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Today on Tablet

Chicago and Rahm, the Semitic Fred Flintstone, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Rachel Shteir explains why Chicago won’t elect Rahm Emanuel or any other Jew its mayor. Liel Leibovitz traces the Jewish ancestry of none other than Fred Flintstone. We continue our Web Wars! series with Mideast columnist Lee Smith’s look at how Iran uses its proxy Hezbollah to transmit its message. Senior writer Allison Hoffman announces the emerging canonization of Israeli architect Moshe Safide. The Scroll cannot hope to keep pace with today’s slate of articles, though by the end of the day it will have told you whom to root for in baseball’s playoffs.

Talking About Islam, Mostly Past Each Other

Hitchens and Ramadan debate the ‘religion of peace’

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There may not be two people less suited to addressing the resolution, “Islam is a religion of peace,” than intellectual Christopher Hitchens and Islamic scholar and professor Tariq Ramadan, who did endeavor to address it last night at 92nd Street Y. Hitchens has expounded on Ramadan in Tablet Magazine, noting his “strong sympathy for the jihadist preachings—and social and moral precepts—of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, purveyor of fatwas and self-described ‘Mufti of martyrdom operations.’” (You can find my thoughts on Ramadan in this review of Paul Berman’s recent book, The Flight of the Intellectuals.) But Hitch hates all religion. And Ramadan too often wears a blindfold when viewing his co-religionists. Consequentially, the night’s best moments came when the two played against type, or at least against their own arguments.

But first off: Hitch looked pretty good (I’ll post a photo when I get one). Diagnosed over the summer with esophogeal cancer that has spread to his lymph nodes, he filled out a well-tailored suit and seemed to stand, sit, and move with ease; the only noticeable oddity in his appearance (other than his 100 percent bald, light-reflecting pate) was a habit of moving his mouth and his tongue within it, as though chewing gum—cotton mouth is a common chemotherapy side effect.

I pity whoever has to debate Hitch: In any condition, on any subject, at any location, the man should be giving points. He is so witty, so comfortable, so good at all the little tricks of dryness and diction. He also works hard, or gives the appearance of it: For much of the introduction, by moderator Laurie Goodstein (the New York Times religion correspondent), he took extensive notes on several sheets of paper on a clipboard. While Ramadan spoke, he twirled his glasses round above his curled knee; at other times, he would put them on and look over them at the audience with a mischievous, knowing, faint smile, like an uncle who has let you have some of his beer without telling your father. (more…)

Daybreak: Sanctions Take Toll on Iran

Plus meet Congressman Grayson, and more in the news

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Alan Grayson earlier this month.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

• President Ahmadinejad faces the emerging challenge of dealing with an economy further soured by successful sanctions. [WP]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu has another couple days to consider the U.S. plea to extend the construction freeze, as the Arab League meets Friday to debate President Abbas’s decision to withdraw from talks without an extension. [NYT]

• Speaking stateside, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni slammed Netanyahu for waiting two years to engage the Palestinians. [Haaretz]

• A YouTube video of an Israeli soldier apparently dancing next to a blindfolded female Muslim prisoner has prompted a criminal inquiry. [NYT]

• What President Obama’s attempted Mideast dealmaking could net him. [NYT]

• Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) has become one of the most outspoken critics, and therefore biggest targets, of the right. [NYT]

Sundown: Bibi Looks To Deal

Plus Dems defend J Street, and more

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Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Ammar Awad-Pool/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu is seeking more from the United States in exchange for extending the freeze two months, including a pledge to veto unilateral Palestinian independence and acceptance of a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley. [JTA]

• Top Jewish Democrats denied that J Street had anything to do with their meetings with Richard Goldstone last year. [JTA]

• Several West Bank rabbis presented 20 new Qurans to replace those damaged after yesterday’s mosque arson. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Speaking with Egyptian President Mubarak, President Clinton linked the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to motivating terrorism around the world. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Greed, Lawrence Schiffman, Raphael Golb, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. [GreedWatcher]

• On the Jewishness of Dr. Faye Miller, Don Draper’s latest paramour on Mad Men. [XX Factor]

Last night, Jon Stewart was magnanimous in his treatment of Rick Sanchez (who called to apologize).

