Jill Abramson Leaving the ‘New York Times’

First female executive editor helmed the newspaper since September 2011

Jill Abramson. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times, via Redux)

After just under three years at the helm of the New York Times, Jill Abramson is stepping down, Politico reports. Dean Baquet, the newspaper’s managing editor, will take over as executive editor. The announcement was made by publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. at a staff meeting this afternoon.

In his announcement to staff, Sulzberger said Abramson’s departure was related to “an issue with management in the newsroom,” and had nothing to do with the quality of the paper’s journalism during her tenure. Abramson was not present for the newsroom announcement.


Surge in Victims Claiming Madoff Losses

More than $40 billion in claims sought as government widens investigation

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

More than five years after Bernard Madoff admitted to running what was the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, the scope of the fraud continues to widen. Thousands of additional victims have filed claims for compensation under a new effort administered by the Justice Department, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Irving Picard, the bankruptcy trustee who initially led the recovery process, had only allowed claims from people who had directly invested with Madoff. But Richard Breeden, who is currently leading the Justice Department effort, is reviewing claims from anyone who alleged to have money invested with Madoff, even through an intermediary. (more…)

Israel Razing West Bank Settlement Buildings

Supreme Court orders structures in three settlements to be demolished

An Israeli authority bulldozer demolishes a house in the West Bank settlement of Maale Rehavam on May 14, 2014. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli forces began razing buildings in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Rehavam today after the Israeli Supreme Court lifted a last-minute injunction against demolishing the 10 structures. In total, 28 buildings in three West Bank settlements—Ma’ale Rehavam, Givat Asaf, and Ramat Gilad—will reportedly be demolished as per a November 2013 Supreme Court ruling that ordered the demolition of the structures within six months. (more…)

Rabbi Charged With Looting Special Needs Funds

Four men indicted for diverting $12.4 million from Queens children’s center

Island Child Development Center in Queens, N.Y. (Village Voice/Google Maps)

Four men, including one rabbi, were indicted in New York for stealing more than $12.4 million of city and state funding intended for students with special needs. According to a statement issued yesterday by the Queens County District Attorney, 56-year-old rabbi Samuel Hiller was indicted on grand larceny and other charges.

The story has been developing since March of last year, when news broke that the Island Child Development Center in Queens, N.Y., which provides special education services to preschoolers, was illegally diverting millions of taxpayer dollars. Hiller is the Center’s assistant director. (more…)

Survey Finds One Billion Anti-Semites

Anti-Defamation League’s new global study yields sobering conclusions


The Anti-Defamation League released the results of its new ADL Global 100 survey, and the results are informative, if bleak. The survey, which they’ve billed as a “comprehensive data-based research survey of the level and intensity of anti-Jewish sentiment across the world,” polled 53,100 adults in 102 countries.

One of the more jaw-dropping findings is that 26 percent of people surveyed internationally—a figure which represents roughly 1.09 billion adults across the world—harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. That’s an estimated one billion anti-Semites, in the world, today. According to this world population clock, there are approximately 7.2 billion people in the world, 1.09 billion of whom apparently hate Jews. (more…)

Why TV Shows and Movies Should Film in Israel

Homeland co-creator Gideon Raff on the benefits of heading to the Holy Land

'Homeland' writer Gideon Raff (L) and executive producer Ren Telem attends the 64th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards Governors Ball on September 23, 2012 in Los Angeles, California(Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Gideon Raff, the Jerusalem-born co-creator of Homeland, the popular Showtime series about a U.S. soldier taken hostage in Afghanistan and turned by his captors, is also the writer and producer behind the original Israeli version of the show, known as Hatufim, or Prisoners of War. While the two shows differ significantly, Raff and his team bring a realness and sense of urgency to each.

