A Look At Yeshiva Basketball Through The Years

Short shorts, converse sneakers, and a cameo by young Alan Dershowitz


Just in time for the Heschel School’s final regular season basketball game tonight, Louie Lazar writes in Tablet about the program’s ambitious plans and unprecedented success in the New York Yeshiva basketball league. He also explains what, exactly, the New York Yeshiva basketball league is.

The Yeshiva League dates back to the 1940s. The Manhattan Talmudical Academy, one of the founding members, fielded a basketball team as early as 1940, and a 1946 yearbook refers to an “Inter Yeshiva League.” In the 1950s and 1960s, the league held championship games at Madison Square Garden; the 1953 title face-off, pitting the Manhattan Talmudical Academy against the Brooklyn Talmudical Academy, was scheduled as a warm-up act before a game between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knickerbockers and drew a crowd of nearly 10,000 people, many of them yeshiva students from throughout the city. Since 1965, MTA has won the most titles—eight—followed by the Frisch Cougars and the Yeshivah of Flatbush Falcons, with six each.

While Lazar goes on to describe the Heschel JV team’s success this season, we’d like to keep the spirit alive with some Yeshiva League nostalgia: yearbook photos from the 1940s and 50s teams. (more…)

Your Jewish Super Bowl XLVIII Highlights

ScarJo’s SodaStream spot, that ‘Seinfeld’ reunion, and Coca Cola’s yarmulkes

The Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos play in Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.(John Moore/Getty Images)

Last night’s Super Bowl was a complete blowout, with the Seattle Seahawks dominating the Denver Broncos from the first minutes of the game. But for those of us who are more interested in the commercials and halftime performance, the night was pretty entertaining. And also pretty Jewish.

Bruno Mars, the quarter-Jewish halftime performer (dad’s side), did a stand-up job, showing off his drum skills and fancy dance moves and even letting the shirtless Red Hot Chili Peppers sing one of their songs during his act. The Hollywood Reporter called it “a real barnburner of a bar-mitzvah,” which I think they meant as a good thing. If that’s not enough for you, he and his writing partner Ari Levine co-wrote Matisyahu’s peace anthem “One Day.” (more…)

Who Is Responsible for Dylan Farrow’s Pain?

It’s not, as she argues, the public.

Woody Allen; Mia Farrow.(Getty; DAVID BUIMOVITCH/AFP/Getty Images)

Yesterday, Dylan Farrow—the adopted daughter of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow—published an account, on Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times blog, of the sexual abuse she says she suffered as a young girl at the hands of her famous father.

The post is moving and horrifying. And yet, the entirety of its premise is wrong—and in an important way. The piece is written as an open letter to the public, at whose feet Dylan Farrow lays blame for the continued adulation of her alleged abuser. She also calls out “Hollywood,” and in particular several actors who have worked with, or are friends with, Allen. One could hardly argue that the famous and the powerful aren’t given passes upon passes for every shade and shape of misbehavior. But that’s not what happened here. Someone is responsible for Dylan Farrow’s pain, but it is not the public. (more…)

Seinfeld Confirms Cast Reunion ‘Very, Very Soon’

It may or may not be a Super Bowl commercial, sigh

American comedian Jerry Seinfeld attends the premiere of the Bee Movie on November 25, 2007 in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

Jerry Seinfeld, who recently hinted at his new collaboration with Larry David (at the time believed to be some kind of play), is now teasing an upcoming Seinfeld reunion. According to Variety, he told a radio show that his recent visit to Tom’s Restaurant, the gang’s on-screen hangout, with Jason Alexander was more than just a trip down memory lane—Alexander was in character as George Costanza, Seinfeld said, confirming a reunion project.

“He described the project as “short-ish form,” a “one-and-done” thing involving Larry David in some way that will be made available “very, very soon,” Variety reports.

