Today in Tablet Magazine, Daniella Cheslow continues her reporting on Israel’s struggle to absorb African immigrants with a dispatch about Eritreans and Sudanese who look to the Promised Land to escape, respectively, conscription and genocide.

Out of Place


Comment of the week

(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book appropriate to his or her comment (provided he or she emails me at with his or her mailing address).

This week’s winner is “Howard,” who wrote, on the question of whether quinoa is properly considered kosher for Passover, “Wheat, barley, spelt, rye, oats—all the rest is commentary, and rather annoying commentary at that.” He adds, “We’ve been honorary Sephardim (the honor is self bestowed) in this regard for many years, and feel not a twinge of guilt.” I, too, am Sephardic for eight days every year.

Since he quotes Hillel (or at least paraphrases him), he gets the biography by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.

Off the Table [Tablet Magazine]
Hillel [Nextbook Press]

Protest Versus Violence

Comment of the week

(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Winner gets a free Nextbook Press book appropriate to his or her comment (provided he or she emails me at with his or her mailing address).

This week’s winner is frequent commenter “fw,” who writes, in response to Facebook’s explanation that it removed a page calling for the “Third Palestinian Intifada” because comments had devolved into direct incitements to violence: “The difference between calls for violence and calls for protest is all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between suicide bombers and peaceful protesters in Tahrir Square, between the dignity of the Egyptians and the depravity of Hamas.”

“fw” will receive a copy of Deborah Lipstadt’s brand-new The Eichmann Trial, which provides eloquent evidence that evil should never be ignored, and that its manifestations are never, in fact, banal.

The Eichmann Trial [Nextbook Press]

Spring Forward

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, give Shoshana Kordova five minutes, and she’ll give you the week in Israel (including a Daylight Savings controversy!).

High Time

Which Jewish Female Cosmetics Maven Was It?

The NYT seems very confused

Helena Rubenstein.(Wikipedia)

“‘Estée had this idea that there were no ugly women,’ recalls Aerin Lauder, the senior vice president and creative director of the Estée Lauder brand. ‘Just lazy women.’” -The New York Times, March 26.

“Helena Rubinstein, the late cosmetics magnate and marketer whose life was recounted in a recent book, Ugly Beauty, famously declared, ‘There are no ugly women, only lazy ones’—a motivating, if maddening phrase.” -The New York Times, March 30.

Maddening, indeed!

Life, or Something Like It

Today on Tablet


Liel Leibovitz comes today in Tablet Magazine to praise Julian Schnabel’s controversial new film Miral, not to bury it. Swerving from the teaching in this week’s parasha, he loves the fact that, both aesthetically and substantively, Miral does not seek to avoid impurity but rather freely strives to exhibit only parts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than the whole; that depicts “life drenched in blood, sweat, and tears, life in bits and pieces, life that sometimes burns bright and is sometimes too dim to see, that is to say, life as we all live it.”


Um … Pork May Actually Be OK Now

New scholarly finding threatens to upend kosher laws

Maybe we will just be vegetarian now?(Dineto/Flickr)

Hard to know how to preface this, so let’s just dive in: Cliff Stern, an independent scholar based out of Brooklyn, has determined—seemingly conclusively—that pork and shellfish are kosher, while all that we thought was kosher—poultry, red meat, and fish with scales—is not. Crucially, rabbis of several denominations, in both the United States and Israel, have endorsed Stern’s findings. Basically: Scavenging good; chewing cud bad. Get used to it, I guess?

Reached by phone, Stern explained that a newly uncovered document from an archaeological site in the Negev reveals that Jews have been reading and interpreting the laws of kashrut—originally set out in the Torah itself—all wrong, for approximately 2500 years. “Around the time of Ezra, that’s when the misinterpretation occurred,” he said. “Back then, the Jewish tribes would eat pork and forego most other sources of protein. At some point,” he added, “a rather clumsy rabbi misread the injunctions and announced that everyone had been doing it all wrong—at which point he ‘corrected’ things to the way they are now, with pork and lobster and what-not outlawed, and cow and chicken okay.”

Rabbi Judah Rosenthal, an Orthodox scholar in Jerusalem, tentatively confirmed Stern’s finding. “It makes sense, in a way,” he told me. “Now we know why they sacrificed lambs: They weren’t allowed to eat it.”

The good (or bad?) news is that Passover rules are unaffected by this news: During the eight-day festival later this month, Jews are still prohibited from eating dough that has been raised. “Of course that’s the same,” Stern laughed. “That’s just logical.” On the contrary: Nothing seems logical anymore.

Pork: The Other Kosher Meat [Wnet]

Daybreak: If It’s Friday, It’s Marching

Plus, Israel cajoles Russia, and more in the news

Post-Friday prayers, protesting in Syria.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

• Despite some reforms the regime announced, thousands marched in Syria after prayers. [AP/WP]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu has appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stop the Gaza flotilla scheduled for May. [Haaretz]

Haaretz breaks news of secret negotiations with Russia to dissuade it from supporting a European Union initiative to lay out two states along the 1967 borders. [Haaretz]

• Israel’s watchdog will probe Netanyahu’s travel and campaign spending following reports—vigorously denied—of abuse of funds. [AP/WP]

• Daily life in Sderot. [The Daily]

• The Kabbalah Centre, embattled. [Page Six]

Sundown: ‘Weiner On a Roll’

Plus, Sabra throwdown, seperation of shul and state, and more


Jason Diamond really likes Sabra Hummus. [Jewcy]

There are many good things about Israel the U.S. should emulate; this is not one of them. [NYT]

Former secretary of state Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview that he opposes releasing Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, proving that Likud and Neocons are the same once and for all. [JPost]

Hillel? There’s an App for that. [Jewishnewmedia]

From the very first line this article is problematic, but it is also the most in-depth discussion about the sources behind the rumors of Gaddafi’s Jewish heritage. [AOL]

Not that it matters one way or the other: There were Jews in Libya, once. And they made delicious food. [Atlantic]

You may not like Anthony Weiner, but you gotta admit he is really funny.

