Ethnic Reporting 101

Some friendly advice for OurChinatown


City Room reports on OurChinatown, a new blog devoted to Manhattan’s Chinatown made by its (Chinese) residents and for its residents—but also for anyone else who might be interested in reading.

We would like to say: Welcome! When Tablet Magazine launched nearly two years ago, we asked editors at several other ethnic publications for advice. It is worth re-watching what they said.

News We Can Use from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.

If I had to add anything, it would be: Cover sports! Every ethnicity loves cheering on their sports heroes.

Related: News We Can Use [Tablet Magazine]

Exploring the Geniza

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Peter Cole and Adina Hoffman talk to host Sara Ivry for this week’s Vox Tablet podcast about their new Nextbook Press book, Sacred Trash.

Up in the Attic

Silence on Syria

Violent crackdown highlights D.C.’s strange stance on Damascus

Damascus earlier this month.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

Bad, bad stuff is going down in Syria. The regime itself has admitted responsibility for the violent crackdown that human rights advocates say has taken 200 lives and resulted in the detentions of at least 800 (although Iran disagrees with Syria’s government; you can probably guess whom they blame instead). The coastal city of Baniyas has basically been put on lockdown (here is some personal testimony about what’s going there). Syrian security forces have also fired on crowds in a nearby village. Protesting Damascus University students are being beaten. And if you are a Syrian policeman who refused orders to fire on protesters in Baniyas? Reportedly, you were shot, too.

Yet unlike in Egypt, where the Obama administration acceded (after some time) to the (pro-American) hated dictator being escorted out; and unlike in Yemen, where the administration has basically done the same to the basically cooperative, hated dictator; and unlike in Libya, where the administration is strafing the compounds of the basically cooperative, hated dictator; in Syria, the most we have heard, so far, is a “deeply concerned” White House statement calling on Syria to, you know, stop.

All of which makes this week a good time to reread Lee Smith’s column last week, in which he argued that the administration—and the administrations before this one, going as far back as the 1980s—have traditionally given Bashar al-Assad (and his father, Hafez, before him) an exceptional pass. Which would make a certain degree of realpolitik sense if Assad were exceptionally useful to the United States. But, Smith adds, if anything, the opposite is true. He concludes, “It’s just plain illogical that Washington won’t come out against Damascus.”

Syrian University Protests Violently Suppressed [NYT]
Syria Cracks Down in Two Cities on Coast [NYT]
The Revolution Strikes Home [Syria Comment]
Syrian Security Forces Attack Village [Al-Jazeera]
Student Killed After Syria Forces Attack Damascus University Protest [AP/Haaretz]
Syrian Soldiers Shot for Refusing to Fire on Protesters [Guardian]
U.S.: Syria Must Stop ‘Outrageous’ Repression of Anti-Government Protests [Haaretz]
Related: Fashionable [Tablet Magazine]

Miracle Food?

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Leah Koenig takes stock of one of the fiercest debates to rage in recent years at American Seder tables: Is quinoa kosher for Passover?

Off the Table

Lessons from Biebergate

The comical contretemps is actually an important, depressing sign

Justin Bieber performing earlier this month.(Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images)

Future historians studying the current Netanyahu administration won’t have to look much further than his botched meeting with pop sensation Justin Bieber to understand just how dysfunctional his regime was.

Bieber’s people have released several evasive accounts of just why the singer and Israel’s prime minister never met, fluctuating from a flat-out denial that a meeting was ever scheduled in the first place to a softer statement citing logistical difficulties. It seems clear that the prime minister’s invitation of children from the south threatened by Gaza missiles was not unrelated to the cancellation. But regardless of what exactly came to pass, a few things are inarguable:

• Despite his image as the polished and cunning manipulator of public opinion, Bibi is incompetent at public relations. In inviting the children, Bibi chose not to present Israel as a normal country where normal kids do normal things like listen to Justin Bieber, but rather to insist that the spotlight be turned back toward the darker side of Israeli life, to the conflict and the rockets and the grief.

Bibi is incompetent at diplomacy. Never mind not being able to get the Palestinians to the negotiating table. Bieber? Bieber? Once upon a time, the Israeli definition of overcoming logistical difficulties meant sending a team to Argentina to capture Eichmann or to Entebbe to rescue hostages; now, it means playing phone tag with a kid who sings songs called “Baby” and “One Less Lonely Girl.”