Given the timing, some people are saying it’s a Super Bowl commercial, but Seinfeld is cagily denying it. (more…)

Provocative Photo Project Goes Viral Among Orthodox Students

‘What I Be’ portrait series makes waves at Yeshiva University

Photographs from Steve Rosenfield's 'What I Be' project. (Facebook)

Mati Engel, a student photographer at Yeshiva University’s Stern College, believes staunchly in the power of photography to create change. That’s why Engel contacted Steve Rosenfield, the photographer who created the What I Be photo project in 2010, and asked him to come to Yeshiva University.

“I first met Steve at Princeton University, where he had taken What I Be,” Engel told me. “I was blown away by his photography. I knew that the Orthodox Jewish community could benefit greatly from his work.”

That’s because What I Be is more than an art exhibit—it’s a social experiment. Rosenfield writes bold statements in black ink on his subjects’ face, chest, or arms before taking a straight-on headshot. Next to the photograph reads the statement: “I am not my ______,” filled in by each subject with his or her greatest insecurity or fear. (more…)

Laugh Tracks: A Film Critic Takes on the Sitcom

The Friday Review of Books


One of the central tragedies of our lives is that there are more books out there than we’d ever have time to read. But we’re not going gently into that good night: Each Friday, Liel Leibovitz will be reviewing a title lost in the never-ending book pile, robbed of well-merited attention, or deserving of a second look.

Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community, by Saul Austerlitz

“One day,” Nicholson Baker wrote in a recent novel, “the English language is going to perish. The easy spokenness of it will perish and go black and crumbly—maybe—and it will become a language like Latin that learned people learn. And scholars will write studies of Larry Sanders and Friends and Will & Grace and Ellen and Designing Women and Mary Tyler Moore, and everyone will see that the sitcom is the great American art form. American poetry will perish with the language; the sitcoms, on the other hand, are new to human evolution and therefore will be less perishable.” (more…)

Ultra-Orthodox Brothers Bring Brazil’s Capoeira to Israel

Nearly 200 people have signed up to train at their Bnei Brak dojo

Miki and Yehuda Hayat, who are bringing the Brazilian martial art Capoeira to Israel.(Nati Shohat /FLASH90)

Yossi Eilfort, the 22-year-old ultra-Orthodox rabbi turned Mixed Martial Arts fighter, seems to be sparking a trend.

Two Israeli brothers, Miki, 24, and Yehuda Hayat, 20, hailing from the ultra-Orthodox community of Bnei Brak near Tel-Aviv, have taken up the Brazilian martial art of Capoeria, and are teaching others in their community. Capoeria, a martial art dating back to the 16th century, combines dance, acrobatics, and music to create an intensive, full-body experience. It was developed by slaves who used the intricate dance moves to disguise their true motive: learning how to fight.

The Hayat brothers have set up a dojo, or training room, in Bnei Brak in order to teach their ultra-Orthodox brethren how to flip, kick, and spin. Nearly 200 men have signed up already. (more…)

Court Dismisses $380 Million Lawsuit Against Yeshiva University

Complaint filed by 34 former high school students alleged decades of abuse

Yeshiva University High School for Boys.(Matthew X. Kiernan/New York Big Apple Images)

A complaint filed in July by a lawyer for 34 former students at the Yeshiva University High School for Boys against the school, members of its board of trustees, as well as several educators and administrators, which alleged several decades of abuse—plus accusations of a cover-up by the school’s administration—and which sought nearly $380 million in damages, was dismissed by a Manhattan federal court today.

Judge John Koeltl issued a 52-page opinion explaining the dismissal, which effectively said that too much time had gone by since the alleged abuses occurred: “Statutes of limitations strike a balance between providing a reasonable time for victims to bring their claims while assuring that defendants have a fair opportunity to defend themselves before evidence is lost or memories fade. In this case, the statutes of limitations have expired decades ago, and no exceptions apply.” (more…)

Don’t Return the Iraqi Jewish Archive

Iraq wants the treasures of a Jewish community it persecuted to extinction

French and Hebrew Passover Haggadah published in Vienna, 1930, and found in the Iraqi Jewish Archive. (National Archives)

On May 6, 2003, American forces stumbled into the basement of a flooded Iraqi intelligence building in Baghdad. There, they discovered a veritable treasure trove of Jewish holy books, communal records, and even family photographs. The contents of the archive were salvaged, and–with the help of U.S. government funding and outside donors–restored in a painstaking $3 million dollar process. The resulting exhibit ran at the National Archives in Washington D.C. from November 8, 2013 through January 5, 2014. But now, in accordance with a 2003 agreement with the Iraqi government, these priceless Jewish artifacts are set to be returned to the country where they were found.

