Presbyterian Minister to Israelis: ‘Come Home to America’

Advocate of Israel boycott tells Jews that America is ‘the Promised Land’

America. (Shutterstock)

Jewish-Presbyterian tensions are high this week, as the Presbyterian Church (USA) votes at its General Assembly on divestment from Israel. Thus far, the assembled delegates have heard arguments in favor of the proposal from groups like the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and Jewish Voice for Peace, and arguments against from others like J Street, Reform Movement head Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and the American Jewish Committee.

And then there are the arguments of Reverend Larry Grimm of the Capitol Heights Presbyterian Church in Colorado, a longtime boycott advocate who apparently wants the Jews to get out of Israel.

In a Facebook posting yesterday that was quickly shared and seconded by other Presbyterians, some of whom are currently attending the Church’s General Assembly, Grimm patiently explained to Israelis that they ought to leave the historic Jewish homeland and “come home to America”:

America is the Promised Land. We all know this. Come to the land of opportunity. Quit feeling guilt about what you are doing in Palestine, Jewish friends. Stop it. Come home to America! (more…)

Eric Cantor’s Sermon

The House majority leader spoke at the Hampton Synagogue last weekend

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) arrives for a meeting with House Republicans at U.S. Capitol, June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Eric Cantor, the House majority leader who last week lost the Republican primary for the Virginia congressional district he’s led for seven terms, told CNN’s State of the Union that he had “no regrets” about his unexpected loss to little-known Tea Party candidate Dave Brat, Time reports.

“We don’t always know right here and now why,” he said during a Sunday appearance on CNN‘s State of the Union. “And I think the perspective of time will actually indicate [how] something that may have seemed really bad at the time can turn out to be really good.”

His Sunday comments, tinged with the Bible Belt religiosity he honed successfully for years as a Jewish congressman in Virginia (read Allison Hoffman’s 2011 profile for more on Cantor’s distinctly Southern brand of Judaism), came on the heels of an address he made the previous day which offered a more, well, Jewish message. (more…)

Netanyahu Blames Hamas for Kidnapping

As Israeli forces carry out massive West Bank search for three missing teens

Israeli soldiers man a checkpoint in the West Bank town of Hebron on June 15, 2014, as Israel broadened the search for three teenagers believed kidnapped by militants and imposed a tight closure of the town. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

A massive search is underway for three Israeli teenagers kidnapped Thursday in the West Bank, with Israeli forces detaining nearly 150 people—many of them members of Hamas and some of them senior Hamas officials—in door-to-door searches of six Palestinian towns. A 20-year-old Palestinian was killed by gunfire after protestors threw stones at the Israeli troops.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly blamed Hamas for the kidnapping of the three boys—16-year-old Gil-Ad Shaer and Naftali Frankel and 19-year-old Eyal Yifrah—who disappeared while hitchhiking from their yeshiva in Gush Etzion. Frankel has dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, which, according to the New York Times, has meant Washington “has been deeply engaged in the crisis.” (more…)

Ruby Dee’s Jewish Turn

The actress saw her 1953 role in The World of Sholom Aleichem as formative

Ruby Dee in 2008.(Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Essence)

You might say that the resplendent actor and activist Ruby Dee, who died on Thursday at the age of 91, was presciently typecast when she played the Defending Angel in the 1953 play The World of Sholom Aleichem. Over some seven decades of championing civil rights and humanitarian causes, and of lighting up stage and screen (she amassed a small forest of acting awards along with Kennedy Center Honors and a National Medal of the Arts), she seemed like a divine messenger, combining grace and grandeur—that sultry voice, that stunning solidity—and demonstrating that there is no contradiction between devoting one’s life to high artistry and radical action.

Yet the role in The World of Sholom Aleichem was also an unlikely one, not least because the production itself was so improbable. Created by writer Arnold Perl and director Howard da Silva as they sought to put themselves and other blacklisted artists back to work, the play was a surprise hit, an early off-Broadway production that ran at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, and the first popular stage work in English drawn from the Yiddish canon. (more…)

The Nagging Jewish Question About Cantor

A host of theories emerge after the Republican’s shocking primary defeat

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor addresses a news conference after telling the Republican caucus that he will resign his post on June 11, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

I suppose it was maddeningly instinctual for me to try to find anti-Semitism behind Eric Cantor’s shocking primary defeat last Tuesday. There was no overt reason to believe it; after all Cantor had represented Virginia’s 7th Congressional District for over two decades, and, as John Podhoretz pointed out in Commentary, the strong evangelical presence in Cantor’s district should have been a plus, noting “…evangelicals are more likely to be philo-than anti-Semitic.”