The Fast and the Furious

AJWS helps people, new kosher mints help AJWS


American Jewish World Services, as many will tell you, is one of the better justifications for humanity’s existence—which will come in handy when our benevolent alien overlords arrive. Right now its President Ruth Messinger (along with 4000 others) is fasting for a week in protest of impending congressional cutbacks to food aid. Now, Messinger is in ridiculously good shape (it is hard to imagine most Jewish community leaders making it), but it is still a beautiful gesture for what should really be a non-partisan cause—that money doesn’t just feed people in places where food is scarce, but also allows them to actually grow their own.

Meanwhile, my stomach hurts because I overate from a publicity sample of mints—Rabbi Mints Classic Kosher Mints to be exact, which according to the best superlative press release I’ve ever seen, is “a breakthrough in the branded kosher mint category,” and—and this does cause me physical pain—“meets the “cool Jew” trend that has become an urban phenomenon.”

On the other hand, the mints ($2.50 a tin) are pretty good, they’re kosher, and I’ve noticed an uptick in the amount of time my coworkers are willing to linger by my desk—but more importantly 15 percent of the profits go to AJWS. So those incapable of fasting for more then 25 hours can do their part too.

Why We’re Fasting [NYT]
Related: Jews Biking For the Environment

‘Damage Far Greater’

Today on Tablet


Slovakian-born Canadian photographer Yuri Dojc traveled to the land of his ancestors to make sense of his family’s history. Today in Tablet Magazine, Stephanie Butnick reviews his new exhibit at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage where Dojc has turned his lens on dwindling survivors, and prayer books untouched since the Holocaust.

Facebook Explains Actions on ‘Third Intifada’ Page

Page deleted due to comments, not complaints

The Page(Ynet)

Marc Tracy noted Tuesday that after complaints from Israel, the Anti-Defamation League, and others, Facebook removed a page calling for a “Third Palestinian Intifada” that had been “liked” over 300,000 times. Correlation, however, apparently doesn’t imply causation. A letter published today by the higher ups from the interchangeably time-suck/revolutionary tool indicates that the page, which called for protests across the Middle East on May 15th, passed Facebook’s review process.

The reversal came, not after complaints, but because “after the publicity of the page more comments deteriorated to direct calls for violence.” While initially administrators deleted these comments, eventually they actually “began to participate in the calls.”

Not to ascribe motives to strangers, but it sounds like the administrators, who were repeatedly warned to cut it out, decided to change strategy and provoke a confrontation. Dislike.

Facebook: Intifada page removed when comments ‘deteriorated to direct calls for violence’
Earlier: Facebook Pulls Down ‘Third Intifada’ Page

Judy Blume: Still Awesome

And still totally getting you

Judy Blume and her son Lawrence Blume(Getty Images)

This might be old news to some, but since my life has gotten significantly better after recently following Judy Blume on Twitter, I thought I’d share Haaretz’s February profile of the writer who basically invented the young-adult fiction genre as we know it. And since today Google is celebrating the 200th birthday of Robert Bunsen, of repressed-middle-school-science-class-memory fame – who, by the way, didn’t even invent the Bunsen burner himself, and, like, how is that even possible? – I figure it’s as good a day as any to pay tribute to another influential figure of formative adolescent years.

“There are two of me,” Blume told Haaretz: “Me the grown-up, the grandmother, and me who still sees the world through the eyes of a child. I can be 4 years old or 12 years old. That’s not something I think about, but when I am writing I guess that’s where I go. To that part of myself which is still at that age.” Great news for the inner tweens in all of us, who now never have to stop listening to Party in the U.S.A. What?

The Jews of Kenya

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Jacob Silverman visits the Galthundians, a small congregation of Jewish converts 100 miles from Nairobi. He writes that

The Gathundians’ path toward Judaism has been quixotic, for some a flight from Christianity and ethnic conflict, and with some missteps and a great deal of self-education. But it has also been faithfully pursued, visible in the Hebrew chalk scrawlings on the wall of Ndungu’s home, their makeshift synagogue, and the Hebrew worksheets that Njogu and others have filled out by lamplight. It has also been a journey—amidst displacement and poverty—toward self-betterment and intellectual inquiry.

No Stupid Idea Is An Island

Can you outdumb The Island?


There is an old Soviet-era joke (I guess all Soviet-era everything are old now) in author of Nextbook Press’ Hillel: If Not Now, When? Joseph Telushkin’s Jewish Humor. I don’t have it in front of me, but it goes something like:

During a rally, a Soviet leader tells the crowd that in fifty years every citizen of the Soviet Union will own an airplane. Some brave or suicidal soul in the crowd asks, “Why should we want an airplane?”

“You fool!” responds the official, “What if you are in Kiev, and you hear there is bread in Moscow?”

Completely unrelated, Prime Minister Netanyahu apparently wants to build an artificial island off the coast of Gaza to house a sea and airport and maybe a smoke monster. Being attacked by environmentalists, the Israeli ministry of environment protect, and the Palestinian Authority, it might be, as contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg tweeted, “the stupidest idea ever.”

Is that a challenge, Mr. Goldberg? While the island is very stupid, I, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, can think of six idiotic things before breakfast. For instance: Build the world’s biggest Jenga tower in Gaza to attract tourism. Scroll readers, I’m betting you can come up with some pretty brilliant stupidity of your own. Leave them in the comments!

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