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Has Mourning Gone Viral?

When celebrities die, tributes flood social media—and I can’t help but ‘dislike’

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(Shutterstock)

A tweet posted this morning noted that with the death of actress Lauren Bacall yesterday at 89, all of the icons mentioned in Madonna’s 1990 HIT “Vogue” are now deceased. I marveled at the vacuousness of this milestone, and the compulsion to pile on factoids to an ever-growing, crowd-sourced obituary. Maybe (hopefully) I misread the post’s tone, and it was in fact a cynical joke, serving up a bit of trivia to emphasize how trivial death can feel in the age of social media.

The day before, I went online in the evening, after hours of having been Internet-free, and learned in a rush of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide. Then I learned how many people I follow were huge devotees of his—fans whose depths of fandom I had never before suspected. Have I been blind to their passions? Perhaps it was a thing too sacred for them to even utter? On Facebook and Twitter, their tributes streamed endlessly. (more…)

The Wall Street Journal Needs a Linguistics Lesson

Hundred percent, as the Orthodox say

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(Shutterstock)

It’s always worth reading John McWhorter, because unlike many opinion writers, whose primary expertise seems to be that they can always manufacture an opinion (in 700 words, and on time), McWhorter, who holds a Ph.D. in linguistics, actually has a useful scholarly background, a real expertise that matters in what he writes. Last Thursday he wrote a column in the Daily Beast that should have been titled, “McWhorter schools Noonan.” Instead it was called, “For a President Today, Talkin’ Down Is Speaking American.”

The background is that Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, had attacked President Obama for dropping his g’s and generally sounding too folksy, which she believes undermines the dignity of his office. Now, she never wrote this column about George W. Bush, one of the great g-droppers of all time. But fortunately when she directed her armchair linguistics toward our darker-hued president, McWhorter was there to call her out, noting that by dropping g’s, and by using some black vernacular expressions—“folks” for “people” is one example—Obama is in fact being typically American, shifting between formal and informal registers. (more…)

Orthodox Jewish Tourist Assaulted in Switzerland

Attacker yelled ‘Juden Raus’ at man visiting Davos with his wife and four kids

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View of Davos, Switzerland. (© Davos)

Add Switzerland to the list of countries in Europe where Jews have been targeted in recent months. A 26-year-old from Antwerp, Belgium, visiting Davos with his wife and four children, was assaulted by a man who yelled “Juden raus” are him while his family watched from inside a car, JTA reports.

The victim, identified only as A. Wachsstock, was walking toward his car, where his wife and four children were waiting for him, when a man in his sixties began hitting him and shouting anti-Semitic profanities, including “Juden raus,” or “Jews, get out” in German.

Wachsstock entered his car with lacerations on his right hand from the assault and drove away, Tachles reported. The man’s family witnessed the assault.

(more…)

Israel Expands Law of Return to Include Interfaith Gay Couples

Non-Jews can now make aliyah with their Jewish, same-sex spouses

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Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Shutterstock)

The intersection of Religion and State in Israel often seems permanently mired in the status quo. However untenable that status quo may seem, it usually will not budge without severe prodding. But sometimes—as in the decades-long effort to have the state recognize civil unions—even such prodding bears little fruit. That’s why a decision announced yesterday by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar came as something of a surprise: In a letter to the Population and Immigration Authority, Sa’ar ordered that the granting of citizenship to the non-Jewish spouses of women and men who are themselves eligible for aliyah to Israel would also apply to same-sex couples.

Aliyah—immigration to the Jewish State—is governed by the Law of Return. Enacted in 1950, it is the gateway to Israeli citizenship. Though its original scope was exclusively limited to Jews, since 1970 the law has been expanded to grant aliyah rights to all children and grandchildren of Jews (implicitly eschewing the traditional stance that Judaism is matrilineal—that is, conferred only by Jewish mothers, rather than fathers), and to the spouses (or partners) of Jews. (more…)

Fabulous, Formidable Lauren Bacall Dies at 89

The captivating queen of Old Hollywood was a Jewish girl from Brooklyn

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Lauren Bacall after the last ever haute couture show of French designer Yves Saint Laurent on January 22, 2002 in Paris. (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/GettyImages)

Okay, when I wrote yesterday how I feel like all I ever write anymore is obituaries, I was kidding. Apparently, someone didn’t get the joke, because less than an hour after those very words were published, it was announced that the legendary actress Lauren Bacall passed away at the (blessedly) ripe old age of 89. I was devastated, naturally, and immediately called my friend Michael.