That realness, though, which in Homeland at least comes in the form of fast-paced, high-octane scenes set in foreign counties, is actually meticulously created. Most of Homeland’s Middle East scenes are shot in Israel (the U.S. scenes, which are set in Virginia, are filmed in Charlotte, N.C.), which in different episodes stands in for a host of countries. That’s on purpose, Raff, who lives part-time in California, told Reuters, explaining his preference for filming in his home country. (more…)

Dana International’s Lasting Eurovision Legacy

This year’s transgender winner cites the Israeli performer as an inspiration

2014 Eurovision Song Contest winner Conchita Wurst. (Eurovision)

Austria’s Conchita Wurst, a transgender performer, won the Eurovision song contest in Copenhagen on Sunday night with a stirring rendition of “Rise Like A Phoenix,” a dramatic James Bond-esque empowerment anthem. Eurovision, for the unfamiliar, is a pan-European Idol of sorts, founded in Switzerland in 1956 with the aim of fostering good relations between countries that just a decade earlier were intent on mutual obliteration. It is so, so bad that it is actually great. To wit: Ireland’s DJ Turkey! Finland’s Hard Rock ‘arockalypse’ Hallelujah! Ukraine’s nonsensical Dancing Lusha Tumbai!

Wurst is a brilliantly talented singer and drag performer who delights in the complexity of her gender-queerness. That is to say: she has luscious hair and a neatly-trimmed beard, and she doesn’t care if you have a problem with that. For conservative pundits, Wurst—who was born Tom Neuwirth in 1988, and describes her male and female personas as a team “working in sync”—was a predictably controversial candidate; one Russian politician described her as a “pervert” (groan) and Eurovision as “Europe’s gay parade.” But she rose to her critics like, well, a phoenix, trouncing the competition in front of a global audience of 180 million. (more…)

Kerry to Meet With Abbas This Week

Will discuss ‘the U.S.-Palestinian relationship’ in London on Thursday

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. (Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images)

U.S.-mediated peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians may have officially ended two weeks ago, but that doesn’t mean John Kerry is done talking. The secretary of state is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday in London, Reuters reports, and on the docket is a discussion about “the U.S.-Palestinian relationship.” Specifically, the future of that relationship after last month’s unity agreement between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which not only helped derail the long-floundering peace talks but also creates a major hindrance for any further U.S. involvement in peace talks—or, for that matter, U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority. (more…)

Ehud Olmert Gets Six-Year Prison Sentence

Former Israeli prime minister was convicted of two counts of bribery in March

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert arrives at the district court of Tel Aviv on May 13, 2014. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who was convicted on bribery charges in March, has been sentenced to six years in prison. The 68-year-old was also fined one million shekels, or roughly $290,000, for his role in the Holyland complex scandal, which a judge called “one of the worst corruption affairs in Israeli history” when it was brought to light in 2010. (more…)

Second Will Found For Collector of Disputed Art

But his agreement to return the art to original owners remains legally binding

The house of Cornelius Gurlitt in the Aigen district of Salzburg, Austria, where the German recluse stored part of his art collection.(Joerg Koch/Getty Images)

The strange case of the reclusive Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Nazi-era art dealer, in whose Munich apartment German authorities discovered a massive collection of disputed art estimated to be worth more than $1 billion—continues to get stranger, even after Gurlitt’s death last week at 81.

In the first twist, Gurlitt left a will bequeathing the entire collection to the Kunstmuseum Bern, a fine arts museum in Switzerland with which Gurlitt had previously had no involvement. Today, however, the Wall Street Journal reports that a second will was discovered, drawn up in January, the contents of which are still unknown.

But it might not matter what either of the wills contain. (more…)

Mad Men’s Ginsberg Finally Gets His Plotline

Though it’s not exactly what we had in mind for the nebbishy copywriter

Mad Men's Michael Ginsberg. (AMC)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, slicing off their nipples because they thought they were the valves to the giant office computer whose gamma rays were turning them gay.

Okay, that’s a paraphrase. But holy matzoh balls, Batman! Last night on Mad Men we met Ginsberg’s severed nipple, staring bloodily from the cotton-lined jewelry box in which he lovingly presented it to the justifiably aghast Peggy in the grisliest display of ill-advised affection since Van Gogh and his earlobe. Talk about a water-cooler moment. I mean, Guy-Who-Got-His-Foot-Run-Over-By-A-Lawnmower who?