Bibi is incompetent at telling the truth. As recent investigative reports in the Israeli press show, the prime minister is a master at stretching, bending, tweaking, and otherwise torturing the truth. As soon as Bibi announced that the meeting had been canceled, both Bieber’s people as well as, curiously, representatives of the Israeli children stricken by terrorism, on whose inclusion in the meeting Bibi allegedly insisted, denied the prime minister’s account. Granted, this is far from a matter of national importance, but a lie, as one Israeli politician after another has learned in recent years, is a lie is a lie is a lie.

Israelis and supporters of the Jewish state should be outraged by Biebergate. I’m serious! This brief and comical affair is actually a dead-serious indication that the leadership in Jerusalem is morally corrupt, intellectually bankrupt, and just plain ineffective. Baby, it’s time for a change.

Related: Diplomatic Breakdown Amid Bieber Fever in Israel [NYT]
Bieber: Netanyahu Meeting Never Scheduled [Ynet]
Earlier: Bibi-Bieber Summit Cancled Amid Controversy

Keeping Tabs on Hatred

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Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marc Tracy interviews Hannah Rosenthal, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, who warns that the threat of the phenomenon is, if anything, growing.

Defense Department


Gaza Marathon points to the smallness of the land

The Holy Land.(Wikipedia)

Next month will see the running of the first-ever Gaza Marathon (barely a month after the first Jerusalem Marathon). It is explicitly being cast as a U.N. Relief and Works Agency fundraiser, and nearly as explicitly as a political statement. “Kids in Gaza just want to be like kids anywhere else,” said a UNWRA spokesperson. “They don’t want to live in this terrible and locked-up environment.”

So have that out in the comments if you want. What struck me, though, is the course the marathon will take: It will begin at Gaza’s northernmost point and then go down the seashore. Because here’s the thing: Gaza, north to south, is almost exactly the length of a marathon course (26.2 miles). Those of us who do not spend substantial time in the region may lack the requisite sense of just how physically small it is. So, for future reference (all information via Wikipedia):

Gaza (139 square miles) is roughly the same size as Queens and Manhattan combined.

• The West Bank (minus East Jerusalem, 3,652 square miles) is about the same size as Delaware and Rhode Island combined, or, roughly, Los Angeles County minus the Valley.

Israel (8,522 square miles) is basically New Jersey. Also, they are roughly the same size.

• The Golan Heights (695 square miles) is exactly five Gazas.

See, doesn’t that make all of this easier? Wait, it doesn’t?

UNWRA Hopes for Big Crowds at First-Ever Gaza Marathon [JPost]

Seder Associations

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Sorry, but your magazine does not have anything as cool as Tablet Magazine does today, as cartoonist Steve Brodner portrays what the various items on the Seder plate look like if you are a typically media-bombarded modern day America.

Steve Brodner


To Love Again

Bernard Madoff, bosom heaving, anxiously awaits his love’s next book

(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

“I spend most of my time in my room, reading … and this is my secret—Danielle Steel.” –Bernard Madoff.

Going Home, he was led and barred into what he called The Cottage, which some call, simply, The House (and still more call, sarcastically, Bungalow 2). His heaving chest concealed a Silent Honor, for Going Home, truly, was no longer an option. The Season of Passion he had embraced amidst the climax of his glamorous life as a Rogue had come to an end as Secrets were exposed; Daddy was embarrassed before his previously Loving Family Ties, a humiliation that was as far-reaching as even would be a Message from Nam. To secure a Second Chance was Impossible—the Ransom that was the assets of many Americans had been taken for a giant Leap of Faith, while the Irresistible Forces behind the Ponzi scheme were Bittersweet, scoring many their Jewels and other Fine Things, but sending most on The Long Road Home—an arduous Journey, a dubious Legacy. Johnny Angel he was not; Full Circle he had come.

Honor Thyself,” he repeats to himself even still, One Day at a Time, the Lone Eagle now Vanished from the outside world, with only his own Malice as familiar solace. And yet, amidst all these Changes, his Heartbeat throbs as the warden brings his Special Delivery, his Answered Prayers, what is for him No Greater Love and Passion’s Promise. He sits in these Golden Moments, Matters of the Heart satisfied by The Kiss of this Miracle, the Big Girl, A Good Woman: Danielle Steel.

