Swastikas Drawn on Odessa Holocaust Memorial

Ukraine’s far-right political party implicated, but its leaders condemn the act

Chief Rabbi of Odessa Abraham Wolff and Right Sector representative erase Nazi symbols in Odessa. (Kapulkin Bolesla/

Earlier this week, a Holocaust memorial, the wall of a Jewish cemetery, and the fence of a synagogue in Odessa were defaced with swastikas, SS symbols, and the words “Death the Jews”—and with tags indicating the graffiti was the work of members of the far-right Pravyi Sektor, or Right Sector, party.

Some were quick to seize on the graffiti—on the eve of the 70th anniversary of Odessa’s liberation from the Nazis, in 1944—as further evidence of a dangerous anti-Semitic strain emerging alongside anti-Russian politics in Ukraine since the ouster in February of Viktor Yanokovych. “Undoubtedly, the pro-Jewish atmosphere currently is much more credible in Russia than in Ukraine,” Osias Wurman, an honorary consul for Israel based in Rio, told the Voice of Russia network. (more…)

Student Holocaust Poster Pulled After Complaint

Collage of swastikas and crossed out Israeli flags was a sixth grade assignment

Photograph of the poster, which was removed from the school's hallway. (

A Jewish teacher at Lincoln School in Fairview, N.J. recently came across a strange sight in the hallway: a poster filled with swastikas, Israeli flags drawn on, and pictures of Jewish children with their faces crossed out.

The poster, it turns out, was part of a sixth-grade assignment for students after reading Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, a work of historical fiction commonly used to introduce young readers to the Holocaust. The collage, however, apparently lacked any sort of context about the assignment or explanation about what the students intended to convey. After the teacher complained, the superintendent ordered the poster be taken down, reports. (more…)

Tablet Gives Moses Award to Ayaan Hirsi Ali

After Brandeis president disgracefully revokes her honorary degree

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in Paris on February 10, 2008. (MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)

Brandeis University’s decision to withdraw an honorary degree from the activist and writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali is yet another shameful reminder of how limp the commitment of Jewish institutions to open discourse has grown, and how threatened we’ve all become by a public conversation that permits the expression of nuanced, complicated, even at times offensive ideas—meaning, any ideas at all worth their salt. (more…)

Soviet Jewry Activist Jacob Birnbaum Dies at 87

Mobilized student involvement in the campaign to free Soviet Jews

Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry sign at a rally. (YouTube)

Yesterday, we lost a genuine Jewish hero. Jacob Birnbaum, who passed away at the age of 87, emerged during the 1960s when he founded an organization called the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, or SSSJ, as it was known. He was not a communal grandee, or a remote figure at the head of a polished organization that supported good work. He was a grass-roots activist who made a real difference.

The timing, in some way, couldn’t be more poignant. (more…)

The Best Quinoa Dishes for Passover

Avoid matzoh-filled monotony with the kosher for Passover superfood


Quinoa, that glorious gluten-free superfood, is officially officially kosher for Passover. That’s right, the OU designated it kosher for Passover in time for this year’s seder. It’s just the latest seal of paschal approval for the still-trendy South American-grown food—Star-K proclaimed quinoa kosher for Passover back in 1991:

Despite its fluffy, grain-like appearance, quinoa was designated a member of the goosefoot species, a cousin to beets, and completely unrelated to the five forbidden chametz grains: wheat, spelt, oats, rye, and barley. Furthermore, the Star-K deemed quinoa not kitniyot (literally “small things”)—an additional category of foods such as rice and legumes that Ashkenazi Jews customarily avoid on Passover—which meant it was kosher for all Jews, not just Sephardim that have the practice of eating kitniyot during Passover.

So rejoice, quinoa lovers, and celebrate with some of our favorite kosher for Passover quinoa recipes. (more…)

Ed Miliband Addresses Students in Jerusalem

Labour Party leader talks anti-Semitism, Iran, and the faltering peace process

Ed Miliband. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Ed Miliband, head of the British opposition and the Labour Party’s first Jewish leader, said he believed Israel to be the homeland of the Jewish people, but stopped short of calling himself a Zionist, as he met with Hebrew University students today in Jerusalem. This marks his first public appearance on a visit that is taking his efforts to rebuild the United Kingdom’s “New Jerusalem” to the Jerusalem of Old. Just one month after Miliband’s chief rival, Prime Minister David Cameron, was heckled during his speech to the Knesset (unfazed, Cameron said his ambassador had taught him the word balagan prior to his address), Miliband faced a decidedly more favorable audience at the Mount Scopus campus.

Miliband, the son of Polish Holocaust survivors, opened by telling students that this trip takes him back to his first visit to Israel, at the age of seven, when a chance encounter with an old photograph at his grandmother’s Tel Aviv home led his family to tell him his grandfather had been killed by the Nazis. He came to Israel today, he said, with deep gratitude for how his grandmother had been treated by this country. (more…)

Passover Recipes to Cook With Kids

The founder of ChopChop offers tips to make food prep inclusive—and fun


There’s no better time to cook with young children than for holidays. Whether you’re recreating a traditional family meal or starting your own new tradition, it’s the perfect opportunity to invite kids into the kitchen. And with friends and family at the table, kids are sure to deepen their connections and receive lots of encouragement.