“Oh my God,” I shrieked, before he had even said as much as hello. “Do you remember that time we went to Joel Grey’s book party and Lauren Bacall was there and that publicist came up to us and was like, look, whatever you do, do not attempt to speak to, or touch, Miss Bacall.”

“Of course,” he said, “and I really hope you still have that picture on your phone that you took from all the way across the room.” He sighed sadly. “All the fabulous old ladies are gone now.” (more…)

AP Journalist and Translator Among Five Killed in Gaza Explosion

Were accompanying engineers as they neutralized ordnance from the conflict

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A Palestinian man mourns the death of his relative outside the morgue in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza strip on August 13, 2014.(ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

An Associated Press video journalist and his Palestinian translator were killed in Gaza Wednesday, along with three police engineers, in an ordnance explosion in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. The AP reports that Simone Camilli, 35, and translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash, 36, were working on a story about the aftermath of the fighting in Gaza, and were accompanying the engineers as they neutralized explosives and munitions debris remaining from the month-long conflict.

Camilli is the first foreign journalist killed during the Gaza operation. (more…)

Defining the ‘One Land, Two State’ Solution

The editors of a new book about the conflict respond to a Commentary review

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View of Jerusalem's Old City on July 18, 2014.(AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Seth Mandel, in his Commentary review of excerpts published in Tablet last week from our newly published edited volume, One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States, raises several important issues. We welcome this opportunity to discuss some key elements of the ideas laid out in the book. Obviously an abbreviated excerpt can only briefly cover the contents of the volume and we encourage people to consider detailed arguments in the book to make a full evaluation of the arguments we discuss. (more…)

Remembering Robin Williams, King of Playing

The comedian and effusive entertainer was also a first-rate dinner companion

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Robin Williams speaks onstage during the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

So many important and wonderful people have died this year (your Hoffmans, your Stritches) that it’s starting to seem that I mostly write obituaries for people I have long loved from afar. But the death of Robin Williams yesterday morning, in what seems to be a tragic suicide, I feel particularly personal. People of my generation grew up with Robin Williams. His frenetic humor, the dizzying runs of free-association, resonated across all ages; as children, we might not exactly get all the references, but we knew we were in the presence of a virtuoso.

He was the King of Playing. We watched his films for kids (can you watch the end of Mrs. Doubtfire without crying? I can’t, and my parents aren’t even divorced) and his films for adults; we howled with joy when we caught a glimpse of him during a Nick at Nite rerun of Mork and Mindy and realized that, too, was Robin Williams. Our Robin Williams. Our favorite uncle, our silly big brother, our captain, our genie. He existed before we did, and somehow, that made him even more magical. (more…)

Mel Brooks Misses the Bagels in Vilna

But other than that, the comedy legend is pretty happy in Los Angeles

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Mel Brooks speaks during a 'Salute To Sid Caesar' at on July 16, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

Comedy icon Mel Brooks was born in Brooklyn in 1926, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss the old country. Specifically, Vilna (though his mother’s family was from Kiev, and his father’s family was from Danzig.)

In an entertaining interview with Tablet contributor Taffy Brodesser-Akner in Town and Country, the father-son duo of Mel and Max Brooks sound off about Los Angeles, where Brooks has lived since directing Blazing Saddles in the 1970s. The younger Brooks, born and bred in L.A., is an author and screenwriter. He spoke to Vox Tablet in 2012 about his second zombie novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. (more…)

The Letter From Camp Lives On

Even in the age of email, the genre of ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah’ endures

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(Shutterstock)

If there was any concern that modern technology would mark the end of missives from camp, the fear seems to have been unfounded. Kids may be glued to their smartphones during the school year, but the letter from camp is not only surviving, it’s thriving.

“Quite honestly, we are finding that kids are writing just as often as any other year of camp,” said Louis Bordman, senior director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Eisner camp in Great Barrington, Mass, which requires campers to write two letters home a week during their rest periods. The rule gets them writing, but how much and what the campers writes, Bordman explains, is up to the campers themselves.

