Israel’s ‘Master Chef’ Brings Together a Diverse Cast of Characters

Meet the contestants on Season 4 of Israel’s most popular TV show

The contestants on Israel's fourth season of Master Chef.(Facebook)

Where can you find a native kibbutznik, a British Haredi yeshiva student, an Ethiopian-born civil engineer who speaks eight languages, and an internationally acclaimed fashion designer? In Israel, of course, but more specifically on this season of the Israeli iteration of Master Chef, the reality cooking competition that originated in the United Kingdom and was popularized by Gordon Ramsay in the United States.

Now beginning its fourth season, Master Chef has become one of Israel’s most popular TV shows, with more than a million people tuning into its most recent episode, the most watched TV show in the country that week. The show has also passed the ultimate benchmark for entering Israeli culture: being parodied on both Eretz Nehederet (Wonderful Land) and Matzav Ha’Uma (State of the Union), Israel’s two SNL-style sketch comedy shows. (more…)

Why the Orthodox Union Supports Religious Exemptions to the Contraception Mandate

It’s not because they oppose contraception

President Barack Obama photographed with Orthodox Jewish leaders in the Oval Office, June 5, 2012. (Pete Souza)

In June 2012, the Orthodox Union brought a dozen Orthodox lay and rabbinical leaders to the White House to meet with President Obama. We knew our time with the president would be limited, so we planned carefully which issues we would raise for discussion. Of course, we spoke to the president about the security of Israel. We spoke to him about the critical role Jewish day schools play in our community and the need to provide appropriate government support for them. Any good staffer briefing President Obama for the meeting would have predicted we would broach exactly those issues.

But then we took the conversation down a less predictable path: we raised our concern over the Administration’s effort, under the Affordable Care Act, to mandate employers to provide widespread access to contraceptives and other women’s health services through their employer-sponsored health insurance plans. We stressed to President Obama that Orthodox Judaism does not share the Catholic Church’s view of the absolute impermissibility of contraception. But we also stressed that we do share a deep concern for religious liberty and oppose government policies, even in the service of commendable ends, which would force religious Americans to violate the tenets of their faith, especially when the government can achieve its goals in other ways. (more…)

Folk Music Icon Pete Seeger Dies at 94

His recording of ‘Tzena Tzena’ brought sounds of Israel to Americans in 1950

Singer Pete Seeger performs at the 2009 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize special outdoor tribute at Hunts Point Riverside Park on September 3, 2009 in New York City.(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Pete Seeger, the singer and songwriter who helped define folk music for a new generation, and for whom a call to political action informed his music, has died at 94. Seeger’s music championed causes spanning decades; according to his New York Times obituary, “He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond.” His political ties drew the attention of authorities during the McCarthy era—he was subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955, and indicted on 10 counts of contempt of Congress in 1957. (more…)

Watch All of Larry David’s Insults at Once

Three minutes of the most crass, inane Curb Your Enthusiasm zingers

Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm.(Jessica Miglio/HBO)

Even the most casual of Curb Your Enthusiasm viewers know that hardly a scene goes by without producer and star Larry David spewing some sort of offensive barb—at strangers, at other characters, at innocent children. He can’t get through even the most routine of interactions without leaving a trail of insulted bystanders in his wake, and he doesn’t care at all. It’s why I can’t watch the show without being in a constant state of full-body cringe.

My nightmare has apparently been realized, because now you can watch all of it at once, thanks to the patient individual with a high pain threshold who put together Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm Insult Supercut. The most memorable lines are on there, devoid of context or plot, in their purest state. It’s like insult nirvana, with a lot more cursing. (more…)

Listen to Yossi Green’s Interpretation of ‘Av HaRachamim’

Orthodox composer releases music video devoted to Holocaust remembrance


Just in time for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Hasidic composer Yossi Green has released a video for his song set to the words of Av HaRachamim—a memorial prayer recited in synagogue every Shabbat morning. The prayer was written in the late 11th century to commemorate the Jewish communities destroyed by Christian crusaders, and has been transformed by Green into a musical memory of the Holocaust, with a powerful music video filmed at Auschwitz and paired with actual photo and video footage from the Holocaust.

