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State Senator Compares Obamacare Signups to Nazi Deportations

Tennessee Republican Stacey Campfield ‘regrets’ that people missed his point

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Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield. (AP)

It’s time to welcome yet another politician into the ‘open mouth, insert foot’ club for the erroneous use of Holocaust metaphors when trying to make a political point. Our newest inductee is Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield, a Republican who really, really doesn’t like Obamacare. How much doesn’t he like it? Well, just this morning he posted this ‘Thought of the Day‘ on his blog:

Democrats bragging about the number of mandatory sign ups for Obamacare is like Germans bragging about the number of manditory (sic) sign ups for “train rides” for Jews in the 40s.

He quickly backtracked, telling Nashville’s News 2 that he “is not minimizing loss of life” during the Holocaust, just trying to make a point. (more…)

Elena Kagan’s Very Jewish Dissent—and Mistake

The Supreme Court Justice appeals to her heritage, with one small misstep

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Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan (KNIX)

Today, in a 5-4 opinion, the Supreme Court upheld the right of the Town of Greece, New York, to begin monthly meetings with a prayer, ruling that the practice did not violate the Constitution’s Establishment Clause. Proponents of the practice noted that the town had never discriminated between religions in selecting prayer leaders and allowed chaplains of all faiths and none to address the meetings. Opponents maintained, among other points, that the predominantly Christian character of the area resulted in de facto establishment of Christianity through the practice, because nearly all chaplains available were Christian. In an opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court sided with the town, stating “The town of Greece does not violate the First Amend­ment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.”

Two of the justices in the minority authored dissents, one of them being Elena Kagan, who concluded hers with a fascinating–and very Jewish–rhetorical flourish. It also featured a small mistake. After critiquing the arguments of the majority, Kagan closed with an appeal to her own Jewish heritage: (more…)

Iran Bans WhatsApp Because Mark Zuckerberg is Jewish

But Facebook, which bought the free messaging service this year, isn’t banned

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(Twin Design / Shutterstock.com)

Iranians are no longer able to use the free text messaging service WhatsApp, JTA reports, because the app was recently bought by Facebook, which is run by Mark Zuckerberg, who is Jewish. That’s right: Iran banned the app, which allows users to communicate via text message without having to purchase a dedicated SMS plan, because it is owned by a company whose CEO is, as they put it, is an “American Zionist.”

“The reason for this is the assumption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist,” said Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, head of the country’s secretary of the Committee for Determining Criminal Web Content, Fox News reported Sunday.

The move would make more sense, though, if Facebook was also banned in Iran. (more…)

Former NYPD Cop Arrested for Swastika Graffiti

Charged with criminal mischief and aggravated harassment as hate crimes

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A former policeman with the NYPD was arrested on Sunday after reportedly spray painting a string of anti-Semitic messages on cars and and buildings in Brooklyn, Haaretz reports. The vandalism, which occurred Saturday night in the Borough Park neighborhood, included spray painted swastikas near a synagogue and graffiti on the doors of a Jewish elementary school.

Police arrested Michael Setiawan, 36, whom police say “separated” from the NYPD in 2007 after serving in it for two years. He is being charged with criminal mischief and aggravated harassment, both as hate crimes.

(more…)

Is Shimon Adaf Israel’s Next Literary Luminary?

Acclaimed alongside Stephen King and Margaret Atwood, his work comes to America

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Shimon Adaf (infogr.am)

Gan Meir is the oldest public park in Tel Aviv; its central location has made it the starting point for Tel Aviv’s annual Gay Pride parade as well as home to a dog run and a water-lily pond. Gan Meir is important not only for the rare green space for families it provides in the bustling city, but also, now, for how it is used in the private imaginings of Shimon Adaf, the 42-year-old Israeli writer of six novels and three books of poetry. Adaf, who is also head of the creative writing program at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva, is the 2013 winner of Israel’s prestigious Sapir Prize for his novel Mox Nox. Gan Meir is part of the Tel Aviv setting for Adaf’s third novel, Sunburnt Faces (2008), his first to be newly translated into English by Margalit Rodgers and Anthony Berris—a coming-of-age story with fantastical elements whose opening section occurs in Netivot, in the south of Israel. Though he is a popular literary figure in Israel, he is not yet well known outside of the realm of Hebrew readers. Now, with Sunburnt Faces—and Mox Nox slated for translation next—Adaf’s unique take on modern Jewishness should deservedly reach a wider audience. (more…)

What Are We Talking About When We Talk About Apartheid?

