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The World’s Most Powerful Jew

‘The Social Network’ and the outsider

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Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network.(IMDB)

We were going to end up with something very like Facebook: The Internet and human nature would have conspired to give us the sort of Website for all-purpose social networking—for virtual living?—that Facebook is. Whatever we ended up with may even have been the product of what The Social Network, the fabulous David Fincher-directed, Aaron Sorkin-written film opening wide Friday, says Facebook was: The nuclear-fission force of one young outsider (Mark Zuckerberg) who desired to become the ultimate insider, surmounting all the barricades in front of him while flipping them a parade of birds.

But we actually ended up with Facebook. It is perhaps the dominant Website for the most people on the globe; it boasts 500 million users; the company is probably worth $33 billion. The barricades of privilege that its creator overcame were not run-of-the-mill, but the ultimate: Facebook was not created at a Harvard manqué; it was literally created at Harvard. And the outsider? He is not a random, one-type-out-of-many outsider, but the ultimate type of outsider: He is not a Jew manqué; he is literally a Jew. So is his co-founder (Eduardo Saverin), and one of his two first employees. I can’t prove this isn’t coincidental, but the circumstantial evidence is on my side. Chiefly: We were going to end up with something very like Facebook, but we actually ended up with Facebook, where everyone is the president of their own elite club of one—the Platonic embodiment of the indelibly Jewish alloy of self-hatred and striving. (more…)

Daybreak: Lieberman on a Hot Spot

Plus Sheikh Jarrah tense, and more in the news

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Lieberman speaking yesterday.(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

• Foreign Minister Lieberman’s U.N. speech contradicted Prime Minister Netanyahu in saying peace would take decades. “The prime minister told us that there are difficult politics on his side, and this is perhaps a manifestation,” said a U.S. diplomatic spokesperson. [NYT]

• Shmuel Rosner says Netanyahu should fire Lieberman, as do others, while also acknowledging he can’t. [Rosner’s Domain]

• Given an earlier court ruling, eviction notices for Arabs living in the East Jerusalem Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood threaten to come every day and topple the peace process. [LAT]

• In his first speech as British Labor Party leader, Ed Miliband traced his desire to aid society’s lower rungs to his parents’ having needed to escape the Nazis. [Haaretz]

• Former cardiologist writes pork cookbook. In Israel. Hey, it happens. [NYT]

Sundown: Bibi’s Coalition Blues

Plus Ike Davis’ amazin’ lineage, and more

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Mets first baseman Ike Davis.(NYT)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu distanced himself from Avigdor Lieberman’s speech in New York in which his right-wing foreign minister called for population transfers as part of a final resolution. [Laura Rozen]

• 63 percent of Jewish Israelis believe non-Orthodox converts ought to be considered Jews. [JTA/Jewish Journal]

• Rookie New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis’ paternal grandfather was a U.S. soldier who helped liberate a German concentration camp. His maternal grandparents survived one of those camps. [NYT]

• President Ahmadinejad will symbolically hurl a rock at Israel when he visits Lebanon next month. Be a terrible thing were said rock to ricochet off a tree branch and co fly right back at him. [JPost/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Hussein Ibish advocates an “informal compromise” to the settlement issue—which he frames as U.S.-Israeli as much as Palestinian-Israeli—that would allow for certain building but let President Abbas save some face. [Now Lebanon]

• Guess who loves Peace Now’s iPhone app that shows all the West Bank settlements? West Bank settlers! [Arutz Sheva]

See how many hip musicians you can recognize in this video of Duck Sauce’s “Barbra Streisand.” And what do we think of this Babs impersonator?

Religion Poll Bears Out Jewish Braininess

Though the atheist/agnostics have our number

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(Wikipedia)

In its write-up of the new Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life poll, the New York Times noted that, based on a sampling of over 3400 Americans, Jews are outpaced in their knowledge of world religions (and a few other matters) only by atheist/agnostics. It also noted that, of all the questions asked, the one that the lowest number of respondents answered correctly concerned the great medieval philosopher Maimonides: Only eight percent—and only 57 percent of Jews!—knew, “Was Maimonides Jewish, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu or Mormon?” Guys: Have we got a book for you!

