the $4,500 first-class tickets he and his partner booked for the trip.

As Gamson told Britain’s The Independent, he wanted always wanted to visit Granada, an medieval center of Jewish culture in Spain. (more…)

French Court Drops Lawsuit Against Dieudonné

Says comedian’s video mocking the Holocaust doesn’t constitute hate speech

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Posters in Tours, France, advertising controversial humorist Dieudonne M'bala M'bala's 2014 show, which was baned by local authorities. (GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)

Controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has escaped his latest legal battle, JTA reports. A French court dismissed a hate speech lawsuit brought against Dieudonné by the Union of Jewish Students of France, or UEJF, over a YouTube video in which he mocks the Holocaust and suggests that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls gives the Jews of France preferential treatment.

While “capable of shocking and offending,” the judge wrote, “the video seeks to stigmatize and discredit Manuel Valls and to denounce the privileged status that he allegedly reserved for French Jews,” and “cannot justify severe limitations on freedom of expression.”

(more…)

France’s Jews Elect New Chief Rabbi

Rabbi Haim Korsia, Jewish chaplain in the French army, selected for the post

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Newly elected 'Great Rabbi of France' Haim Korsia, speaks to journalists on June 22, 2014, in Paris. (FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)

France’s Jewish community has elected a new chief rabbi, JTA reports. The last chief rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, resigned in April 2013 after admitting to plagiarism and falsifying his academic titles, and the post had since been filled by two interim chief rabbis, Michel Gugenheim and Olivier Kaufmann. But in March, the Jewish community demanded the election of a new chief rabbi, issuing a letter that stated the community needed a “legitimate” chief rabbi to “express the voice of Judaism during the difficult period we are experiencing.”

Rabbi Haim Korsia, the French army’s Jewish chaplain, was elected to the post, beating out Kaufmann 131-97. He has a weighty task ahead of him, representing a community that is becoming increasingly marginalized and under outright attack. In the span of one week earlier this month in Paris, a Jewish teenager was attacked with a Taser; Jewish teens were sprayed with tear gas; and Jewish boys and their grandfather were chased by an ax-wielding man during Shavuot. (more…)

Five Things To Know About David Blatt

Former Maccabi Tel Aviv coach named head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers

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Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv's coach David Blatt reacts during the Euroleague Playoff game between Emporio Armani Milan and Maccabi Electra Tel-Aviv on April 16, 2014. (GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/Getty Images)

After 30 years of playing and coaching basketball abroad, David Blatt has finally earned his big break in the United States. On Wednesday, Blatt—who last week stepped down as coach of Maccabi Tel Aviv after four seasons with the team—will be officially introduced as the new head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Here are five things you should know about Blatt as he heads to the NBA. (more…)

China Restores Synagogue Founded in 1909

Main Synagogue in the city of Harbin once held 450 Orthodox congregants

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Main Synagogue on Tongjiang Street in Harbin, China. (Museum of Family History)

After a year of restoration, the Chinese city of Harbin reopened a 105-year-old synagogue to the public last week, JTA reports. The Main Synagogue on Tongjiang Street, once an Orthodox synagogue seating up to 450 people, had been a staple of one of the largest Jewish communities in the region; thousands of Jews fleeing persecution in Europe and Czarist Russia made their way to Harbin in the 20th century.

The synagogue was damaged by a fire in 1931, and ultimately closed down in 1963. The building was later converted into a hospital and a hostel. (more…)

Michael Douglas Continues Son’s Bar Mitzvah Celebration in Israel

No hora-related injuries reported this time around

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Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas attend the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda on June 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. ( Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for AFI)

Michael Douglas, who infamously partied a little too hearty at his son Dylan’s bar mitzvah party last month, suffering a hora-related injury (“I got carried away at my son’s bar mitzvah this weekend. You know they put you up in the chairs over the top — I think something happened there,” he told Page Six), isn’t done with the celebrations just yet.