Kerry and others talk in terms of demographics, but it’s a question of rights

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(Shutterstock)

Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks last week to the Trilateral Commission predicting Israel’s potential transformation into an “apartheid state” should it fail to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians raised howls of protest from American Jewish leaders.

In Kerry’s defense, a number of commentators have pointed to Israeli leaders who have argued the same point, including Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. Indeed, many genuine friends of Israel—of which Kerry is undoubtedly one—have warned of the apartheid scenario, doing so often in service of specifically deflecting claims that Israel is already an apartheid state. Let the peace process fester, these pro-Israel voices warn, and that calumny could one day become true. But is this admonition accurate? (more…)

What Larry David Can Teach Us About Donald Sterling

How to talk provocatively about race without being a racist

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Have you gotten around to listening to that tape of the disgraced Donald Sterling, the (by-now, former) owner of the Los Angeles Clippers yet? I finally did, and while like the rest of the world, I was appalled by the open bigotry—not to mention inherent sexism—of his repellent statements about African-Americans to his (by-now, former) girlfriend V. Stiviano, I was also shocked by how, well, senile he sounded. His voice was frail. His sentences didn’t quite string together. I’m relieved no one had a recording device on their cell-phone back when my Alzheimer’s-ridden bubbe used to watch the Cosby Show with the sound turned off.

Sterling’s tirade has, predictably, prompted a host of commentary, some of it inspired (see Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s piece in Time), some of it just tired. I’ve sifted through much of it for you, and I’ve found the best response here, in Adult Swim’s genius insertion of the now-infamous audio into a classic exchange between George Costanza and his faceless and irascible boss George Steinbrenner on Seinfeld. (more…)

1482 Torah Sold for Record $3.87 Million

The 15th-century chumash is most expensive Hebrew book ever sold

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(Shutterstock)

Torah going once, Torah going twice, Torah sold–for $3.87 million.

At an auction in Paris this past Wednesday, a chumash from 1482 broke the record for the most expensive Hebrew-language book ever sold, JTA reports. Other Hebrew antiquities have been sold for impressive sums, including the 15th-century Jewish High Holidays prayer book that sold for $2.41 million in 2012, but the 15th-century Torah surpasses all other sales by a wide margin. (more…)

The Upper West Side’s New Kosher Sports Bar

Prime Grill’s Joey Allaham gets into the burger business

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(Shutterstock)

In the past couple of years, the Upper West Side has welcomed two new kosher burger places—Amsterdam Burger at 92nd Street and Gotham Burger, just three blocks north—but now the big boys have arrived: Joey Allaham and David Kolotkin of the Prime Hospitality Group, best known for their Prime Grill steakhouse in Midtown.

“A burger place is something we’ve been interested in for a while,” Kolotkin said recently, sitting in the new restaurant. “We wanted to create something that was more approachable for our audience. We have high-end kosher restaurants, but we wanted something for everyone, something where the prices weren’t too high, but where you could still get great food.”

They decided to convert the lower level of their steakhouse, Prime KO, just off Broadway at 85th Street, into Prime Burger, a sports bar and burger place. TVs were put up. Prime KO’s dark wood tables and floors were kept. Its chef, Makoto Kameyama, runs both kitchens; the menu blends Kolotkin’s American culinary background and Kameyama’s Japanese one. (more…)

Rabbi Wolpe’s Picks: Jewish Law is Personal

‘On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker,’ by Daniel Sperber

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(iStockPhoto)

Rabbi David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and the author, most recently, of Why Faith Matters. In this Scroll series, Wolpe examines a work of Jewish scholarship, either contemporary or classic, which has relevance for modern Jewish life.

Judaism divides mitzvot into two broad categories, bein adam l’havero — between human beings, and bein adam l’makom, between a person and God. So putting on tefillin is between the individual and God. Feeding a hungry person is between human beings. Granting that there is an inevitable overlap — God is implicated in all our actions, and when you put on tefillin it may be modeling for others, the two broad categories stand. When they conflict, is there a means of deciding which takes priority? Is one class of mitzvah more important than the other?