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Hurty Sanchez
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

Jews Are Longshots To Win Nobel, Booker

Doctorow and Oz have a chance; Jacobson remains underdog

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E.L. Doctorow.(eldoctorow.com)

See below for update. The Nobel Prize for Literature winner will be named from Stockholm Thursday morning, and, if the Ladbrokes odds are to be believed, no Member of the Tribe stands a particularly strong chance. The most likely may surprise you: Put money down on E.L. Doctorow at 22:1 odds. He is followed shortly by Amos Oz (25:1), Philip Roth (33:1), Shlomo Kalo (45:1), A.B. Yehoshua (50:1), Jonathan Littell (66:1), and, last but certainly not least, Bob Dylan (100:1), who is my personal pick. (Actually, my personal pick is Roth, but don’t expect the Nobel Committee—which has famously overlooked James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Vladimir Nabokov, and many other great authors—to honor, of all things, an American.) The award is given only to living writers; t he last Jew to win was Joseph Brodsky, in 1987.

Next week brings Britain’s Man Booker Prize announcement. Here we have a stronger rooting interest: Harold Jacobson, whose nominated The Finkler Question was reviewed by books critic Adam Kirsch today, is one of only six names on the shortlist. His book remains, however, the underdog at 7:1 odds; Tom McCarthy’s C is the 2:1 favorite.

UPDATE: No idea how I missed the four (4!) Jewish Nobel laureates since Brodsky, especially since I knew that three of them were Jewish (have to plead ignorance on Jelinek). But as more than one commenter pointed out, Nadine Gordimer, Imre Kertész, Elfriede Jelinek, and Harold Pinter, have won since Brodsky. Which means, of course, that five Jews have won the award since 1987. The number of Americans? One (Toni Morrison).

Nobel Literature Prize Betting Odds [Ladbrokes]
Booker Prize Betting Odds [Ladbrokes]
Related: Mirror Images [Tablet Magazine]

All the Happy Couples

The ‘N.J. Jewish Standard’ strikes gay partners from its pages

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Yesterday, the New Jersey Jewish Standard (“the voice of northern Jewish New Jersey” since 1931, according to its Website) published an editorial apologizing for running a same-sex couple’s engagement announcement the previous Friday (right above an ad for a mohel, it so happens). The paper’s editor, Rebecca Boroson, reported that the paper had received an unexpected number of negative comments, and, after talking with a group of unnamed “traditional/Orthodox” rabbis, she came to understand that the announcement had caused “pain and consternation.” For this she was sorry. And readers could rest assured that the New Jersey Jewish Standard will never run such an announcement again.

The statement rocketed around Facebook and the blogosphere. Commenters on the paper’s site overwhelmingly expressed dismay. Boroson’s decision was called “disappointing” and “abhorrent.” More than one person noted the sad irony of the paper apologizing for offending homophobic readers in the wake of the recent rash of suicides by gay teenagers across the country, including, most prominently, at Rutgers—the state university of New Jersey.

The decision seems at odds with the paper’s official mission statement: “The Jewish Standard is not affiliated with any program, organization, movement, or point of view, but is dedicated to giving expression to all phases of Jewish life.” By refusing to run paid announcements from fellow Jews, and by kowtowing to but one segment of the community, the paper has chosen to “affiliate” with one “point of view,” doing the precise opposite of “giving expression to all phases of Jewish life.” (more…)

Spy vs. Shpy

Al Jaffee, of ‘Mad’, has a side-job

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From the strip.(City Room)

For more than a quarter century, right under our noses, the legendary Al Jaffee—who has drawn cartoons for Mad since 1955, most notably inventing the Fold-In (yup, he invented it and draws it)—has been producing a regular comic for a Chabad-connected bimonthly in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In every issue since 1984, readers of The Moshiach Times have enjoyed the tales of Shpy, a bearded agent, as he battles the evil Yetzer Hora (“Evil Inclination”).

With a closet full of disguises and more gadgets than 007, the Shpy volunteers his services when innocent people or ancient traditions are imperiled. He escapes from a giant Mixmaster when investigating a case of stolen hamantaschen, and thwarts a mysterious bee infestation that nearly spoils the fall holiday of Sukkot. In one installment, he invents a repellent to keep the sinister Yetzer Hora at bay, complete with a catchy slogan: “Let us Shpray.”

Jaffee, 89, who was born to Lithuanian Jews in Savannah, Georgia, is the subject of a new biography, Al Jaffee’s Mad Life. You can read the prologue at Heeb.