Jewish organizations, working with Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, have protested this move, and asked Congress to intervene. Legislation calling for renegotiating the archive’s return now has 10 co-sponsors in the Senate. That resolution has begun to receive some press attention, but its cause deserves more than media coverage: it deserves public outrage. Simply put, the Iraqi government has no just claim on these Jewish artifacts, which were stolen from its Jewish community as they were persecuted to extinction during the 20th century.

To understand how morally obtuse it would be to return the archive to Iraq, a brief history lesson about its treatment of its Jews is in order. (more…)

Ari Shavit Talks Israel At Columbia University

The Israeli author discusses his new book, ‘My Promised Land,’ with students

Columbia University's Low Memorial Library. (Wikipedia)

More than 400 people gathered at Columbia University’s Upper West Side campus last night to hear Ari Shavit talk about his much-discussed best-selling book, My Promised Land, which recently won a National Jewish Book Award. The event, which was hosted by the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies and was open to the public, filled one of the largest lecture halls on campus to capacity and had students and adults alike sitting and standing in the aisles. Columbia alum and Tablet contributor Jordan Hirsch moderated the event, challenging Shavit with tough, and at times quirky, questions.

Though a malfunctioning microphone and Shavit’s imperfect English were cause for some confusion, the author answered Hirsch’s questions excitedly and with conviction about the book he says has been on his mind for 20 years. “Israel was a narrative before it was a state,” Shavit told the crowd, “and the narrative became lost over time, and I made it my responsibility to recover and revive this narrative. My book is not an ideology, it is humanity.” Still, the evening’s discussion was much more of a political, ideological conversation than a literary one. (more…)

Super Bowl Halftime Performer Bruno Mars a Quarter Jewish

The ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ singer will take the stage during Sunday’s big game

Musician Bruno Mars performs onstage during the Grammy Nominations Concert Live on December 1, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.(GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)

A solid 10 years after Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s infamous Super Bowl wardrobe malfunction, the halftime performance at Sunday’s Super Bowl match-up between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos is going in a decidedly less controversial direction. Bruno Mars, the 28-year-old singer and 2013 Billboard artist of the year, is a safe, good-natured pick for the show (and throwing in the Red Hot Chili Peppers means your dad will probably want to watch, too).

So who is Bruno Mars? The singer-songwriter and producer was born Peter Gene Hernandez in Honolulu, Hawaii, where his late mother immigrated from the Philipines as a child. She met his father, a half-Puerto Rican and half Jewish-transplant to Hawaii from Brooklyn, while performing in a show (she as a hula dancer, he as a percussionist; the Vows column basically writes itself). Their son was nicknamed Bruno for his young resemblance to wrestler Bruno Sammartino, and he later added ‘Mars’ to his stage name. The rest, as they say, is Top 40 history. (more…)

What Artists Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon Have in Common

British author Robin Saikia looks back at the two artists’ work

A member of Christie's staff walks toward Francis Bacon's 'Three Studies of Lucian Freud' on October 14, 2013 in London, England.(Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

Following Vladislav Davidzon’s recent article on the record-breaking sale of Francis Bacon’s triple portrait of Lucian Freud, British author Robin Saikia recalls meeting the two artists and looks back at their work.