Douglas, wife Catherine Zeta-Jones, and their children were in Israel this weekend for the second leg of Dylan’s bar mitzvah, YNet reports. (more…)

Teen Killed by Syrian Forces in Golan Heights

Israel retaliates with airstrikes on nine military targets in Syria

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Israeli soldiers are seen on their Merkava tank positioned near the Quneitra checkpoint on the border with Syria in the Golan Heights on June 22, 2014, after an Israeli teen was killed in an attack from Syria. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

A 13-year-old Arab-Israeli teen traveling by car through the Golan Heights was killed and his father, an Israeli defense contractor, was wounded in an attack from across the Syrian border, Reuters reports. The Sunday attack, which the Israeli army said could have been an explosive device, rocket, or mortar fire, resulted in the first Israeli casualty since the start of the Syrian Civil War in 2011.

Israeli forces retaliated with airstrikes targeting Syrian military targets, the AP reports.

In all, Israel said it struck nine military targets inside Syria, and “direct hits were confirmed.” The targets were located near the site of Sunday’s violence in the Golan Heights and included a regional military command center and unspecified “launching positions.” There was no immediate response from Syria.

This is the latest in a series of incidents to erupt between the two countries in the Golan Heights area in recent months. (more…)

Presbyterian Church USA Narrowly Approves Divestment

Measure passes General Assembly by a vote of 310-303

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(Wikipedia Commons)

This evening in Detroit, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA approved divestment from three companies which do business with Israel–Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, and Motorola Solutions–on the grounds that their products abet the Israeli occupation. The motion passed narrowly 310-303. An amendment stating that the Church was not divesting from Israel, only these U.S.-based companies, was added in a last-minute attempt to disassociate the move from the controversial Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, despite the fact that BDS activists were instrumental in drafting and lobbying for the resolution. An amendment to reinvest the divested funds in Israeli companies engaged in “peaceful solutions” was rejected, and the Assembly also approved a resolution calling for the reexamination of the Church’s support for the two-state solution, by a tally of 482-88.

The vote in favor of divestment was not unexpected, as the move was defeated by only two votes, 333-331, at the 2012 General Assembly. Unsurprisingly, the debate leading up to this year’s vote was heated. To many Presbyterians and Jews, it was also deeply troubling. Earlier this week, one longtime Israel boycott activist in the Church, Presbyterian minister Larry Grimm, told Jews to leave Israel and that America was really their “Promised Land.” At the General Assembly itself, a shocked Presbyterian blogger reported that during prayers, Virginia Sheets, the vice moderator of the Middle East issues committee, “suggested that Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell the Jews when they were wrong.” Zionism Unsettled, the pamphlet assembled by divestment activists to press their case, labeled Zionism as racism and drew strong condemnation from prominent Presbyterian leaders, who noted that it had been endorsed by the notorious white supremacist David Duke, who praised its usage of racist terminology he originally coined. (The DVD accompanying the booklet also claimed that Jews fabricated their connection to Jerusalem for political purposes.) An anonymous Twitter account set up by divestment activists even attempted to smear a Jewish Israel advocate in attendance at the General Assembly for “mocking” Presbyterian hymns. (Video showed otherwise.) (more…)

Nazi-Era Jerseys on View in World Cup Exhibit

Display in Salvador, Brazil, endorsed by the tournament’s local committee

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Germany's 1934 World Cup soccer jersey, on display in Salvador, Brazil. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

A soccer exhibit at a mall in the World Cup host city of Salvador, Brazil, has some surprising items on display. Among the more than 100 vintage World Cup jerseys dating back to the first tournament in 1930 is the swastika-adorned jersey of Germany’s 1934 team, the AP reports. There’s also a Mussolini-era Italian jersey that features the fasces, the symbol of Italian fascism.

The exhibit’s organizer—and the owner of the jerseys—said the whole thing was approved by official channels.

Salvador doctor Duda Sampao, the owner of the collections, said that the exhibition has been endorsed by the local Brazilian World Cup organizing committee, and therefore has the consent of FIFA. World football governing body officials refused to comment, referring the matter to local organizers.

(more…)

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