Let me back up, just in case you’re not up to speed (and spoiler alert, etc.) Michael Ginsberg, Mad Men’s fast-talking, neurotic, fill-in-your-Hebrew-euphemism-here copywriter on whose behalf I was agitating for a couple of weeks ago, finally got a plot line, and boy, was it a doozy, if not exactly what I’d had in mind. (more…)

Benjamin Millepied Puts on a Show in Paris

Natalie Portman’s husband warms up before taking over the Paris Opera Ballet

French dancer and choreographer, Benjamin Millepied, poses on May 9, 2014 in Paris. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Benjamin Millepied, who as the husband of Natalie Portman and the father of Aleph Portman-Millepied we will dutifully cover on this blog until forever, debuted his newest work for the Paris Opera Ballet this weekend. He won’t be made director of the storied Parisian institution until Nov. 2, and his production of Daphnis et Chloé was in the works long before he was even in the running for the coveted director gig, but this was the perfect opportunity for ballet fans and critics alike to train their eyes on the director-to-be.

It looks like it went pretty well. The New York Times called the production “that rarest of creatures: a new classical ballet that feels contemporary, not because it imposes a bit of extraneous modernity (some electronic music; a little talking), but because of the sensibilities of its creators.” Mazel tov, Benjamin. And by the way, how’s that conversion coming along? (more…)

No, Rowdy Settlers Aren’t Hebrew Neo-Nazis

Israeli author Amos Oz’s provocative public statement has a logical flaw

A Palestinian poses in his bulldozer on which suspected Jewish vandals painted a graffiti reading in Hebrew 'Death to Arabs' and 'Price tag' on May 5, 2014 near the Arab Israeli town of Abu Ghosh. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday afternoon, on stage at Tzavta—the cultural epicenter of Tel Aviv’s left-leaning bohemia—Amos Oz had harsh things to say about the Hilltop Youth, the fringe group of settlers whose particular form of teenaged ennui sometimes involves defacing mosques with hurtful graffiti, torching cars, and other acts of baboonery. These settlers, Oz thundered, were nothing less than “Hebrew Neo-Nazis.” Predictably, a small storm ensued, with a settler organization filing a complaint accusing Oz of incitement to racism and Israeli media talking about little but the famed author’s wrathful words.

Oz himself went on a popular Israeli radio show yesterday in an effort to defend his words. “I object to comparisons to the Nazis,” he said. “The comparison I made on Friday wasn’t to the Nazis but to the Neo-Nazis. Nazis erect ovens and gas chambers; Neo-Nazis desecrate places of worship, desecrate cemeteries, beat up innocent people, and scribble racist slogans.”

It’s a silly comparison, with reasons that have more to do with philosophy than with politics. (more…)

‘The Red Tent’ To Become a Lifetime Miniseries

Minnie Driver will star in adaptation of Anita Diamant’s feminist Jewish novel

(The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant)

The Red Tent, Anita Diamant’s New York Times bestselling novel which tells the story of Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob, is headed for television. Deadline reports that the novel, a fictionalized first-person narrative of Dinah’s life, will be made into a four-hour miniseries for Lifetime. Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson will play the role of Dinah, while Minnie Driver will play her mother Leah. Homeland’s Morena Baccarin will play Rachel, Jacob’s second wife, and Debra Winger will play Rebecca, Jacob’s mother. (more…)

Former 92Y Director Sol Adler Commits Suicide

Was fired in 2012 over ‘inappropriate long-term relationship’ with his assistant


Sol Adler, the former director of Manhattan’s 92Y, hanged himself on Friday in his Brooklyn home, the New York Post reported yesterday. Adler, 60, who had helmed the cultural institution since 1988, was fired in 2012 after revelations surfaced of an “undisclosed long term personal relationship” with his assistant Catherine Marto.

Marto, then the liaison for board and donor relations, also happened to be the mother-in-law of a 92Y employee who was fired after reportedly receiving kickbacks from vendors. The married Adler’s alleged affair with Marto was uncovered during the investigation into the kickbacks, which resulted in the termination of several employees, including Marto. (more…)

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