“Depending on what’s going on, I’m finding that kids are telling their parents [about] the friends they have made, or the things that are going on.” he explained. “Certainly, when they are not feeling up to par, they want their parents to know so they do that quite rapidly as well.” In other words, they know how to write a “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” letter. (more…)

‘Dizengoff’ Is Philly’s Newest Hummus Joint

Zahav owners offer their take on an Israeli-style hummusiya in Center City

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Hummus at Dizengoff. (@AbeandDiz)

Dizengoff, the brand new hummusiya from Zahav owners Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov, has opened in Philadelphia, Grub Street reports. Zahav, which Leah Koenig recently called “the unrivaled current champion of Philadelphia’s Jewish food scene,” is a well-established modern Israeli restaurant in Philly, so it makes sense the duo, known as CookNSolo, would want to branch out with something a little more casual.

“There will be great hummus along with some traditional garnishes and some new-wave ones,” Cook told Koenig in April. Right now their menu features tehina, corn, lamb, and matbucha. (more…)

On the Front Lines of the Ebola Outbreak

An American health worker living in Sierra Leone describes the devastation

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A relief van drives through the Kono District of Sierra Leone during the rainiy season. (Laura Miller)

It’s been nine weeks since the first case of Ebola hit Sierra Leone, the epicenter of the outbreak ravaging West Africa. There are now over 600 confirmed cases in the country—and 200 deaths.

Sierra Leone has fallen into turmoil. Health workers have been attacked, schools have shut down, and the government has declared a state of emergency.

“I don’t think the world ever expected what has happened here,” said Laura Miller, the health coordinator for the International Rescue Committee. (more…)

Rabbi Fatally Shot Walking to Miami Synagogue

Police say murder of 60-year-old Brooklyn rabbi most likely a botched robbery

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Mourners pay their respects outside the Chabad-Lubavitch headquarters during the funeral of Rabbi Joseph Raksin on August 11, 2014 in Brooklyn, N.Y. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Joseph Raksin, a Chabad rabbi from Brooklyn visiting his daughter in Miami, was fatally shot on his way to his daughter’s synagogue Saturday morning. Miami-Dade police have said the incident, which occurred just a few blocks away from Bais Menachem in North Miami Beach, was most likely a robbery gone wrong.

According to the Miami Herald, “Raksin was walking east on Northeast 175th Street and Eighth Court at about 9 a.m. Saturday when he was confronted by two young men, police said. He was then shot by one of the men, police said.” He was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where he died.

The Anti-Defamation League confirmed that there is no evidence the murder was a hate crime. (more…)

Anatomy of a Tel Aviv Neighborhood

How Florentin became bohemian, artsy, and affordable—and not at all hipster

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Tel Aviv's Florentin district. (The Visual Explorer / Shutterstock.com)

When Thrillist published a list of the Top 10 Hipster Neighborhoods on Earth last month, a surprising entry took second place. While it was inevitable that Williamsburg would be crowned the international hipster mecca, the website ranked Tel Aviv’s Florentin neighborhood just below it; before London’s Shoreditch, even before Berlin’s Kreuzberg. This would have been a somewhat entertaining honor—not that we’re so crazy about hipsters, but it’s nice to hear Israel mentioned in international media right now in a non-conflict context—if it were at all true. (more…)

Iconic Israeli Director Menahem Golan Dies at 85

Film about his Hollywood movie empire debuted at 2014 Cannes Film Festival

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Israeli producers Menahem Golan (L) and Yoram Globus at the 67th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 16, 2014. (LOIC VENANCE/AFP/Getty Images)

Director and producer Menahem Golan, one of the founding fathers of Israeli cinema who also made it big in Hollywood, has died at 85, less than three months after a documentary about his film empire debuted at the the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.

Though visibly unwell, Golan traveled to Cannes in May to attend the premiere of Hilla Medalia’s documentary, The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films, together with Yoram Globus, his partner in the film company. The film, screened as part of the prestigious Cannes Classics, documented the rise and fall of the cousins’ trashy but extremely successful Hollywood venture. The Hollywood Reporter described the duo as “the last of the brash, shameless, old-school, ingratiatingly crass pirates to streak across the cinematic firmament before the advent of the suits and bean counters”—and indeed they were. (more…)

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