Getting young children to eat can be a challenge and holidays are no exception, but when you involve them in the process—whether it’s choosing the menu, making a grocery list, shopping, or cooking—they become engaged. And an engaged child is a better, more curious, healthier eater. (more…)

Maryland Holocaust Reparation Bill Fails

Would have forced French rail company to pay up before getting U.S. contract


Maryland legislature failed to vote on a bill that would have prohibited French railway company Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français, or SNCF, from entering into a United States contract until it paid restitution to Holocaust survivors for SNCF involvement in transporting Jews to Nazi concentration camps. According to the Washington Post, the bill never got past committee hearings and stalled indefinitely on Monday as the 2014 Maryland General Assembly session ended.

The story began when the French company Keolis, a SNCF subsidiary, put in a bid for Maryland’s $2.2 billion light-rail Purple Line Project. Maryland Senator Joan Carter Conway proposed that Maryland legislature block the company from winning the bid until the company compensated American Holocaust survivors. (more…)

Soviet Emigres Get Stuck in the Past in ‘Stateless’

By focusing on their departure only, the film misses what the migrants became


What is the authentic Soviet Jewish immigration story? That seems to be the question hanging over Stateless, a new documentary on the immigration in the final, pre-collapse years of the Soviet Union.

The film opens a door into a period largely unexplored in film, with few exceptions. (Refusenik is one.) By default, it carries the weight of every immigrant—every hope, every dream, every tear. It is a powerful, moving portrayal of what is, for many of us, the most important events of our lives. Screenings have been sold out; there is a sense of wonder—and gratitude—among Russian Jews that someone has put our story onto the screen. But the story it tells is incomplete. (more…)

Rabbi Stephen Sondheim

The theater legend’s approach to lashon hara is one we can actually follow

Stephen Sondheim in 2007. (Reuters)

It is a truth universally acknowledged among members of the theater community and those who wish to be that if you write Stephen Sondheim a letter (or an email, in this electronic age), he will write you back. His response will likely be brief, but grammatically perfect, elegantly composed, and brimming with wry—if occasionally condescending—humor.

One of the people to whom he frequently wrote was his friend, collaborator, and sometimes implacable enemy Arthur Laurents, the writer and director who wrote the books to many of Sondheim’s best known—or at least, most commercial—works (Gypsy, anyone? West Side Story?) When Laurents died in 2001 at the age of 93, he left his enormous and meticulously hoarded trove of letters, journals, and other papers to the Library of Congress with instructions to grant the public “unrestricted access.” (more…)

Park51 Owners File Permits for Demolition

Future plans for the controversial Lower Manhattan site not yet known

Exterior of Park51.(Inhabit)

Park51, the Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan termed the “Ground Zero Mosque,” may soon be demolished. Soho Properties, the real estate firm that owns the building, filed an application for demolition with New York City’s Department of Buildings this week, the New York Observer reports. (more…)

Mah-Jongg Madness Takes Over Las Vegas

More than 300 players face off in the annual high-stakes competition


Forget March Madness. A different kind of high-stakes competition took over Las Vegas this past weekend: Mah Jongg Madness. Hundreds of mah-jongg fanatics from across the country have convened to go big or go home in the mah-jongg tournament of the century, CBS News reports.

“This is the most wonderful game in everdom!” said Gladys Grad, host of the tournament and renowned ‘Grand Master’ of the sport.

“There’s something about it that just, I don’t know—sexy,” one participant told CBS reporter Bill Geist. (more…)

In Praise of Slivovitz

I used to think plum brandy tasted like paint thinner—but then I saw the light


The first time I tried slivovitz, I nearly spat it right back out.

It was at the conclusion of a particularly soporific, long-winded Passover dinner: My father-in-law brought out a squat bottle with a battered label and proudly poured everyone a thimbleful of the clear liquid—eau-de-vie distilled from plums.

It had a pleasingly fruity aroma, but it burned like paint thinner going down. I sputtered a few swear words and declared I’d never, ever touch that firewater again. (more…)

Payard Patisserie Pursues Passover Perfection

Top French pastry chef expands his roster of unleavened desserts

(François Payard)

One of the world’s most decorated pastry chefs is set to unveil his latest Passover creation, but for the time being he’s preserving a bit of mystery. François Payard would reveal only that it will be filled with caramel and based on matzah meal.

“We are working on something very special,” Payard divulged. “The idea is that people not get tired of you. It’s about trying to create something new for the market.”

Payard, a third-generation pâtissier who calls himself “Mr. Macaron” and claims to have ganache coursing through his veins, has received many awards, including the prestigious “Pastry Chef of the Year” from the James Beard Foundation in 1995. But the title he never expected was “Pastry Chef to the Jews.” (more…)

Exploring Biblical Conflict Through Dance

Sasha Soreff’s ‘Hineni’ is inspired by struggle both ancient and contemporary

Image from 'Hineni'(Lexi Namer)

Everyone manages moments of adversity differently. For Jewish choreographer Sasha Soreff, a community dance project is the ideal approach. Premiering on Wednesday night in New York City, Soreff’s interpretive dance performance Hineni—Hebrew for ‘here I am’—combines biblical stories with modern examples of struggle. Each performance will be followed by an audience discussion led by various faith leaders, rendering the Jewish-inspired artwork accessible for the community at large.

Inspired by a tattoo of the word hineni she once saw on a dancer’s ankle, Soreff set out to create a dance that would be deeply rooted in Jewish tradition yet meaningful to a wider audience. (more…)

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.