Grande Dame of London Literary World Dies at 99

Lady Berlin, a French-Jewish aristocrat, was ‘the last of her generation’

Aline de Gunzbourg photographed in 1934 in Paris shortly before her marriage to André Strauss. (George Hoyningen-Huene)

Aline Elisabeth Yvonne de Gunzbourg, later Lady Berlin, died on August 25 in London at the age of 99. The youngest daughter of an aristocratic French-Jewish family of Russian descent and a remarkable woman in her own right, she was married in turn to three eminent men. Her first husband, André (“Dédé”) Strauss, was the scion of a prominent French-Jewish banking and art-collecting family; The second, Austrian physicist of Jewish origin, Hans Halban, was later an important figure in the Manhattan Project; The last was Riga-born English philosopher Isaiah Berlin. The London publishing house that her son Peter and daughter-in-law Martine founded was profiled in Tablet earlier this year.

Aline was born in 1915 in London, the fourth child of Baron Pierre de Gunzbourg. (more…)

New Law Bans Holocaust Denial in Greece

Hate speech legislation a response to the rise of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party

Parliament in Athens, Greece.(Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

In response to the chilling rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece—the far-right group currently holds 19 of 300 seats in Parliament—lawmakers are cracking down on hate speech, a move the Jews of Greece say is long overdue. Greece’s Parliament has approved a new law that bans Holocaust denial or trivialization, as well as similar comments about other recognized genocides, JTA reports.

The measure passed late Tuesday with 55 of the 99 lawmakers present in the 300-member Parliament voting in favor.

The law increases jail time for instigating racist violence from two years to three years and imposes fines on individuals and groups. Groups found inciting racism can be barred from receiving state funds.


Study Says All Ashkenazi Jews Are 30th Cousins

Researchers identify 350-person founding population of Ashkenazi Jewry

DNA. (Shutterstock)

According to a new study, all Ashkenazi Jews are basically cousins. More specifically, Ashkenazi Jews are at least 30th cousins. LiveScience reports on the international team’s new study, which found that “the central and eastern European Jewish population, known as Ashkenazi Jews, from whom most American Jews are descended, started from a founding population of about 350 people between 600 and 800 years ago.” (more…)

Jeff Goldblum Wants to Name His Child Mingus

The recently engaged 61-year-old actor has a few possibilities up his sleeve

Jeff Goldblum and Emilie Livingston. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Jeff Goldblum may have only gotten engaged to 31-year-old actress and aerialist Emilie Livingston this summer, but the 61-year-old actor is already thinking about babies. Goldblum dropped by Late Night with Seth Meters last night and shared some potential baby names he’d been thinking of (he also sang the Internet’s made-up words to the Jurassic Park theme song).

“I like thinking of names,” he told Meyers. “And Goldblum is such a kind of particular and, I think challenging name, sound-wise” (more…)

The Israeli Government Hates My Life

And it loves making videos telling me all about it

New video released by Israel's Ministry of Immigration and Absorption. (YouTube)

The Israeli government still thinks my wife is boring. My children, too, as well as my job, my house, and my car. Pretty much everything about me, as far as the geniuses in Jerusalem are concerned, is deathly dull, and the only way to make it better, the only way to inject my silly life with some real purpose, is to make aliyah, let my chest hair grow, and shout at my missus to shut her mouth.

It’s no joke, or, maybe, it kind of is: three years after appealing to Israelis like me who have made their home in America to return to the Promised Land—our American spouses and children, a treacly ad campaign argued, will never truly understand us anyway—the Israeli government is at it again with a sequel, this one directed not just at Israelis but also at American Jews at large. (more…)

The Night I Spent in Jail in Hitler’s Hometown

A writer returns to the Austrian town 25 years after a strange übernachtung

The author returning to the jail cell in Braunau am Inn, Austria, where she spent a night 25 years earlier. (Photo courtesy of the author)

Reports that Adolf Hitler’s childhood home in the Austrian town of Braunau am Inn, where the future Nazi leader lived for several years, may be turned into a Holocaust museum triggered memories of my own two visits to the town: once as a student when I spent the night in the local jail; and once nearly 25 years later when I searched out the police log booking me in to the cell.

My first visit to Braunau was when I was 20 and hitchhiking around Europe with my college roommate. It had nothing to do with Hitler—other than the fact that our visit was so long ago that we, two Jewish girls, were reluctant to spend the night in Germany. We caught a ride in France with a driver who took us all the way across to Braunau, a border town near Linz. (Apparently the fact that this was Hitler’s birthplace didn’t faze us… Or maybe we simply didn’t know.)

It was dark when we arrived. (more…)

Former AP Bureau Chief Responds to Article About Israel Coverage

Says an ‘honest attempt was made at all times’ to fight bias in their reporting


Two weeks ago Matti Friedman published an article in Tablet explaining how—and why—international media gets Israel so wrong. Friedman, a former Associated Press reporter in Israel, argued that both the number of reporters assigned to cover Israel as well as the volume of stories published about the country are disproportionate, creating the notion that Israel is “the most important story on earth, or very close.” He also argued that newsroom biases craft a specific framing of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with divergences from that narrative discouraged. “Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political,” he wrote. “Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.”

The article sparked a great deal of conversation—there have been 987 comments posted to it, and it’s been shared on Facebook more than 75,000 times. One response came from Steven Gutkin, the AP’s bureau chief in Israel from 2004 to 2010, who hired Friedman in 2006. (more…)

‘Dirty Dancing’ Begins Its Second Act—Onstage

And the creative force behind it is still having the time of her life

Samuel Pergande (Johnny), Jillian Mueller (Baby), and Jenny Winton (Penny) in the North American tour of 'Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage.' (Matthew Murphy)

Eleanor Bergstein is the creative force behind the hit 1987 film Dirty Dancing, and the memorabilia-covered walls of her Manhattan living room won’t let you forget it—a poster in English here, one in German there. With the U.S. premiere of a Dirty Dancing stage adaptation in Washington, D.C., last week, there are sure to be more posters to come.

