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Is Schindler a Projection of Spielberg Himself?

‘Schindler’s List’ is a story of redemption—for both the film’s protagonist and its director

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Liam Neeson in Schindler's List (IMDb)

In a 1994 New Yorker profile that appeared a few months after the release of Schindler’s List, Steven Spielberg spoke candidly about how his Holocaust epic had transformed him.

In the past, he told the magazine’s Stephen Schiff, there had been projects he’d done for the money—things like the Indiana Jones sequels and Jurassic Park.  “But,” he added, “these days I’d rather make the more difficult choices. I was just so challenged by Schindler’s List and so fulfilled by it and so disturbed by it. It so shook up my life, in a good way, that I think I got a little taste of what a lot of other directors have existed on all through their careers.”

Schindler’s List is also a story of transformation—of a hunger for money giving way to a higher calling. (more…)

Top Secret Hamas Command Bunker in Gaza Revealed

And why reporters won’t talk about it

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A displaced Palestinian woman hangs washed laundry to dry near makeshift tents on July 27, 2014 in the garden of Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City. (Getty Images)

The idea that one of Hamas’ main command bunkers is located beneath Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is one of the worst-kept secrets of the Gaza war. So why aren’t reporters in Gaza ferreting it out? The precise location of a large underground bunker equipped with sophisticated communications equipment and housing some part of the leadership of a major terrorist organization beneath a major hospital would seem to qualify as a world-class scoop—the kind that might merit a Pulitzer, or at least a Polk.

So why isn’t the fact that Hamas uses Shifa Hospital as a command post making headlines? In part, it’s because the location is so un-secret that Hamas regularly meets with reporters there. On July 15, for example, William Booth of the Washington Post wrote that the hospital “has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.” Back in 2006, PBS even aired a documentary showing how gunmen roam the halls of the hospital, intimidate the staff, and deny them access to protected locations within the building—where the camera crew was obviously prohibited from filming. Yet the confirmation that Hamas is using Gaza City’s biggest hospital as its de facto headquarters was made in the last sentence of the eighth paragraph of Booth’s story—which would appear to be the kind of rookie mistake that is known in journalistic parlance as “burying the lede.”

But Booth is no rookie—he’s an experienced foreign reporter, which means that he buried the lede on purpose. Why? (more…)

Miami Marred by Anti-Semitic Vandalism

Synagogue and Jewish cars defaced with ‘Hamas’ graffiti

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Miami Beach (Shutterstock)

Over the past few days, two anti-Semitic acts have been committed in the least likely of places: Miami, Florida. Congregation Torah V’Emunah, a synagogue in North Miami Beach, was spray-painted with swastikas and the word “Hamas” on Monday morning, JTA reports. This act of vandalism comes just two days after the cars of a Jewish family in Miami Beach were egged and covered in cream cheese while the family attended Shabbat services. The cars, parked in the mainly Jewish neighborhood of Miami Beach, were vandalized with the words “Jew” and “Hamas.” According to CBS Miami, police are investigating the act as a potential hate crime, and many members of the neighborhood plan to install surveillance cameras. (more…)

A Mother’s Protective Edge Lullaby

We decided to start sleep training my son, and then the war broke out

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(Shutterstock)

Like any Jewish mother worth her salt, I’ve been bursting with pride over my son’s accomplishments ever since he was born seven months ago. He sits! He crawls! He pulls himself up to stand! But, alas, there is one sphere where he has been making no progress, and that is in the sleep department. Not only does he not sleep through the night, he wakes every hour or two, his face wet with tears, the pitch of his cries ever rising. And so, like many exhausted parents, we finally decided to sleep-train him. But unlike many other exhausted parents, our decision happened to coincide with the outbreak of war between Israel and Gaza.

At night, while my son cries it out, my husband and I sit glued to the Internet, refreshing the news over and over. We are following the advice of a highly recommended book on sleep, but we cannot follow it exactly because every few days—during naptime and sleeptime—I have had to pick my son up and carry him into the stairwell of our apartment building while rockets rain down on Jerusalem. I know it would be worse if we lived in Tel Aviv or in Sderot, and, of course, it would be worse in Gaza. Suddenly, rather than cry, my son is simply quiet, as though he knows that there must be an important reason for me to wake him on purpose. But when I put him back down, the screaming starts all over again. (more…)

After Relative Quiet, the Fighting Reignites

Hopes for a ceasefire quashed by renewed hostilities

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A picture taken from the Israeli side shows an Israeli army Merkava tank positionned along the border in front of buildings in the Gaza Strip on July 28, 2014. (Getty Images)

A ceasefire looked perhaps more distant than ever on Monday, after a mortar attack took the lives of at least four Israelis and injured at least nine near the Gaza border and inside the Strip, and an untold number of Palestinians were killed in incidents at Shifa Hospital and the Shati refugee camp.

