Ring in the New Year With a Manischewitz Fizz

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a clever—and kosher—holiday cocktail

Manischewitz Fizz. (VinePair)

We here at Tablet love nothing more than a Jewish holiday-themed cocktail (see: Passover Ten Plagues cocktails; Tablet’s signature Thanksgivukkah cocktail), and we’ve found the perfect way to ring in the Jewish New Year: a Manischewitz Fizz.

The folks at VinePair created three Rosh Hashanah concoctions that use Manischewitz—that sweet, nostalgia-laced red wine—though they’re definitely not what you’d find at your temple’s kiddish. Our favorite, the Manischewitz Fizz, is a High Holiday-appropriate take on a bellini that uses wine in place of peach purée. (more…)

Israel Kills Two Suspects in June Kidnappings

Hamas identified the men as members of the militant group’s armed wing

Israeli security forces stand guard during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in the West Bank town of Hebron on September 23, 2014 following an IDF operation that killed two suspects in the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. (HAZEM BADER/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli forces confirmed they’ve killed two suspects in the June kidnapping and murder of Israeli teens Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach, an incident which gripped the country and became one of the precipitating forces of the 50-day war in Gaza. The New York Times reports that the IDF located the two men, who were suspected of abducting and murdering the hitchhiking teens, and killed them during a shootout in Hebron.

Hamas, which had claimed responsibility for the June murders, has identified the two men as members of the militant group’s armed wing, the al-Qassam Brigades. (more…)

Jury: Arab Bank Supported Hamas Operations

Jordanian bank found liable for knowingly transferring terrorism funds

The entrance of Arab Bank's main offices in Amman, Jordan, on August 16, 2014. (KHALIL MAZRAAWI/AFP/Getty Images)

American relatives of Hamas terror victims in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv took the Jordanian-based Arab Bank to court in New York, alleging that the bank processed payments for and funneled money to the terrorist organization—and won. A federal jury found Arab Bank liable Monday for “knowingly supporting terrorist efforts that were connected to 24 attacks in the Middle East,” the New York Times reports.

Specifically, the bank was found to have processed payments and transferred money for Hamas, ‘knowingly’ being the key term: Arab Bank has previously claimed that any payments to Hamas had been an error. (more…)

Despite Unrest, Hasidim Head to Ukraine

Security concerns won’t derail annual Breslover pilgrimage to Uman

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews near the tomb of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov in the Ukrainian city of Uman, on September 24, 2006. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

In the days and weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, Breslov Hasidim from around the world—most notably strongholds in New York, Israel, the U.K. and Canada—travel to Uman, a small city between Kiev and Odessa in Ukraine, to spend the holiday near the grave of their spiritual leader, Rebbe Nachman. In the years since the fall of the Iron Curtain, Rosh Hashanah in Uman has become a veritable institution often compared to a Hasidic Burning Man, complete with exuberant dancing and a variety of expressive coifs. 

Between 30,000 and 35,000 pilgrims, mostly men, are estimated to have made the journey last year, up from 1,000 in 1989, the first year access to the gravesite was allowed. Despite some relatively minor discord with locals––Uman has a permanent population of around 85,000––most years have gone so smoothly that a kind of cottage tourist industry geared towards the Hasidim has grown around the holiday: Kosher food tents are erected, souvenir vendors set up shop, and medical personnel organize a makeshift emergency clinic, as the nearest hospital is in Kiev, a three hour’s drive away. (more…)

Jack’s Wife Freda’s Rosh Hashanah Specialty

The NYC restaurant will be serving honey and red wine-braised short ribs

Freda's honey and red wine braised short ribs with carrots and mashed potatoes. (Jack's Wife Freda)

If you’ve ever strolled down Lafayette Street in Manhattan on a Sunday afternoon and wondered what the crowd of stylish, iPhone-jabbing people just south of Spring Street were waiting for, the answer is Jack’s Wife Freda. Opened by New York City food scene veterans Maya and Dean Jankelowitz in 2012, Jack’s Wife Freda has been dubbed the “cool kid’s Jewish restaurant,” and serves food affectionately—and accurately—described as “South African Israeli Jewish Grandmother Cuisine.” It makes sense: the restaurant’s namesake Freda is Dean’s grandmother (her husband, Jack, is Dean’s grandfather).