Some further digging into the report (which you can download in full here) reveals the Jews (and the Mormons) acquitting themselves very well, which probably has as much to do with socioeconomics as anything else. And as for those atheist/agnostics, well, who do you really think they are? (more…)

Vox Tablet Collects More Gold

Podcast series wins for best religion radio program

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Having already scaled Mt. National Magazine Awards, last week Tablet Magazine’s podcast series, Vox Tablet, won the 2010 Gold World Medal for best religion programming at the International Radio Programming and Promotion Awards. So a special congratulations to host Sara Ivry and producer Julie Subrin.

The honor was awarded on the basis of these three podcasts:

“Remembrance Day”: Gregory Warner reports from Rwanda on commemorating the country’s 1994 genocide, with Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day as a template.

“In Training”: Matt Lieber spends time with Jewish boxer Yuri Foreman.

“Blessed Bluegrass”: Jon Kalish profiles Orthodox bluegrass musician Jerry Wicentowski, whose observance prevents him from weekend gigs, but not from virtuosic guitar work.

Earlier: Tablet Wins Digital ASME for Best Podcast

Sound Minds in Sound Bodies

20 smartest athletes include two Jews

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Craig Breslow.(J. Meric/Getty Image)

Sporting News has a list of the “20 smartest athletes in sports” (as opposed to the 20 smartest athletes in … something that’s not sports? but nevermind). The Tribe claims two on the list, and the top spot (beating out Tennessee Titans safety Myron Rolle, who is a freakin’ Rhodes Scholar!).

• The smartest athlete is Oakland Athletics reliever Craig Breslow. If he weren’t sustaining a sub-3.00 ERA over five seasons, this Yale grad says, he’d be a doctor. [Insert requisite joke about how that’s what his mother would prefer anyway.]

• The ninth smartest athlete is veteran Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus. A Dartmouth alum, he “just read The Lost City of Z, by David Grann. Moving on to The Accidental Billionaires, by Ben Mezrich” (one of us! one of us!). His favorite book, however, according to his Wikipedia page, is A Schopenhauerian Critique of Nietzsche’s Thought, which was written by his father, a professor. Um, yeah, we like that one too.

SN Names the 20 Smartest Athletes in Sports [Sporting News]

Whom Does Kafka Belong To?

(Maybe to a cat-lady)

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Franz Kafka.(Random House)

Do read Elif Batuman’s Times Magazine feature on the battle over Franz Kafka’s extant papers, which pits the maybe-heirs of Kafka’s literary executor, Max Brod, against the state of Israel; a museum in (of all places) Germany is involved as well. Batuman’s article is worth your time not for the, yes, Kafkaesque legal intricacies—you probably won’t follow them all—but for sentences like, “It is unclear how much of Brod’s estate is still housed in the Spinoza Street apartment, which is currently inhabited by Eva Hoffe and between 40 and 100 cats.”

Hanging over it all is the fact that, were it up to Kafka, none of this would be happening: Instead, his good friend Brod would have burned all of Kafka’s work, as per the author’s request. (Of course, as Tablet Magazine columnist Etgar Keret notes to Batuman, “The next best thing to having your stuff burned, if you’re ambivalent, is giving it to some guy who gives it to some lady who gives it to her daughters who keep it in an apartment full of cats, right?”)

Rodger Kamenetz, whose Burnt Books, forthcoming from Nextbook Press, deals with Kafka’s wish extensively, wonders whether the documents shouldn’t stay in Israel: “Kafka had found real love as he was dying, and he clung to the impossible fantasy of emigration to Palestine with real intensity,” Kamenetz writes. “So it seems a kind of fulfillment that after his death his manuscripts made it [to] the promised land, even if he never could.”

Adds Kamenetz, “But Kafka himself saw the issue as far more tortured and complicated.” He would have, wouldn’t he?

After the jump: Batuman on Kafka’s flirtation with Zionism. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Post-Jewish lit, very Jewish lit, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Marissa Brostoff reviews The Instructions, the 1,000-plus-page McSweeney’s opus from debut novelist Adam Levin, which seeks to birth a post-Jewish literature. Senior writer Allison Hoffman reports on the latest fad: B’nai mitzvot honorees asking for donations in lieu of gifts. Books critic Adam Kirsch revisits I.B. Singer’s newly reissued The Magician of Lublin. Sabina England, a deaf woman who identifies as a Muslim atheist, has some interesting words on Park51. The Scroll will continue cramming things into the short week.

