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Mad Men’s Ginsberg Finally Gets His Plotline

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

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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

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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

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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

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(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

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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…)

Next Up For Amar’e Stoudemire: a Bar Mitzvah?

The New York Knick and Hapoel Jerusalem owner might also become a man

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Amar'e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Amar’e Stoudemire, New York Knicks power forward, six-time NBA all-star, Jerusalem Hapoel part-owner, and Torah study enthusiast, might undergo that sacred Jewish rite of passage popularized by acne-ridden and braces-laden teenage boys: a bar mitzvah.

TMZ posted video footage of Stoudemire’s wife Alexis answering all sorts of invasive questions about Stat’s religious observance. Asked whether the 6’11 basketball player, who is also in the process of becoming an Israeli citzen, had been bar mitzvahed, she said, “We can always have one later on, you never know.”

The TMZ reporter, naturally, suggests a NBA theme for the party, to which Alexis replied. “And then you put him on the chair.” (more…)

‘Noah’ The Most Popular Name For Baby Boys

Edged out biblical mainstay ‘Jacob’ after 14 years

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Babies who may potentially be named Noah. (Shutterstock)

While Darren Aronofsky’s blockbuster retelling of the biblical epic Noah may have fallen short of filmgoers’ expectations, it seems to have made a splash (get it!) elsewhere. For it takes a strong, determined name to break Jacob’s 14-year stranglehold on the title of most popular name for newborn boys.

The time has come, and the name is Noah. I’ll leave it to the scholars to discuss what this means in the grand scheme of biblical power struggles (or not, whatever). I’ll be here waiting for the floodgates to open on bar mitzvah season 2026, where the tables will feature cardboard cutouts of Russell Crowe and the tweens will pair off, two by two, as they play Coke and Pepsi, that ancient game of our suburban forefathers. (more…)

A Millennial’s Guide to Monica Lewinsky

A look back at the 1998 scandal that rocked the White House and the country

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Former White House intern Monica Lewinsky is escorted by police officers, federal Investigators, and her attorney as she leaves the Federal Building in Westwood, California on May 28, 1998. (VINCE BUCCI/AFP/Getty Images)

Hello, friends of the Millennium! This week an infamous story from the late 1990s crept back back into the news (if it ever really left), and for many 20-somethings the details may be a bit fuzzy. Here’s a guide to keep the story straight.

Unlike the show Scandal, this particular scandal involved real people, one of whom was Bill Clinton, president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. The other was a 22-year-old White House intern named Monica Lewinsky, who has written an article about the whole thing in this month’s Vanity Fair.

Lewinsky, a Jewish college student from Los Angeles, got the White House internship through family connections. She started in July of 1995, and by November, she would later admit, she had the first of nine sexual encounters with the president. (more…)

French Jewish Leader Speaks to NY Crowd

Roger Cukierman repeated his position that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism

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President of the Representative Council of France's Jewish Associations, or CRIF, Roger Cukierman. (PHILIPPE WOJAZER/AFP/Getty Images)

Last night, Roger Cukierman, the president of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France—better known by its acronym, the CRIF—spoke to a small audience at the French consulate in New York about French anti-Semitism.

First, he argued, the populist far right, and particularly the National Front—which today is headed by Marine Le Pen, daughter of founder Jean-Marie Le Pen—remains inherently anti-Semitic, and is regaining traction with the electorate thanks to the weak European economy. Second, there is persistent tension with France’s growing Muslim community, and a casual anti-Semitism in pop culture typified by the quenelle salute.

But the most worrying tendency Cukierman identified was the increasing use of anti-Zionism to express classic anti-Semitic feelings. Traditional anti-Semitism is “not elegant,” as he put it, but anti-Zionism has acquired an air of intellectual chic. (more…)

Jews Named Yair Aren’t Named After a Terrorist

The Economist makes a bizarre claim about a biblical name

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(Gil C / Shutterstock.com)

As we’ve seen in the past, wild claims about Israel and Jews are sometimes too salacious to fact-check. The latest issue of The Economist offers one such example. In a May 3 book review entitled “The making of a martyr,” the magazine evaluates an account of the life and death of Avraham “Yair” Stern. Stern headed the eponymous Stern Gang, a Jewish terrorist group in Mandatory Palestine that was condemned by both the British and Jewish groups for its attacks on civilian targets. Understandably, and with justification, the review is not particularly kind to Stern. Less justifiable, however, is how the writer ignorantly impugns thousands of Jews when he turns from history to the contemporary:

Stern still commands a striking hold over many of Israel’s ruling right-wingers, including the successors of the mandate-era Jewish underground who continue to perpetrate attacks on Palestinian civilians. Many still choose his nom de guerre, Yair, for their sons, including Israel’s current prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu. One of the most fanatical settlements, Kochav Yair, is named after him.