And yet; and yet. New York Magazine’s influential critic Jerry Saltz posted on Facebook (where he has 44,000+ followers): “Last night Roberta (wife Roberta Smith, a New York Times art critic) and I kept saying “Fuckers in Virginia got rid of the Jew.” The Forward’s J.J. Goldberg, another voluble observer of the Jewish scene, agreed with Saltz and Smith and titled his most recent column, “Did Eric Cantor lose because he’s Jewish? You Betcha.” (more…)

Where To Eat in Tel Aviv This Summer

From chic fast food to eco-friendly, six restaurants worth a visit

Tel Aviv, Israel.(Shutterstock)

Tel Aviv, home to some of the most distinguished chefs and restaurants, has quickly become Israel’s culinary hotspot. If you’re in Tel Aviv this summer, take a break from the beach and check out these five picks from Israeli food blog Matkonation’s new summer Foodie Guide.

1. Best lunch restaurant: The Basta, meaning “market stall” in Hebrew, is located in the Carmel Market—and the menu changes based on what’s for sale that day. Location: 4 Hashomer St.

2. Best dinner restaurant: Salon, the upscale restaurant from well-known Israeli chef—and Israeli MasterChef judge—Eyal Shani, offers not only great food but also entertainment: most of the kitchen is smack in the middle of the restaurant, with chefs preparing the food in view of diners. (more…)

At MAD Magazine, an Unlikely Rabbinic Figure

What the magazine’s humorist and artist Dave Berg taught me about Judaism

Two of David Berg's MAD magazine comic strips. (MAD magazine. Top: MAD #134, April 1970; Bottom: MAD #261, March 1986)

In my high school confirmation class, the rabbi of my synagogue at the time, Richard Sherwin, used an unorthodox approach to teach us about the essence of Judaism; he used essays from the book My Friend God by MAD magazine writer and artist Dave Berg. Not only did it work in getting me excited about all of the things my religion had to offer, but it reinforced my love for MAD.

After 20 years, I finally bought my own copy of Berg’s long-out-of-print book. When I began flipping through it, I discovered that the edition I bought included a letter from Rabbi Sherwin, with whom I had recently reconnected through the magic of Facebook. I called him immediately and he told me about his ongoing correspondence with the late humorist, with whom, apparently, he had grown pretty close until Berg’s death in 2002. (more…)

Three Israeli Teenagers Missing in West Bank

Hitchhikers, one of whom reportedly has U.S. citizenship, feared kidnapped

Village near Hebron, where border police are searching for three missing teenagers. (Shutterstock)

Three Israeli teenagers, two 16 and one 19, went missing Thursday night in the West Bank and are feared to be kidnapped, Haaretz reports. The Border Police and the Israel Police are searching for the teens near Hebron, and roadblocks have been erected near Kiryat Arba. The teenagers are yeshiva students at Makor Chaim who were believed to be hitchhiking to Modi’in. One of the teens reportedly has U.S. citizenship.

According to Haaretz:

The Shin Bet security service has warned in recent weeks of increasingly frequent attempts to kidnap Israeli soldiers and citizens in the West Bank. According to Shin Bet data, in the past nine months there have been 11 cases of Palestinians incarcerated in Israel making contact with operatives in the West Bank in an attempt to carry out kidnappings. (more…)

A Stroll Through Jewish Savannah

A visitor takes in the Southern city’s surprising—and enduring—Jewish roots

Savannah, GA. (Shutterstock)

Walking over cobblestones on streets lined with monuments commemorating the American Revolution, it is easy to forget that Savannah is a profoundly Jewish city. To someone from New York, the billowing Spanish moss and knotted trees belong more to Gone with the Wind than they do a Jewish haven. Not only is it hard to remember that Savannah has a long Jewish history, it’s hard to believe in the first place.

In 1733, shortly after the colony of Georgia was founded, an epidemic (thought to be Yellow Fever) started killing off the settlers. Because Savannah’s only doctor died early on, a ship carrying Sephardic Jews was allowed entry on the condition that a doctor onboard, Samuel Nunis, would treat the sick. Soon after their arrival, the Jews organized what would later become Congregation Mickve Israel, one of America’s oldest Jewish communities. Robert Haas, Mickve Israel’s current rabbi, explained to me that at one point as much as 35 percent of Savannah’s population was Jewish. (Today the number is closer to 2.5 percent.) (more…)

100 Years of Jewish Archives on Display in NYC

Collection includes letter from Albert Einstein and a dress worn at Ellis Island

U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau, Sr. asks New York philanthropist Jacob H. Schiff to secure aid for Jews in Palestine in a cablegram dated August 31, 1914. (Joint Distribution Committee)


These four words, sent in a cablegram from Luba Mizne in Warsaw to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in July 1945, perfectly encapsulate the theme of an exhibit opening tomorrow at the New-York Historical Society. Aptly titled “’I Live. Send Help:’ 100 Years of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee,” the exhibit commemorates the aid organization’s 100th anniversary by sharing its diverse collection of photographs, artifacts, film clips, and documents with the public in partnership with the New-York Historical society.