Best Known for Mad, Also Read By Chabad Youngsters [City Room]
Related: Heeb Exclusive: Al Jaffee’s Mad Life
MAD Man [Tablet Magazine]

Semitic Representation

For picky people who need lawyers

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(David Shulman/Sun-Sentinel)

A new organization called the Jewish American Bar Association (based—where else?—in Boca Raton, Florida) is causing a stir for its forthright marketing. “It implies a Jewish attorney is better than a non-Jewish attorney, and that can’t help the legal community at large,” says a local B’nai B’rith activist. Responds the social worker who started the organization: “If an all-women’s medical group posted an ad ‘Prefer a woman gynecologist?’ would that be offensive?” Which begs the question: If somebody made an analogy that implied that lawyers’ subject matter is inherently Jewish, would that be offensive?

By the way, the pop cultural moment that this most immediately provokes should provide a relief to Boomer readers who tire of my less out-of-date references. Watch the whole thing: I’m going more for what happens in the second half of the clip (starting around 5:09).

‘Want a Jewish Lawyer?’ Advertisement Ruffles S. Florida Attorneys’ Feathers [Sun-Sentinel]

Today on Tablet

All about Stuxnet, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, we continue our Web Wars! week with Michael Tanji’s extremely helpful explanation of what exactly Stuxnet, the computer worm thought to be slowing Iran’s nuclear development, is and what makes it special, and Yossi Melman’s extremely educated guess as to who is behind it. Books critic Adam Kirsch reviews Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker shortlisted The Finkler Question, which satirizes Jewish shame and non-Jewish philo-Semitism alike. Which, incidentally, is also what The Scroll strives to do.

Iran: Stuxnet Isn’t Harming Nuclear Program

Plus how Stuxnet is harming Iran’s nuclear program

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The Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Event A: Stuxnet, an unprecedented computer worm that targets Siemens-made systems thought to be used at Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons facilities, appears and apparently wreaks havoc on said nuclear facilities.

Event B: Iran delays launch of a long-planned nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

Are Events A and B connected? Of course not! So says Iran’s atomic energy chief. Iran has arrested various “spies” associated with Stuxnet. Everything is now under control! In fact, the atomic energy chief added, the Islamic Republic is offering a special rate on the sale of a bridge in Brooklyn … .

Neither Yossi Melman nor Michael Tanji, who both write about Stuxnet for Tablet Magazine today, can state that Israel is behind Stuxnet. (If you believe your Biblical conspiracy theories, it was Israel; if you believe former U.S. weapons inspector David Kay, it was probably the Russians or the Chinese. Melman, who is as sourced-up as they come, hypothesizes that Israel may have worked with Siemens to get this done.) But Tanji anticipates this Iranian denial: “Stuxnet,” he writes, “will naturally not be the cause of any delays, and the resumption of work will be quickly and loudly promoted.”

Mainly, though, Tanji explains what the damn thing is. And what makes it new: “It is much more in-line with traditional military or intelligence thinking than most malicious activity noted online to date,” he argues. “Stuxnet does nothing but seek out legitimate targets, in the context of total war. It is an indicator that, at a minimum, confirms what observers of the information warfare field have suspected for some time: When the enemy comes, he’ll turn out the lights first.”

Meanwhile, a new poll showed quite low U.S. support for war with Iran under a variety of circumstances, further confirming that covert sabotage remains the ideal avenue for derailing Iran’s nuclear weapons project. Not that any sabotage is succeeding or anything.

Iran Says Computer Virus Not To Blame for Delay in Launching Nuclear Power Plant [LAT]
Iran Arrests Stuxnet ‘Spies’ [JTA]
In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue [NYT]
Related: Coded [Tablet Magazine]
Modern Warfare, Too [Tablet Magazine]
As The Worm Turns [National Interest]

Daybreak: Mosque Aflame

Plus Bibi moves toward extending freeze, and more in the news

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The mosque yesterday.(Musa Al-Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)

• A village mosque near the West Bank city of Hebron was torched yesterday by what are suspected to be radical Israeli settlers. Defense Minister Barak has labeled whoever the perpetrators were “terrorists.” [NYT]

• Today, Prime Minister Netanyahu will try to convince his cabinet to back an extra 60-day construction freeze. [Haaretz]

• But the move is placing Netanyahu’s coalition in jeopardy. [JPost]

• Oktoberfest in the West Bank. [LAT]

• Yesterday, the first Monday of October, everyone was checking out the new kid on the Court. [NYT]

• Philip Roth’s annual novel comes out today, to this lukewarm review. [NYT]

Tablet Magazine’s third team, the New England Patriots, dominated the Miami Dolphins in the second half last night with touchdowns on offense, defense, and special teams, winning 41-14.