The video features Tsudik Greenwald, the chief cantor of the Central Synagogue in Frankfurt, Germany, and quite adorably, his young son. Together, Green explained, the two singers are meant to be a “reincarnation of the voices that can sing no more and a continuation of the voices who sing today and in the future.” (more…)

Anti-Semitic Comedian Dieudonné in Hot Water With French Authorities

Provocateur’s legal woes coincide with rising anti-Jewish sentiment in Paris

A woman holds a placard reading 'Looking for a ticket for Dieudonne!' prior to the performance of French controversial humorist Dieudonne M'bala M'bala in front of the Zenith on January 9, 2014 in Saint-Herblain, France, as French Interior minister called for Dieudonne's new tour performances to be banned. (JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Anti-Semitic rabble rouser extraordinaire Dieudonné M’bala M’bala began the new year with the usual controversy and clamor for negative attention, culminating in his being called in for questioning by the police, suspected of armed assault on bailiffs. The bailiffs were at Dieudonné’s home to collect fines associated with the French-Cameroonian comedian’s multiple convictions for defamation, libel, and incitement to hatred and racial discrimination stemming from his public Holocaust denial and anti-Jewish sentiment. Dieudonné’s exploits might seem like the isolated acts of a provocative performer, were it not for the massive demonstration in Paris yesterday in which anti-government protestors shouted ‘Jews, France is not yours‘ repeatedly in French.

The incident with the bailiffs wasn’t Dieudonné’s first conflict with the authorities in the early days of 2014. Soon after Dieudonné announced the tour for his new show, ‘Le Mur’ (The Wall)—said to be a rumination on the subject of the “memory of the victims of the Shoa”—the ambitious and impatient Minister of Interior, Manuel Valls, swung into action. He sent out a circular memo to the mayors of the towns where Dieudonné was slated to appear, informing them of their right to ban the show on the grounds of defending the public order. (Last September, Valls was himself humiliated as youths he had posed for a photo with had clandestinely flashed the quenelle, the anti-Semitic viral gesture championed by Dieudonné. (more…)

What to Read on International Holocaust Remembrance Day

A look through Tablet’s archives

A survivor puts down a candle during a ceremony in the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oswiecim, Poland, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, 2014.(JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

You can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a time to look back and remember the atrocities, losses, and personal triumphs that paint our most vivid communal memories. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of recommended reading from our archives. (more…)

Leave Yair Netanyahu Alone!

The prime minister’s son’s love life is of no theological-historical significance

Yair Netanyahu and girlfriend Sandra Leikanger.(Facebook)

So Bibi’s kid is dating a Norwegian girl. So she’s not Jewish. So what.

To hear so, so many in Israel tell it, Yair Netanyahu’s blooming romance is a historical and theological tragedy. “If they get married,” said Yair’s uncle, Haggai Ben-Artzi, “I’ll walk around in the street and tear the hair off my head.” He then added that as long as his nephew is involved with a non-Jew, he’ll personally stop Yair from visiting the gravesites of his late grandparents, whose memory, Ben-Artzi thundered, the young man was disgracing by the simple act of locking lips with a shiksa.

Come on now. (more…)

‘Jew, France Is Not Yours’ Chant Anti-Government Demonstrators in Paris

Chilling video captures rising anti-Semitism in France


A chilling new video clip recorded yesterday captures the reality of rising anti-Semitism in France. In it, a group of anti-government demonstrators march through Paris, singing the French national anthem and chanting “Juif, la France n’est pas a toi” (“Jew, France is not yours”)–all on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day: (more…)

The Real Problem With Bill de Blasio’s ‘Top-Secret’ AIPAC Speech

Would we be as interested if the group’s event hadn’t been closed to press?

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio attends New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address on January 8, 2014 in Albany, New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave an unannounced speech to AIPAC representatives last night at Manhattan’s Hilton Hotel. The event was closed to the press, though a Capital New York reporter managed to record the mayor’s speech before being escorted out of the room by security. And just like that, a fairly routine speech has taken on a slightly scandalous air. All because the group’s insistence on exclusivity and closed meetings made this speech seem just a little bit, well, secretive.

Contrary to what it might seem like, de Blasio didn’t actually say anything new, or even particularly interesting. “There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel and it is my belief, it is our obligation, to defend Israel, but it is also something that is elemental to being an American because there is no greater ally on earth, and that’s something we can say proudly,” de Blasio told the crowd, according to Capital. It was hardly Mitt Romney’s 47 percent gaffe. He’s said most of this stuff before, and in public. His pro-Israel stance is hardly a secret. In fact it’s not a secret at all. (more…)

Caleb Jacoby’s Disappearance and the Barbed Embrace of Community

The family doesn’t owe us an answer, but should expect that people will ask

Missing persons report for Caleb Jacoby. (Brookline Police Department)

This week yet another blogger chimed in on whether or not Caleb Jacoby’s journey is any of our business. And yet another blogger missed the point.