The IDF has said that the Shifa blast was caused by a faulty rocket launch by Gaza gunmen, while witnesses have said that the incident and the one at Shati were caused by Israeli strikes.

In addition, on Sunday evening, an unclear number of Hamas gunmen were killed by IDF troops after infiltrating into Israel near Nahal Oz. That infiltration was first reported after a heavy salvo from Gaza sent rockets across the south and as far north as the Haifa area. (more…)

The Superhero Wore Tefillin

Chabad crashes Comic-Con

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Rabbi Daniel Huebner and the Jewverine at Comic-Con San Diego (Miriam Groner)

Superman took a break from saving the world last week to wrap tefillin for the first time. He was later joined by Thor and Batman. It reads like the beginning of a joke, but for some ardent comic fans who belong to the Tribe, it’s just another day at Comic-Con 2014.

In the cosplay—costume play—wonderland that is Comic-Con, a four-day gathering in San Diego, another kind of costume stood out among the thousands of Klingons, Jokers and Princess Leias—a group of young bearded men adorned in typical Hasidic dress. The two young Chabad rabbis came to San Diego to seek out Jewish participants at the geek-culture mecca that attracts over 130,000 fans every year. (more…)

Did Israel Say Hamas Didn’t Kidnap Its Teens? No.

New York, NYRB and Andrew Sullivan promulgate problematic claim

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Tens of thousands Israelis attend the joint funeral of Gilad Shaer, 16, Naftali Frenkel, 16, and Eyal Ifrach, 19, in the central Israeli town of Modiin on July 1, 2014. (Getty Images)

On Friday afternoon, New York magazine’s Daily Intelligencer blog ran a story with the headline, “It Turns Out Hamas Didn’t Kidnap and Kill the 3 Israeli Teens After All.” Although Benjamin Netanyahu had insisted from day one that Hamas was behind the killings, “officials admit the kidnappings were not Hamas’s handiwork after all,” according to Katie Zavadski. Her evidence is a series of tweets from BuzzFeed’s Sheera Frenkel, in which she asserts, “After Israel’s top leadership exhaustively blamed Hamas for kidnap of 3 teens, they’ve now admitted killers were acting as ‘lone cell.’”

The piece has since garnered over 200,000 Facebook shares and blown up on Twitter. It’s popped up already on the New York Review of Books website, and mega-blogger Andrew Sullivan trumpeted it yesterday. If it were true that Hamas had nothing to do with the kidnapping, it would have major ramifications, as Zavadski notes. The justifications for the operations targeting Hamas—including the assault on Gaza—would be placed on shakier ground. The only problem is, the alleged source of the claim, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, says he never made it. (more…)

A View From Gaza: ‘It’s the Worst Horror Movie You Would Ever Watch’

Nalan Al Sarraj describes the devastation on the ground

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A Palestinian man, wrapped in his national flag, inspects the rubble of destroyed buildings and houses in the Shejaiya residential district of Gaza City, on July 28, 2014. (Getty Images)

“A child barefoot. Looking at me. He gazed in my eyes. I cried. I felt him seeing through me. I think he knows. The world lost its humanity.” These words, conveyed on Twitter, come from Nalan Al Sarraj, who has lived in Gaza City since she immigrated in 1994 from Tunisia as a 2 year old. Al Sarraj is 23 and lives with her mother and sister (her father passed away in 2008). When she was 16, she got a scholarship to go to Texas for a year. Then she came back to Gaza and studied Digital Media and broadcasting at Al Aqsa University. She was an early adopter of Twitter—she joined in 2010—and her feed, which now has 14,000 followers and is written in a mix of Arabic and good English, is one small view of life in the Strip.

“I saw 2 holding hands. I felt the love. Then i wondered how short life is and how love is the only thing we have left to hold on to #gaza,” she tweeted on Saturday. Her tweets are sometimes political but never hateful, providing instead a window into the war-torn city.

On Friday, I reached Al Sarraj by telephone. (more…)

Former Bear Stearns CEO Alan ‘Ace’ Greenberg: ‘Everybody Knows I’m a Jew’

An excerpt from Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish

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(YouTube)

In 2005, Abigail Pogrebin published Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish. The following is an excerpt from the chapter about Alan “Ace” Greenberg, the former CEO of Bear Stearns who died Monday at 86 in Manhattan.

John H. Gutfreund, the former CEO of Solomon Brothers, once described Alan (“Ace”) Greenberg, the former CEO of Bear Stearns, this way: “Ace is by the numbers, very black and white . . . He sees prices, he’s not clouded by emotionalism.”