The restaurant is part of the recent wave of trendy, Jewish-inspired—though decidedly not kosher—restaurants in New York City that have nostalgic 20-somethings banging down their doors for brunch (see: Shalom Japan, Baz Bagels, Black Seed Bagels, Mile End, Russ and Daughters Cafe). Jack’s Wife Freda sets itself apart, however, in that in doesn’t offer your typical Ashkenazi-chic fare. (more…)

Meet the Syrian Sugihara

Rogue diplomat secured passports for rebels fleeing Assad’s bloody regime

Syrians, who are fleeing the violence some from the cities of Idlib or Aleppo, stand next to their belongings in front of the Syrian-Turkish border as they attempt to cross illegally to Turkey on September 7, 2014. (ZEIN AL-RIFAI/AFP/Getty Images)

One of the many deeply depressing aspects of the Holocaust is that many of its victims could have been saved, if only others had given them safe harbor. Across Europe, Jews attempted to escape the Nazi regime but were turned away by countries that refused to take them or even assist them in obtaining safe passage. Japan, an ally of Nazi Germany, was officially one such country. But thanks to a rogue diplomat stationed in Lithuania named Chiune Sugihara, who disobeyed his government’s directives, thousands of Jews, including many Polish yeshiva students, were able to acquire exit visas and flee through Japan, many ultimately arriving in America.

I’m very familiar with the story of these Jews, because my grandfather was one of them. Which is why a piece in this past week’s Wall Street Journal caught my eye. In an article titled “A Mole Inside Assad’s Embassy Aided Syrian Rebels,” Adam Entous tells a strikingly familiar story. (more…)

The Road to the New Jerusalem, Part 3

The story behind a story about a young woman’s search for a new kind of Jewish community

Sonja Sharp's Rosh Hashanah table in 2013. (Sonja Sharp)

Today, Tablet published “My Journey to the New Jerusalem,” a story by Sonja Sharp written and edited in collaboration with The Big Roundtable. Michael Shapiro was the editor.

Sonja Sharp came to me as much to talk about faith as about a story. This is unusual in the relationship between writer and editor.

Sonja had been my student several years ago and had stayed in touch, mostly to talk shop. But then, last winter, she stopped by to talk about faith, and as she did, being an editor, I could not help seeing a story coming to life. (more…)

High Holiday Reading from Tablet

A preview of what’s to come over the next few weeks

(Tablet Magazine)

A Jewish woman of my acquaintance once described the women’s gallery of her Orthodox synagogue during the High Holidays as practicing a Music Man kind of Judaism: “pray-a-little, talk-a-little, pray-a-little, talk-a-little.” (more…)

A Rosh Hashanah Meal With Meaning

Recipes featuring the Talmud’s five ingredients for a sweet new year

Rosh Hashanah Beans n' Greens. (Photo by the author)

A Rosh Hashanah meal shared with family and friends is one of the first acts of the New Year, and it’s as positive and life affirming an act one can perform. After all, nothing says ‘We’re here, we made it through another year, L’Chaim!’ like a festive meal shared and savored with loved ones.

There are five foods the Talmud says we should eat on Rosh Hashanah to ensure a year of good fortune: gourds, black-eyed peas, leeks, beets, and dates. These foods all have names that are a play on words for a particular wish for the new year: For example, the Hebrew word for dates is tamar, which sounds like yitamu, which means ‘to be removed’—as in, remove our foes from our midst.

With these auspicious ingredients in mind I’ve put together a Rosh Hashanah menu sure to start the year off right. (more…)

Can Data Predict the Next Genocide?

New project uses statistics to spot—and publicize—potential mass killings


Wondering who will win the next presidential election? Ask Nate Silver.

Wondering which country’s regime could be the next to begin a large-scale slaughter of its own people? Ask Jay Ulfelder.