Of course it is none of “our” business. But it also wasn’t “our” problem.

I hesitate to include myself in this mysterious “our” because I am only marginally associated with the modern Orthodox community. I was once a participant in that community, though, and I continue to reap some of its enormous benefits. To a lesser extent, I also continue to pay the price. (more…)

Sarah Silverman Chats With Jesus About Reproductive Rights in New Video

The comedian’s activist streak continues, for a good cause


You didn’t think that the systematic legislative war being waged against women’s reproductive freedoms (aka a woman’s right to get an abortion) across this vast land would be something Sarah Silverman would take lightly, did you? Or that we wouldn’t support her opposition to what amounts to an atrocious degradation of a woman’s right to accessible healthcare?

In a new video, Silverman, whose political stances now stand as tall as her comedy as a pillar of her reputation, promotes From V to Shining V, a day (September 27—mark your calendars, people) of national pride for women. But before she introduces the initiative, she enjoys the warm, unexpected friendship of none other than Jesus Christ. He drops in for a visitation; they flip through a book of photos of dressed up cats, they snuggle on the coach, eating popcorn and watching an NCIS marathon. She asks him when, exactly, life begins and he replies, chuckling: At 40. (more…)

Shulamit Aloni, One of Israel’s First Feminist Leaders, Dies at 85

The former Knesset member led the way for a movement now in its prime

Israeli Ministers (L to R) Avraham Shohat, Shimon Peres, Shulamit Aloni, David Libai and Benyamin Ben-Eliezer at a special cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, September 27, 1995. (ZOOM 77/AFP/Getty Images)

When Shulamit Aloni, one of Israel’s first feminist leaders who died today at 85, presented a bill protecting women from domestic violence, some of her male fellow MKs mocked her. “Go back to the kitchen and get me a cup of coffee,” some of the men said, laughing, as they dismissed the seriousness of her work.

That was 1973. A lot has changed in Israel since then, Aloni explained as she recounted the story at a 2011 meeting of the Knesset Committee on the Status of Women. If Israeli women’s lives are in fact better than they were in 1973—and there are many indications that they are—then we have Aloni to thank for that. She never did serve her colleagues coffee, but she served them a good dose of feminist consciousness and led the way for a movement that is now in its prime. (more…)

Warsaw’s Museum of the History of Polish Jews Appoints Director

Polish historian and author Dariusz Stola to begin post in March

An inside view of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews designed by Finnish architects Rainer Mahlamaeki and Ilmari Lahdelma, is pictured on April 18, 2013 In Warsaw. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images))

The Museum of the History of Polish Jews announced its official opening date—October 28, 2014—and now the Warsaw museum has a director. Poland’s Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski announced the appointment of Dr. Dariusz Stola, an author and historian, who will take the helm at the museum on March 1. Stola is a professor at the Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences, and a fellow at Warsaw University’s Center for Migration Research. Tad Taube, a distinguished benefactor of the museum, offered his congratulations, saying, “His scholarship is world-renowned and his vision for the Museum is impressive.”

The news is of particular interest to Tablet, as several of our staffers were present for the museum’s soft opening in April 2013, which coincided with Warsaw’s city-wide commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (you can check out our full coverage of the trip here). As Allison Hoffman wrote in her profile of Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the NYU scholar who designed the museum’s impressive core exhibition, “The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw is many things: a memorial, a monument, a meeting place. It’s also a visual metaphor, a concrete cube encased in glass curtain walls split in half by a roof-height gash.” (more…)

Meet The Orthodox Rabbi Who’s Also A Mixed Martial Arts Fighter

22-year-old Yossi Eilfort recently fought—and won—his first amateur match

Rabbi Yossi Eilfort, Mixed Martial Arts fighter.(YouTube)

Rabbi Yossi Eilfort isn’t really all that different from other young, Orthodox rabbis. The 22-year-old goes to shul, wears a kippah, and observes the Sabbath. Oh, and he’s a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.

The young Californian recently fought—and won—his first amateur MMA match by a technical knockout, or TKO, in the second round, Fox News reports. Eilfort began training only six months ago under former UFC fighter, Thierry Sokoudjou—plus he sits out on Friday nights and Saturdays. (more…)

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