You can say that again. My interview with him is a dramatic confirmation of that characterization. This highly respected titan of Wall Street, who made $16.2 million in 1994 and who built Bear Stearns from 1,200 employees (and $46 million in capital) into the fifth-largest investment bank— with 10,300 employees and $1.4 billion—talks in bullet points instead of paragraphs, without a wasted word or a trace of sentiment. (more…)

The Ding-Dong Derby

The Shallowest, Least Thoughtful Commentators of the Week

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(Shutterstock)

Tablet is a Jewish publication. This means that we have an obligation to cover Israel seriously and constantly. Often, most of us wish that weren’t the case; it would be nice, especially on weeks like these, to take a quick break and tune out for a bit. But we can’t, so the next best thing we can do is make sure that Israel coverage, ours and everyone else’s, meets the basic requirements of professional journalism. By this we don’t mean forging some sort of consensus: read our site, and you’ll see worldviews on both the left and the right. As long as a piece is eloquent and based on a reasonable interpretation of the facts, we’d love to publish it.

But since the recent round of fighting in Gaza began, we’re seeing more and more cases of a maddening phenomenon we’ve always noticed and always hated: the rise of the ding-dong. The ding-dong isn’t someone who is being provocative or incendiary or even overtly political; it’s a certain brand of journalist, pundit, academic, or intellectual who takes the liberty of making profoundly outrageous statements about the conflict, with no regard for reality and with no fear of consequence. This upsets us first and foremost not as Jews but as journalists: anyone covering health care, say, or immigration, or the Asian commodities market, would never have allowed themselves to opine independently of historical context, irrespective of facts, and without any attempt to learn the turf, cultivate sources, or gain concrete experience. All these things aren’t just tolerated when it comes to Israel; they’re encouraged and deeply rewarded, being regarded as marks of intelligence and keen moral values.

Enough. (more…)

Adam

An excerpt from I Thought I Meant More to You Than That, by Cynthia Orgel

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(Shutterstock)

Each Friday this July, for your beach reading, Tablet is publishing a work of original fiction. The following is an excerpt from I Thought I Meant More to You Than That, by Cynthia Orgel, which was published today on Tablet.

6. Adam

Angela met Adam in December of junior year. It was at the beginning of winter break, when Claire needed to go to campus to turn in one last final paper.

“Come with me! I’m going to drive!” Claire begs Angela, who never needs prodding to hang out with close friends.

They park the car in a 15-minute parking spot, and soon after, Claire spots her friend Adam. She yells his name. He turns around. (more…)

Watch Joan Rivers’s Rant in Defense of Israel

Rips into Hamas, Selena Gomez

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(YouTube)

Joan Rivers, I love you.

A TMZ camerman flagged down the comedian at LAX yesterday, asking her about the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Rivers exploded, delivering a short but inspired defense of the Jewish state and ranting about the American media’s skewed coverage of the conflict. As she was turning to leave, the cameraman asked her to comment on the spate of celebrities—actress, singer, and Justin Bieber paramour Selena Gomez among them—who have expressed their support for the Palestinians on social media.

“Selena Gomez,” Joan Rivers snarled. “That college grad. Let’s see if she can spell ‘Palestinian.’” Which, ladies and gentlemen, is why she’s Joan Rivers.

Watch her rant below: (more…)

A Maine Rabbi Makes Aliyah to Israel

After seven years in Portland, departing with a mix of sadness and hope

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(Shutterstock)

Recently, a Christian woman in Maine told me that I am like a homing pigeon, and that even after many years away I will know how to fly back to my home in Israel.

Maybe what she said is true, but right now I feel at home in America. The United States is my place of birth and English is the only language that I speak fluently. My mother’s family moved to New York 150 years ago. I have been a rabbi for more than seven years in Portland, Maine, and I love our community. Our neighbors are kind, our home is safe, the water is pure, and the summer in Maine is beautiful. There are children flying kites in the sky nearby, and certainly no missiles outside our window. We don’t have to worry about the number of seconds we have to grab our children to run to a bomb shelter.  (more…)

Apply For a Fall Internship at Tablet

We’re hiring two paid, part-time editorial interns

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Tablet is hiring two paid, part-time fall editorial interns. If you have experience in journalism and are familiar with the landscape of American Jewish life, we’d love to hear from you. (more…)

Fierce Rioting in Jerusalem and the West Bank

Operation Protective Edge enters its 18th day

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Palestinians stand behind burning tires during clashes with Israeli security forces following traditional Friday prayers near the Old City in East Jerusalem on July 25, 2014. (Getty Images)

Thursday night saw some of the biggest rioting in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in years, which observers likened to the preamble to a Third Intifada, as Operation Protective Edge entered its 18th day.

Protesting the Gaza operation, over 10,000 Palestinians converged on the Qalandiya checkpoint between East Jerusalem and Ramallah on Thursday night, where they clashed with Israel police and soldiers. During the fighting, bullets were fired at Israeli forces and rocks and molotov cocktails were thrown by the rioters. Early on in the clashes, two Palestinian rioters were shot dead by Israeli forces near Qalandiya, sparking fears that Friday could see heavy rioting in Jerusalem and beyond following afternoon prayers. (more…)

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