While data-cruncher Nate Silver’s political prognostications have become the gold standard for American election predictions, political scientist Jay Ulfelder has been working on applying similar statistical techniques to a different, more intense question: Where and when will the next mass killing occur? (more…)

Former AP Reporter Confirms Matti Friedman Account

Says Jerusalem bureau pulled his 2009 story about Israeli peace offer

(Shutterstock )

Last month, former Associated Press reporter Matti Friedman published an essay in Tablet highlighting how, and why, news organizations get Israel so wrong. The AP’s Jerusalem bureau, where Friedman used to work, was the subject of much of his criticism. He argued that the bureau stuck to a preexisting narrative of Israeli extremism and Palestinian moderation. One of his examples that his former employer stifled stories that presented a divergent narrative came from 2009, when two of his colleagues had a story about a peace proposal from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that Palestinian leadership rejected. Both the Israelis and Palestinians confirmed this, but editors pulled the piece.

Steven Gutkin, the former AP bureau chief in Jerusalem, who hired Friedman in 2006, wrote a response in which he denied the charge that the story was pulled due to editorial bias, asserting that the information discovered by the reporters, namely a map depicting a proposed land swap, was old news. (more…)

Pickling Pioneer Preaches Gospel of Fermentation

When it comes to brines, Sandor Katz bubbles with enthusiasm

Sandor Katz teaching in Hobart, Tasmania in February 2014. (Kate Berry)

If you have friends who brew kombucha, ask around for kefir grains, have a jar of kimchi bubbling away on the counter, or wax poetic about salty dill pickles fermented in brine, you can probably thank Sandor Katz.

The grandson of Jewish immigrants who came to New York from Belarus in 1920, Katz grew up on the Upper West Side, and has written about his fond memories of “yummy garlic-dill sour pickles [from] Guss’ pickle stall on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and Zabar’s on the Upper West Side.” (more…)

Yiddish Goes Virtual With Online Classes

More proof the language isn’t dying: interactive online courses


Forget the trend stories decrying the death of Yiddish or proclaiming Yiddish’s trendy revival: the Jewish language remains very much alive in the United States, and by the looks of things, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The Workmen’s Circle, which bills itself as “the largest provider of Yiddish language classes in the United States outside of academic institutions”—and where your humble blogger took an introductory Yiddish literacy course several years ago—is now offering online Yiddish courses. While those might be three words your bubbe would never expect to hear in the same sentence, the virtual classes are further proof that the language of our Eastern European forebears is continuing its long tradition of adapting to fit the needs of its speakers. (more…)

Kentucky Senate Candidate: With Jews, We Lose

Anti-Semitic write-in candidate affiliated with white supremacist group


A Kentucky man is running a write-in campaign for Senate, plastering the area with signs proclaiming, “With Jews, we lose.” The aspiring anti-Semitic senator is Robert Ransdell, a longtime white supremacist who has spoken at KKK-type rallies and is affiliated with the National Alliance, an organization whose web site bills itself as “your single source for pro-White news.”

USA Today reports that Ransdell has vowed to raise his profile, and is currently actively campaigning in the state. “I am absolutely chomping at the bit going forward with my campaign,” he wrote last month at the white supremacist forum Stormfront. (more…)

Excavation Unearths Gas Chambers at Sobibor

Discovery enables further research of the Nazi extermination camp

Sobibor railway yard. (Wikimedia)

An archaeological excavation at Sobibor, a Nazi extermination camp in Poland, has yielded an invaluable result. The excavation—which began in 2007, JTA reports, and has uncovered various personal items belonging to Jewish prisoners—has now unearthed the death camp’s gas chambers.

Yoram Haimi, an archeologist working on the project, said finding the gas chambers was the goal of the excavation. “We were amazed at the size of the building and the well-preserved condition of the chamber walls,” he said. “The most poignant moment was when we found a wedding band next to the gas chambers, on which was the Hebrew inscription: “Behold, you are consecrated unto me.” (more…)

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