Daniel Sperber’s cumbersomely titled but erudite and stimulating book, On the Relationship of Mitzvot Between Man and His Neighbor and Man and His Maker, argues that the tradition teaches that mitzvot between people take precedence. Admitting that to many this is counterintuitive — we owe the Creator of everything more than our neighbor — the book nonetheless makes a compelling case that our neighbor, fragile and needy, comes first. Threaded through the argument are a myriad of sources along with wonderful anecdotes, illustrations and fine grained talmudic distinctions that make the book equally rewarding as learning and moral instruction. (more…)

Mel Bochner Returns to The Jewish Museum

The conceptual artist’s bold typographic works are on display in New York City

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Mel Bochner, "The Joys of Yiddish," 2012, oil and acrylic on two canvases. (Courtesy of The Jewish Museum)

Though it’s been more than 50 years since he’s shown his work there, artist Mel Bochner’s history with The Jewish Museum has been pivotal to his career. After all, his first job after arriving in New York in 1964 was as a security guard at the institution; while guarding a show by painter Phillip Guston, a chance meeting with a faculty member led to a teaching position at the School of Visual Arts, where he presented his first career show, which became a crucial moment in the conceptual art movement. And there is, of course, the infamous story of his getting fired from his security gig after falling asleep behind a Louise Nevelson sculpture, exhausted from nights spent painting.

But in “Mel Bochner: Strong Language,” opening today at The Jewish Museum, Bochner’s career-long exploration of language, meaning, and the space in between makes a bold impression of its own. A survey of his typographic paintings, alongside several drawings and published articles, displays the artist in one of his most comprehensive shows to date. (more…)

Remembering Menschy Actor Bob Hoskins

The Brit beloved for his role in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ died this week at 71

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British actor Bob Hoskins poses with his best actor award for his role in 'Mona Lisa' at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival. (STF/AFP/Getty Images)

Ah, ladies and gentlemen, I’m afraid the news is not good this week. Bob Hoskins, the beloved and burly character actor with an American accent so good you always did a double take when you remembered (or were reminded that) he was British, has died following a bout with pneumonia. He was 71.

Hoskins had built a solid career in his native U.K. playing Cockneys and gangsters and Cockney gangsters when he was cast in the role for which he will—perhaps justifiably—be best remembered: the hard-drinking, “toon”-adverse private eye Eddie Valliant in Robert Zemeckis’s 1987 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit? The movie was an instant classic, and Hoskins immediately became an icon to everyone with a certain sort of 1980s childhood. (more…)

Confessions of a Bible Contest Alum

How my family turned Torah study into a competitive sport

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The author crams at the last minute before the National Bible Contest in New York in 1983, wearing the Chidon's trademark blue and white yarmulke. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Today, Yair Rosenberg takes Tablet readers behind the scenes of the game-show-like drama of the Chidon ha-Tanakh, the annual International Bible Contest being held (and televised) in Israel this Monday, Israeli Independence Day. I come from a Chidon family, so I know the contest well; in 1979, when I was 8 years old, I was in the Chidon audience in Jerusalem.

It was exciting to watch the contest—and not just because the show opened with a choir performing “Hallelujah,” the Israeli pop song that had won the Eurovision Song Contest just a few weeks earlier in Jerusalem. There, on stage with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, was my 15-year-old brother Scott, competing for the prize. (more…)

Sitting in The Mother of All Chairs

Smothering or mothering? That’s the question artist Mirta Kupferminc asks

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Artist Mirta Kupferminc sits in her work Eve: Chair of All Mothers.(Mirta Kupferminc)

A chair made out of breasts. An inhabitable scene from the Garden of Eden. A beautiful woman eating a fig, blood dripping down one leg. These were among the offerings of Argentinian artist Mirta Kupferminc in the culminating ceremony of LABA: A Laboratory for Jewish Culture, in which artists come together to study Jewish texts.

This year’s theme was motherhood, and when the lights came on after a presentation of her 13-minute film Divine Desire, Kupferminc was sitting ensconced in the chair, which is called Eve: Chair of All Mothers and is made out of beanbag breasts, an example of Kupferminc’s wonderful ability to playfully engage with the most serious topics. “At first glance, this work is humorous, even ludicrous,” she explained to the audience. “Sexuality and maternity, this is the way the chain is shaped, l’dor v’dor.” (more…)

Anne Frank Sapling Planted on Capitol Hill

Grown from the chestnut tree that stood outside Frank’s Amsterdam home

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House Majority Leader Eric Cantor during the dedication ceremony for the Anne Frank Memorial Tree in Statuary Hall at the U.S. Capitol April 30, 2014 in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Anne Frank drew hope from the white horse chestnut tree that grew outside the window of her Amsterdam home. “As long as it exists, how can I be sad?” wrote Frank, who later died in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp at age 15.

A three-foot sapling of the tree that stood outside Frank’s window was planted on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol yesterday, Religion News Service reports.

“May this tree grow to its full height, serene and bursting with life, planted in our nation’s capital,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., at yesterday’s ceremony, which was moved indoors due to rain. (more…)

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