When I paid her visit not long ago, she smiled and said, “I hope you’re not going to ask if Dirty Dancing is the story of my life.”

The answer is both yes and no. (more…)

‘Boardwalk Empire’ Returns Without Rothstein

HBO show’s final season opens in 1931, after the real-life gangster was killed

Michael Stuhlbarg as Arnold Rothstein in 'Boardwalk Empire.' (HBO)

As Boardwalk Empire’s fifth and final season aired Sunday night, fans learned that it would take place in 1931—seven years after the events of the fourth season. While the time jump served to forward the show’s plot, it meant one major figure would be missing: By 1931 Arnold Rothstein—real-life gangster and one of Boardwalk’s most fascinating characters–had already been assassinated.

Rothstein, of course, was Jewish. To say he played a major role in establishing the Jewish mob would be a bit reductive, as Rothstein helped define the idea of a mafia kingpin as we know it today. (more…)

Russ & Daughters Heads to the Upper East Side

Iconic NYC appetizing shop to open kosher café in The Jewish Museum

The Russ & Daughters Café on Orchard St. (Image courtesy of Russ & Daughters)

Four months after opening a sit-down café around the corner from their Lower East Side appetizing shop, the Russ & Daughters team is heading uptown—for the first time in the family-owned business’ 100 years.

Russ & Daughters will open a new restaurant in The Jewish Museum on 92nd St. and Fifth Ave. But unlike the appetizing shop or Orchard St. cafe, the museum’s 75-seat sit-down café and take-out retail counter will be kosher. (more…)

Joshua Ferris Shortlisted for Man Booker Prize

Former winner Howard Jacobson also in the running for literary award

Shortlisted entries for the 2014 Man Booker Prize. (Man Booker Prize)

Novelists Joshua Ferris, an American, and Howard Jacobson, a Brit, are a step closer to Man Booker glory this morning. Along with four other writers, Ferris and Jacobson went from long list to short list candidates for this year’s Man Booker Prize, an honor which bestows great prestige and a handsome sum of roughly $80,000.

This is the first year writers from beyond the British Commonwealth—like Ferris and Karen Joy Fowler, another finalist, have been considered. (more…)

New Book Claims Jack the Ripper Was Jewish

DNA said to link Polish barber Aaron Kosminski to gruesome 1888 murders

A picture shows a street near Spitafields market where Jack the Ripper killed most of his victims in London. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The story of Jack the Ripper is a dark, tragic one. Believed to be responsible for least five East London murders in 1888, the deranged serial killer targeted prostitutes, whose throats he slashed and whose organs he often removed. Police never arrested him, and his identity has long been subject of speculation and theories.

Russell Edwards, a longtime Ripperologist, as those obsessed with studying the unsolved case are known, has published Naming Jack The Ripper, a book that claims to offer DNA evidence that the 19th century killer was Aaron Kosminski, a 25-year-old Jewish immigrant from Poland. (more…)

Fran Drescher Weds Scientist Shiva Ayyadurai

‘Every day is a celebration with Fran,’ Ayyadurai has said of the actress

Shiva Ayyadurai and Fran Drescher. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for DuJour Magazine)

As Fran Fine would say, “Maaaaaaaazel tov!”

Fran Drescher married Shiva Ayyadurai this weekend, E! Online reports: “Close friends and family members attended the intimate gathering where the sounds of Drescher’s famous laugh were likely heard by all.” (more…)

Orthodox ‘Get’ Gang Gets GQ Spotlight

Group said to use violence to get Jewish men to grant their wives a divorce

Image of GQ's Sept. 2014 profile, 'The Orthodox Hit Squad.'(GQ)

It’s not often that the “Bloods, the Crips, or the Mafia” are invoked in a story about the ultra Orthodox. In the new issue of GQ, Tablet contributor Matthew Shaer does his part to correct that oversight in a profile of a gang of Hasids hired for thousands of dollars to persuade Orthodox men who have refused to grant their wives a “get”—a Jewish divorce document—to reconsider that decision. In Orthodox Judaism, a get is required by the husband in order for a couple to get divorced. Without a get, a woman is not permitted to remarry and is therefore considered to be an agunah: a chained woman.

The gang Shaer depicts used strong powers of persuasion to get their job done: physical assault with ropes, acid and cattle prods. That last implement earned the head of the gang, Rabbi Mendel Epstein, the Prodfather nickname. He and his henchmen were arrested in an FBI sting last year. (more…)

Israeli Cats Are Trying To Take Over the Internet

Bloggers hope to make the country’s long-maligned strays into online stars

(Felines of Israel)

I vividly remember the Israeli soldiers on my Birthright trip watching, bewildered, as I began to pet a cat that had sauntered toward the stoop where we were sitting. Bewildered not because it might come as a surprise that I’m a cat person, but because cats—that ever-adored household pet and Internet phenom in the United States—are something of an invasive species in Israel.

There are probably very few charming Holly Golightly stories of stray cats mewling their way into an Israeli’s heart. That’s because in Israel, on seemingly every corner of every city there are about half a dozen stray cats, lurking and skulking and often clawing at each other’s faces. While Birthright may have been trying to sell us on Israel as the land of milk and honey, I quickly realized it could more accurately be described as the land of falafel and kittens.

In an odd marriage of viral Internet cat culture and Israel’s highly visible stray epidemic, a strange, niche series of tumblr blogs has emerged: cats of Israel. (more…)

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