Highlights include a 1940 letter from Albert Einstein to JDC Chairman Edward Warburg, in which he praises the JDC for its work in organizing the evacuation of refugee children from Europe, and a cablegram sent from Henry Morgenthau, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, to Jewish philanthropist Jacob Schiff in New York, requesting assistance for Jews in Palestine at the start of World War I. There’s an audio recording of entertainer Eddie Cantor endorsing the JDC’s work during WWII, and of Alaska Airlines president James Wooten describing his involvement in the JDC-organized evacuation of Jews from Yemen. (more…)

Maccabi Tel Aviv Coach Heading to NBA

David Blatt led the basketball team to its May Euroleague championship win

Maccabi Electra's coach David Blatt gestures at the end of the Euroleague basketball match Unicaja vs Maccabi Electra on October 11, 2012. (Jorge Guerrero/AFP/GettyImages)

Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt announced today at a press conference that he would be stepping down after four seasons with the team and heading to the NBA. It’s unclear what his NBA gig will be, but he reportedly interviewed for an assistant with the Golden State Warriors last week and is meeting with the Cleveland Cavaliers about a head coaching position next week. According to the AP, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks are also interested in the Princeton grad, who earlier this month led Maccabi Tel Aviv to their unexpected Euroleague win

The Boston native, whose Wikipedia page boasts perhaps the greatest sports origin ever written—“David Blatt began his coaching career as Head Landsports at Camp Arowhon, where he coached the Arowhon basketball team to a close loss against Tamakwa”—said at the press conference that coaching in the NBA had always been a dream of his. (more…)

Holocaust Diarist’s Photos Found at Estate Sale

Vast photo collection chronicling Mary Berg’s life discovered at local auction

(Mary Berg)

“I’m calling about photos of Mary Berg,” said the man on my voicemail at work earlier this week. He wanted to know where he might send them for safekeeping.

The name Mary Berg was vaguely familiar to me. Several years ago, Tablet’s predecessor site, published an essay by Amy Rosenberg about Warsaw Ghetto, a war memoir Berg had published in 1944, the year she had arrived as a young woman in the United States. Though Berg had spent two years in the Warsaw Ghetto, having fled there from Lodz, her mother was an American, a critical fact that entitled Berg, her sister and her parents to be included in a prisoner of war exchange program that saved their lives.

By the time they had arrived in New York, Berg had filled 12 volumes of a diary with vivid, brutal detail of what she witnessed during the years of German occupied Poland. These volumes became Warsaw Ghetto, which was well received in the New Yorker, the New York Times and other publications, and which briefly made Berg a minor celebrity.

In spite of the book’s critical success, it went out of print by the 1950s and, according to Rosenberg, Mary Berg tried hard to disappear along with it. (more…)

Iraqi Insurgents Boast They’re Building an Arab Super-State

They’re hardly the first to try, or make this claim

Iraqi families fleeing violence in the northern Nineveh province gather at a Kurdish checkpoint in Aski kalak, 40 kms West of Arbil, in the autonomous Kurdistan region, on June 10, 2014. (SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)

In seizing Mosul, Tikrit and other northern Iraqi cities over the last 48 hours, the Islamic State in Iraq and Sham has moved closer to what some Middle East experts believe is the organization’s end goal—to create an emirate, an Islamic rump-state, encompassing large parts of Iraq and Syria. This, some fear, is a symptom of the region-wide sectarian war, from Beirut to Baghdad, threatening to jeopardize the Arab state system and crash the borders imposed by the British and French with the demise of the Ottoman Empire.

Certainly, ISIS is boasting as much. Its propaganda outlets claim the organization is in the process of restoring the caliphate, and erasing the lines secretly drawn by French diplomat François George-Picot and his British counterpart Mark Sykes before the end of World War I.

Still, it’s worth putting ISIS’s claims, and the predictions of Middle East experts, in context. (more…)

Subtitle Writers Strike Scrambles Israeli TV

Mixed messages onscreen as English language translators demand fair pay


In season five of The Wire, Baltimore cop-turned high school teacher Roland Pryzbylewski stares at his class and asks a bizarre question.

“Which ass should I stick a rat into?”

Or sort of. In English he says, “who gives a rat’s ass?” but this particular Hebrew translation posted online has the teacher mangling the expression in a way that should probably see him lose his teaching license.

Mistranslated subtitles like this one have become increasingly common in Israel as a result of a television and film subtitle writers strike that has stretched on for several weeks, a number of striking workers say. (more…)

Which Dayan Said It?

Can you tell rocker Aviv Geffen from security expert Uzi Dayan?

Aviv Geffen and Uzi Dayan. (L: Mick Hutson/Redferns; R: AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is Dayan Family Day at Tablet, with two different relatives of legendary Israeli general-turned-politician Moshe Dayan featured in articles on the site. One, Dayan’s nephew Gen. Uzi Dayan, is Israel’s lead security negotiator and previously served as national security adviser to Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. The other, Moshe Dayan’s cousin Aviv Geffen, one of Israel’s most iconic and enduring rock stars.

Both pieces—David Samuel’s Q&A with Uzi Dayan and Adi Gold and Yoav Sivan’s profile of Aviv Geffen—are worth reading, especially given how wildly different their subjects appear to be. Or are they?

Here’s a pop quiz to see just how different the Dayan relatives sound. (more…)

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