This passage, which attempts to tar contemporary Jews and Israelis with Stern’s unsavory legacy, contains two major errors. One of them has been corrected. The more egregious one, unfortunately, has not. (more…)

The Opposite of Schadenfreude?

The Hebrew word ‘firgun’ describes taking pleasure in another’s good fortune

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Firgun! (Liana Finck)

Today on BuzzFeed, New Zealand-based artist Anjana Iyer’s clever illustrations of words without direct English translations are featured, and they are nothing if not delightful. The German Waldeinsamkeit, for example, is “the feeling of being alone in the woods,” while the Pascuense word Tingo is “to gradually steal all the possessions out of a neighbour’s house by borrowing and not returning.” If nothing else, click though for her depiction of the Yiddish schlemazel.

In the spirit of Iyer’s project, allow us to submit our own nomination for the best word without a direct English counterpart. Literally the best because it’s quite possibly the nicest, most selfless word of all. It’s firgun, a Hebrew word that describes the ungrudging pleasure one takes in someone else’s good fortune.

Tablet contributor Irin Carmon wrote about the word in 2012, which has its roots in both fargin—a Yiddish word whose definition is, naturally, not as optimistic—and the German vergonnen. (more…)

Michael Douglas Suffers Hora-Related Injury

The actor partied a little too hearty at his son’s bar mitzvah

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Michael Douglas. (CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Michael Douglas celebrated his son Dylan’s bar mitzvah last weekend, but he may have overdone it on the dance floor. The New York Post‘s Page Six reports that the 69-year-old actor suffered a hora-related injury that left him limping days later. Stars—they’re just like us!

“I’m hurting,” he told us. “I don’t know whether it’s my groin or a hernia. 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.”

I’m telling you, the hora can be dangerous. There are elderly relatives to watch out for, gnashing stiletto spikes to avoid, plus everyone’s going at a completely different speed. Those concentric circles are basically a dance floor version of Frogger. (more…)

German Artist Marks Book Burning With Reading

Wolfram Kastner converts a dark anniversary into a celebration of words

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Wolfram Kastner burns a black circle into the Königsplatz lawn in Munich to commemorate the Nazis' May 10, 1933 book burning in the same spot. (Wolfram Kastner)

On May 10, 1933, as part of a nation-wide “campaign against the un-German spirit” organized by university students, tens of thousands of Nazis and their sympathizers celebrated a huge “burning ceremony,” incinerating books by outlawed authors in a bonfire in the center of Munich’s Königsplatz, the square where Nazis held mass rallies and established their national headquarters.

This year, on the anniversary of the event and at the very site of the original book-burning, the provocative political artist Wolfram Kastner will burn a black circle into the Königsplatz lawn, as he has done more than a dozen times since 1995, a vivid act of remembrance in the city that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in 1945 called “the cradle of the Nazi beast.”

“The Holocaust didn’t start in Auschwitz,” says Kastner. “It started right here in the streets of Munich.” (more…)

How Motherhood Changes Mother’s Day

My mother and I used to be at each other’s throats; now everything is different

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The author with her mother. (Courtesy of the author)

In the grand history of stereotypical projections, perhaps none ring truer than those of the Jewish mother. Even if our own modern moms fell far short of the typical depiction—the self-sacrificing, smothering, guilt-inducing nag—some kernels of truth remain. My own mother, for instance, was certainly no cunning Rose Morgenstern as depicted by Herman Wouk in Marjorie Morningstar, who orchestrated her daughter’s love life until she finally married Jewish lawyer Milton Schwartz and moved to the Westchester suburbs, but she certainly had ideas for how I should comport and dress myself. And I enjoyed quashing them.

They told us in my religious Jewish elementary school that every day should be Mother’s Day; that is, you are expected to respect and honor your parents all the time, and to make a one-day-a-year show of it, while not exactly blasphemous, was still a bit irreverent. Though much of my early schooling was devoted to the importance of the commandment of kibbud av va’em, honoring your father and mother, and all its many concrete nuances—standing when they enter a room, not sitting in their seats at the table, not disturbing their sleep—less time was spent on the emotional implications of respecting one’s parents day in and day out, and zero time was spent on what respect means when you yearn to spread your wings. (more…)

Michelle Obama Celebrates Yiddish Literature

Awards Yiddish Book Center nation’s highest honor for museums and libraries

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First Lady Michelle Obama presents the National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Yiddish Book Center community member Peter Manseau (L) and Founder and President Aaron Lansky (C).(Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS))

First Lady Michelle Obama presented the National Medal for Museum and Library Service to the Yiddish Book Center today. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community, and 10 institutions were recognized this year.

Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center, and Peter Manseau, whose National Jewish Book Award-winning novel Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter was inspired by his 1996 summer internship at the Amherst, Mass institution, accepted the award from the first lady in Washington, D.C. (more…)

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