Sundown: Reporters With Munchies

Plus the NYT’s Nazi obfuscation, and more

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• The D.C. correspondent for Israel’s largest-circulation daily, Yediot Ahronot, was arrested, with her husband a (CBS News journalist), after cops found marijuana plants in their backyard. Which is apparently illegal? [AP/WP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• All about new Jewish shadow British Prime Minister Ed Miliband. Plus: What he thinks of the Mideast! [JPost]

• Jeet Heer wonders why the New York Times characterizes Joseph Sobran as someone who had to defend himself from charges of anti-Semitism when the late journalist was actually basically a Nazi. [Sans Everything]

• Christopher Hitchens thinks Rick Sanchez should be reinstated, but also notes that it is okay to judge comments by “the tone of voice in which these facts are stated.” [Slate]

• Eli Valley’s latest comic is about Helen Thomas, which means it’s also sort of about Rick Sanchez. [Forward]

• Italian President Silvio Berlusconi told a joke about a Jew who charges another Jew to be hidden during the Holocaust, the punch-line being, “the question now is whether we should tell him Hitler is dead and the war is over.” I wonder what Italian media outlets will make of this joke, given that Berlusconi owns them all. [Haaretz]

It is not at all clear whether Chicago’s politically influential Jewish community is onboard the Rahm Emanuel mayoral bandwagon just yet. Anyway, here is the former White House chief-of-staff announcing his candidacy. “My father came to Chicago as an immigrant from Israel … ”:

Winning Ugly

How our teams fared yesterday

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McNabb after throwing his touchdown pass yesterday to tight end Chris Cooley.(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Before we get to the games, holy crap guys Taylor Mays scored an amazing touchdown yesterday! Specifically, the San Francisco 49ers’ rookie Jewish safety—bar mitvah’d and everything—made an amazing play against the Atlanta Falcons, catching a tipped punt at the edge of the end zone for six. (Watch it.) Of course, the Niners are not one of the teams Tablet Magazine is following, and thank God: Despite playing in football’s worst division, the team is 0-4 and nosediving.

Now onto our games. The New England Patriots play at the Miami Dolphins tonight—I’ll preview the game below, and try to remember to mention who won in Daybreak tomorrow. As for our other two teams? They both won, and they both won ugly. (more…)

‘We Are At War’

Your latest Emails of Zion

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(Vanessa Davis)

The Emails of Zion is a collection of messages from Jewish parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and others who are eager—often way too eager—to inform their children about issues of pressing concern to the Jewish community. Some of these emails may sound crazy, paranoid, ethnocentric, and/or racist, while others are disturbingly sane.

Forward emails from your elders to elders@tabletmag.com.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: _______
Date: September 22, 2010 3:59:02 PM EDT
Subject: A MUST READ

Written and delivered as a sermon by Atlanta Rabbi Schlomo Lewis, this is the most cogent look at the world’s plight, and that of the Jews, that I have ever had the privilege of reading. Do yourself and your family a great service by taking a quiet ten minutes to read it thoughtfully.

________________________________________
EHR KUMT
First Day of Rosh Hashanah 2010

Many years ago a Chasid used to travel from shtetl to shtetl selling holy books. On one occasion he came to a wealthy land owner and asked if he would like to purchase a book of Torah teachings. The banker agreed and not only purchased the book, but paid for it with a hundred ruble note. He then began to chat with the Chassid and offered him a cigar, taking one also for himself. The Chassid noticed that the banker proceeded to rip a page from the holy book he had just bought and holding it to the open flame on the stove, used the page to light his cigar. The Chassid said not a word but simply drew out from his pocket the 100 ruble note he had just received from the banker, held it over the stove as well and used it to light his cigar. (more…)

For Once, the French Don’t Surrender

Tel Aviv loses second Champions League match

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Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images(Tel Aviv goalie Vincent Enyeama makes a save.)

On the beaches of Tel Aviv nowadays, you are as likely to catch fragments of a conversation in French as in Hebrew. Restaurants along the Mediterranean softly play Chevalier. Shopkeepers, never an overtly polite species, have mastered merci. With waves and waves of French Jews crashing on Tel Aviv’s shores and flooding the town with much coveted foreign currency, the first Hebrew metropolis has become an extension of the Francophone empire.

The same, alas, is true for soccer. Playing Hapoel in Tel Aviv in the second round of the European Champions League last week, France’s Lyon treated the locals much as the French Jews on the beaches do: With a touch of bemusement, a note of compassion, and a benevolent disregard. (more…)

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