I was on nodding terms with Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud in the mid-1980s, for no other reason than that we frequented the Colony Room, a once notorious and now defunct drinking club in Soho, London. One afternoon I was there in the company of Bacon, the journalist Sandy Fawkes, and the jazz pianist Barney Bates. Each of us had bought champagne, matching the always-generous Bacon bottle for bottle, something of a rarity in those days, as nobody ever seemed to have ready money.

Halfway through the bacchanal, Freud appeared, looking decidedly shifty, unkempt and vulpine—full of what Francis Wyndham euphemistically called ‘eloquent vituperation.’ The latest bottle came to an end and it was my turn to buy the next. I ordered, but in a split second realized I’d run out of cash. Bacon rescued me immediately and paid, peeling off a couple of notes from the many thousands of pounds he always carried about with him for the purpose of gambling. A gauche 24-year-old, I spluttered, temporized, apologized, and squirmed. Bacon turned to me—that ravaged moon of a face, those piercing eyes, that precise, ultra-civilized accent. “The trouble with you, dear boy,” he said, “is that you need to learn the fine art of graceful acceptance.” Freud was less than impressed. (more…)

Scarlett Johansson Drops OxFam, Sticks With SodaStream

The star stands by her carbonated endorsement following backlash

SodaStream unveils Scarlett Johansson as its first-ever Global Brand Ambassador at the Gramercy Park Hotel on January 10, 2014 in New York City.(Mike Coppola/Getty Images for SodaStream)

ScarJo doesn’t mess around. Two weeks after signing on to be SodaStream’s global representative and announcing she will appear in the company’s Super Bowl ad, Jewish actress Scarlett Johansson has stepped down from her post as OxFam ambassador, which she’s held since 2007, citing the humanitarian organization’s stance on the BDS movement. Johansson came under fire from critics, OxFam among them, for endorsing the carbonated beverage company, which operates a factory in the West Bank settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, the AP reports.

A statement released by Johansson’s spokesman Wednesday said the 29-year-old actress has “a fundamental difference of opinion” with Oxfam International because the humanitarian group opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights. (more…)

How Batman Creator Bill Finger Was Forgotten

The campaign to get an unheralded Jewish comic book hero get his due

Cover image of Bill the Boy Wonder, Marc Tyler Nobleman's 2012 children's book. (Illustration by Ty Templeton)

In 2012, I called Bill the Boy Wonder, by Marc Tyler Nobleman, one of the year’s best Jewish children’s books. And it is! The book is about the essential role of a writer named Bill Finger in the creation of Batman. Nobleman lays out the way Finger came up with Batman’s and Robin’s origin stories, gave Bruce Wayne his name, gave Batman his cape and hood, named Gotham City, wrote the first comic and much more.

But you’ve probably never heard of him. Bob Kane, the man the world considers Batman’s creator, suppressed information about Finger’s integral role. (As the blog Comics Alliance put it, “When it comes to the greatest supervillain in Batman’s history, the Joker is a distant second behind Bob Kane.”) (more…)

Shomer Shabbos Drug Dealer Gets Five Years in Prison

Eduard Sorin arrested last year in sting operation called ‘Only After Sundown’


The Shabbat-observant drug dealer busted early last year has been sentenced to five years in prison, plus an additional five years under supervision, Gothamist reports. Eduard Sorin was arrested as part of a drug ring that reportedly sold large quantities of heroin, Oxycontin, Xanax, and Suboxone out of a basement in Sheepshead Bay, N.Y.

The group’s unorthodox business hours were revealed in text messages released by police.

Awesome batch of dob just came!!!” read one mass text from April 12. “Open from now till 7:30 also blues stix & subs,” referring to a newly acquired Xanax supply and the approaching sundown.

“We are closing 7:30 on the dot and we will reopen Saturday 8:15 so if u need anything you have 45 mins to get what you want,” specified another.

Along with the drugs, the sting operation, which cops called Only After Sundown (get it?), uncovered a sawed-off shotgun, ammunition, a drug ledger, and a BlackBerry filled with the incriminating texts.

Hopefully he’ll at least get to opt for kosher food behind bars.

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