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…)

Yale Chaplain Who Wrote Controversial NYT Letter Resigns

Claimed ‘best antidote’ to anti-Semitism was for Jews to pressure Israel

Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (Shutterstock)

Rev. Bruce Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, has resigned in the wake of controversy over a New York Times letter he wrote suggesting Jews were collectively culpable for Israel’s actions and for subsequent rises in global anti-Semitism. “The Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, on his own initiative, has resigned as Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale, effective immediately,” said a statement released by the Episcopal Church at Yale. “It is our belief that the dynamics between the Board of Governors and the Priest-in-Charge occasioned the resignation of the Rev. Shipman.”

In his letter to the Times, written in response to Deborah Lipstadt’s op-ed about rising European anti-Semitism, Shipman claimed that “the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.” Many readers expressed outrage at what they deemed Shipman’s exercise in victim-blaming, and an attempt to hold all Jews across the globe responsible for the actions of the Israeli state. (more…)

Study Yields Sobering Results for Jewish Women

All Ashkenazic women may carry genetic mutation linked to breast cancer

BRCA1 tumor supressor protein. (Shutterstock)

Oh for those halcyon days when only women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer had unique cause to worry about the likelihood of facing chemo themselves. Now, according to a new study from Israel, every woman of Ashkenazic descent may have reason to be alarmed.

A team of researchers in Israel and the United States have found that even without any family history of cancer, Jewish women may carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations—those linked to breast and ovarian cancer. (more…)

Can We Grieve? Remembering Joan Rivers

Fearing a world bereft of the comic’s watchful eye

Flowers are placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star for Joan Rivers in Hollywood, California on September 4, 2014, following news of the comedian's death in New York at the age of 81. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Hi. Well, here we are sitting shiva together yet again. God, why does this keep happening?

I’ve spent the better part of today trying to parse my feelings about Joan Rivers’ untimely death, trying to coax myself out of the deep denial I’ve been in since the news of her botched surgical procedure (unbelievably not one of the cosmetic variety, an irony I’m sure she would have appreciated.) Call me naïve, but I felt sure she would wake up and be touring again in the next couple of months, full of hilariously bitchy one-liners about how hideous the food in the hospital was and how the gowns look like something Tilda Swinton would wear to the Oscars. (more…)

Sunday, The Rabbi Skipped The New York Times: Part II

Responses to a Tablet essay about the newspaper’s coverage of the Gaza war

(Erika Cross /

On August 28, Tablet ran an essay by Reform rabbi Richard A. Block titled “Why I’m Unsubscribing from The New York Times.” The piece, an impassioned denunciation of what Rabbi Block saw as the newspaper’s biases in reporting on the Gaza war, struck a chord, and it has been shared on Facebook nearly 20,000 times. After it ran, we did hear from one reader who argued that Block ignored examples that didn’t serve his case. (more…)

Brooklyn Bitcoin Entrepreneur Pleads Guilty

Yeshiva of Flatbush grad Charles Shrem, 24, faces up to five years in prison

Charles Shrem leaving federal court in Manhattan, N.Y. (Photo )

Charles Shrem, once a rising star in the world of Bitcoin entrepreneurialism, faced what could be his lowest moment Thursday in a 14th-floor federal court in lower Manhattan.

“I knew that what I did here was wrong,” the 24-year-old told Judge Jed Rakoff. “I’m pleading guilty because I am guilty.”

Shrem, a graduate of Yeshiva of Flatbush, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money transfer business. The charge could send him to prison for up to five years. (more…)

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