Bernie’s Escape [NY Post]

Daybreak: Statehood Gets U.N. Boost

Plus Syrian repression, cultured pearls, and more in the news

Assael with some of the pearls he popularized.(NYT)

• A U.N. report praised Palestinian moves toward statehood, which is a big deal since that is the same body that some are looking to declare such statehood. [NYT]

• Syria’s crackdown continues, with a special focus on two cities near the coast. [NYT]

• The teenage boy who was on the school bus that got hit last week has worsened. [JTA]

• Former President Hosni Mubarak, who reportedly had a heart attack in advance of official questioning yesterday, is formally being detained for 15 days. [AP/WP]

• Salvador Assael, who nearly by himself made cultured Tahitian black pearls a valuable jewel (for a time), died at 88. Really interesting obit. [NYT]

• Even Thomas Friedman can muster only so much optimism for where the Arab world is heading in the near-term. [NYT]

Sundown: Syrian Crackdown Turns Deadlier

Plus Sizomu fights back, Koch is feisty, and more

Ed Koch last month in front of the also-paltry Brooklyn Bridge.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Syrian regime’s ultra-harsh repression of protests—at least 200 have been killed, and the government has taken responsibility—spread to a university for the first time. The White House strongly condemned the violent crackdown. [NYT/WP]

• Gershom Sizomu, the Ugandan rabbi whom Matthew Fishbane wrote about, has gone to court to accuse the electoral commission of irregularities that helped incumbent Yahaya Gudoi Wojje defeat him. [New Vision]

• Prior to questioning over corruption allegations, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had a heart attack and was hospitalized. [The Telegraph]

• Ron Hirsch, the suspect in last week’s bombing outside the Santa Monica Chabad House, was arrested outside Cleveland. [JTA/Jewish Journal]

• Israeli diplomats have asked their Turkish counterparts to prevent another flotilla this May. [Haaretz]

• George Washington wishes his bridge were as awesome as Ed Koch’s. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

Be psyched. Be very, very psyched.

Four Glasses

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Marjorie Ingall takes a break from parent-column-ing to offer some inspired Passover-appropriate cocktails.


Ice Cream Holiday

If Ben & Jerry’s flavors were Jewish

Sacré berry!(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

It’s the best day of the year—Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s! Last year, we suggested some potential Jewish flavors, and, below, we have a few more. Don’t forget to leave yours in the comments!

Sephardic Stew: Saffron ice cream with raisins.

Afikomen Delight: Chocolate ice cream with exactly one piece of matzah per pint.

Yerushalayim Shel Pecan: Caramel ice cream with real pecans and pie crust.

Bernard-Henri Berry: Burgundy ’82-flavored ice cream—it’s a fine vintage—with blackberry swirl.

Lamb’s Blood Orange Sorbet: This is actually just blood orange sorbet.

Trayf: Bacon bits and mascarpone cheese and vanilla ice cream, for those who define their Jewishness by eating non-Jewish food.

The BDS: Blueberry ice cream, dark chocolate chips, and a swirl of caramel, served in a flotilla-shaped cup.

Lieberman Surprise: Actually just Chunky Monkey.

Goldstone Stonecold: Crow-flavored.

Earlier: It’s Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s!

Next Year in Jerusalem, 1478

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch delves into a 15th-century Haggadah and finds much that is familiar.

National Treasure

Bibi-Bieber Summit Canceled Amid Controversy

Teen singer, feeling harassed, didn’t want to meet with Gaza children, too

Justin Bieber performing last month.(Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

You thought the visit of a quasi-Jewish 17-year-old mega-popstar to Israel would go simply? Ha! Bieber arrived in the Holy Land yesterday in advance of his Tel Aviv gig Thursday, and had a planned meeting at Benjamin Netanyahu’s office tomorrow. However, the prime minister has canceled the event over Bieber’s refusal to meet with children who live near the Gaza border who had disembarked from the school bus that was hit by a missile last week, whom Netanyahu’s office had also invited. (Roughly 700 kids from towns near the Gaza border affected by the past weeks’ spurt of rocket fire have already received free tickets to the show).

For comment from Bieber, look no further than his Twitter feed. Much of it is devoted to frustration at the papparazzi (“paps”) for taking pictures of him while he was in church (quotes sic): “You would think paparazzi would have some respect in holy places,” he wrote. “All I wanted was the chance to walk where jesus did here in isreal.” However, two hours ago, he wrote, “i want to see this country and all the places ive dreamed of and whether its the paps or being pulled into politics its been frustrating.” Bieber’s handlers did the kid a serious disservice if they didn’t warn him this would happen.

Netanyahu Cancels Bieber Date over Refusal to Meet Kids Affected by Gaza Rockets [Haaretz]
Earlier: Justin Bieber, Almost Jewish
Attack on School Bus Prompts Instant Response

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