Beggars Dressing as Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn

‘Savvy’ panhandlers reportedly don Hasidic garb to seek tzedakah


Would you give money to a beggar if you knew that he, too, was Jewish? That’s the logic that “savvy” panhandlers in South Brooklyn are banking on, according to the New York Post.

In the strangest trend story of the summer, the Post reports that beggars in neighborhoods with large Orthodox Jewish populations have taken to wearing long skirts and head coverings to appear Jewish themselves, often asking for money before Shabbat and Jewish holidays. (more…)

Soccer Fanaticism Leads to Violence Everywhere

Israel is no different than any other sports-obsessed country


Earlier today, I wrote an article suggesting that the brutal murder of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir by young Jews in Jerusalem had little to do with the cycle of violence that is the narrative of choice of journalists and intellectuals covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a lot to do with the fact that the suspects are active members of a group of fanatical fans of the Beitar Jerusalem soccer club, known for its frequent violent outbursts. Many readers took issue with the premise of the article; because I believe the point at stake could not be more crucial, let me sharpen it further.

First of all, it seems very likely that Abu-Khudair’s murderers were indeed active members of La Familia, the radical Beitar fan group. This was reported on Israeli and American media outlets, attributed to Israeli police officials familiar with the investigation. (more…)

Remembering Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

An unconventional funeral for the founder of the Jewish Renewal movement

The body of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi is carried up a hill during a funeral service at Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder on Friday July 4, 2014. (The Boulder Daily Camera)

His leaving was as unconventional as his teaching and his life.

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi wanted no casket, no plain pine box. For his funeral, which was held on the fourth of July, he wanted to be clothed in his white kittel, enfolded in his father’s tallis, sprinkled with ashes brought from Auschwitz, then shrouded in white linen and lowered directly into the earth near his home in Boulder, Colo.

He wanted the ashes buried with him in honor of the millions who’d died without receiving “a holy burial.”

It felt wrenching to shovel dirt onto his body. It also felt a privilege. (more…)

Israel’s Rabbis Condemn Murder of Arab Teen

‘This is not the way of the Torah,’ says Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau

David Lau, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

In the wake of the brutal murder of Arab teenager Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem, allegedly committed by Jewish extremists, Israeli politicians, pundits and even former terror victims have expressed their shock and outrage at the killing. And so have some of the Jewish state’s most prominent rabbis. At a meeting of the Chief Rabbinate Council yesterday, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau condemned the crime, saying bluntly, “This is not the way of the Torah.” Lau’s counterpart, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, planned a personal visit to the Khdeir family, where he said he wished “to fiercely denounce the outrageous murder that was perpetrated against the innocent young man.” The visit was cancelled due to security concerns over his safety, and so Yosef released a public statement calling his fellow clergy to account: “We as religious leaders need to lead forward with a conciliatory message in order to prevent continued pain and bereavement, so that no one else is harmed.”

Other rabbis have answered this call. (more…)

U.K. SodaStream Shop Shutters After Two Years

England store faced weekly protests over the company’s West Bank factory


A store in Brighton, England that sold replacement parts for Israeli carbonation system SodaStream has closed its doors, JTA reports. The Israeli-owned EcoStream shop, which sold recyclable replacement bottles for SodaStream machines since opening in September 2012, had been the site of weekly boycott protests by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, whose members oppose Sodastream’s factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim.

According to the U.K.’s Jewish Chronicle, the protests were regularly countered with demonstrations by the Sussex Friends of Israel.

A SodaStream UK spokeswoman dismissed the role of the protests in the store’s closure, telling the Chronicle, “Following a two-year test period, the company has decided to focus its business efforts on other channels.” (more…)

Suspects Confess to Murdering Palestinian Teen

Three Jewish men admit burning 16-year-old alive in grisly revenge attack

The Petah Tikva court where suspects in the brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager faced a hearing on July 6, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Three suspects in the murder of 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir confessed to killing the Palestinian teen, the Associated Press reports. The men, all of whom are Jewish, reportedly took authorities to the forest where Abu Khdeir’s body was found last week and reenacted the grisly murder, in which they burned the teenager alive.

Three other suspects are being held on suspicion that they were complicit in the murder, according to the Times of Israel, and are unable to meet with lawyers.

Although the suspects are not members of any known terrorist group and apparently acted on their own, they are to face charges of belonging to a terrorist organization, membership in a prohibited organization, kidnapping in order to murder, murder of a minor, conspiracy and theft, possession of arms and ammunition, and carrying out a racially motivated crime.


Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu to Split From Likud

The move would leave Netanyahu’s party with just 20 seats in Knesset

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during a press conference at the Knesset on July 7, 2014 in Jerusalem, Israel. (Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images)

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced his plans to break up the Likud-Beiteinu partnership after escalating disputes with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Jerusalem Post reports. The partnership, which was formed in 2012, combined Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu’s 11 Knesset seats with Netanyahu’s Likud’s 20 seats, making the super party the largest in the Knesset. The split would leave Likud with 20 seats, just one more than Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party.

According to the Jerusalem Post, the split is largely due to Lieberman and Netanyahu’s differing opinions, most recently over how to deal with Hamas—tensions which have been heightened significantly since the Hamas kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and subsequent murder of a Palestinian teen, for which six Jewish extremists have been arrested. (more…)

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…)

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