Bibi Victorious

With freeze over and talks alive, PM gets the win

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Prime Minister Netanyahu last week.(David Buimovitch-Pool/Getty Images)

How far we have come from only six months ago, when Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government was on the hook for derailing peace hopes when it announced new East Jerusalem building the day Vice President Biden came to town. Today, Bibi is sitting pretty: Earlier this summer, he demonstrated to the world (but mostly to the Obama administration) that he would sit down for direct talks with President Abbas, without preconditions; and this past weekend, he demonstrated to his right-wing coalition and to center-right Israelis that he would stay true to his word and allow the ten-month West Bank construction freeze to expire. He did so in a quiet, unostentatious way, so that the Americans have been sympathetic to his political needs and so that the burden has now fallen on Abbas, who must either leave the talks—thereby earning the Americans’ ire, fairly or not—or, more likely, continue with them despite his top precondition having been ignored, thereby projecting just how little weight he has to throw around. (The wild card, as Ron Kampeas notes, is whether Fatah can manage to strike a deal with Hamas. I’d not be on it.)

President Obama probably still favors a continued moratorium, and his diplomats may be trying to coax another two months of freeze, like a bargaining addict. But with the narrative having shifted and with most of the U.S. Senate on Israel’s side, nothing will come of it. “The onus is on the Palestinians not to walk away,” Hussein Ibish tells Ben Smith. “That’s not fair but it’s the way it is.” Israel’s American-born ambassador Michael Oren duly trotted out a football metaphor: “[The Palestinians are] like a football team that lets the clock run down to one second and then demands overtime. They thought they would win some big diplomatic victory by running down the clock.” (By the way, Richard Cohen makes a convincing case that this state of affairs is actually the Obama administration’s fault.)

So what’s next? (more…)

Daybreak: Patching Things Up

Plus Jewish Gaza-bound boat intercepted, and more in the news

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The Jewish boat, the Irene, a few days ago.(Hasan Mroue/AFP/Getty Images)

• Diplomats are aflutter trying to keep peace talks afloat now that the West Bank construction freeze has expired. [NYT]

• Three members of Islamic Jihad’s armed wing died in an Israeli bombing in Gaza. [NYT]

• According to a new Pew poll, the American religious group most knowledgeable about the Bible, Christianity, and other religions is … atheists/agnostics. Second-most is Jews. [NYT]

• Via email, a boat with Jewish activists headed for Gaza was boarded by the IDF and is being taken toward Ashdod.

• Richard Cohen says the Obama administration botched the peace process by emphasizing the freeze. [WP]

• Stanley Chais, a big investment manager and philanthropist whom federal regulators accused of mismanaging $900 million in relation to the Bernard Madoff scandal, died at 84. [NYT]

Sundown: Freeze and Talks Face-off

Plus the worst-named limousine service ever, and more

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• 87 U.S. Senators to President Obama: Make President Abbas keep talking! [Foreign Policy]

• Goldberg to Bibi: Renew the freeze! [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• While in New York City last week, Iranian President Ahmadinejad met with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. [Vos Iz Neias/MyFox Los Angeles]

• Wearing a straw hat on a yontiff: A cautionary tale. [The Gloss]

• Things you should go to in New York City tonight! Vox Tablet guest Gal Beckerman discusses his new book; Tablet Magazine senior editor Sara Ivry interviews a graphic memoirist at the Tenement Museum.

• Krystal Night Limousines. It’s pogrom-errific! [Krystal Night]

Pretty much the final word on New York versus L.A. Jewish authenticity. That, and the fact that it’s 111 degrees there right now.

Hebrew in New York

Rivka Miriam reads her poetry

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Rivka Miriam.(Wikimedia Commons)

“I don’t understand my poems,” the Israel poet Rivka Miriam told an audience in Manhattan last week. “The things we write are stronger and wiser than we are.” Miriam was reading from her newest book, These Mountains, at the brownstone of Sally Gottesman, a prominent philanthropist. The event was organized by Rabbi Steven Shaw of the Radius Foundation and co-hosted by Gottesman and Nextbook Press editor Jonathan Rosen.

Miriam, who was born in Jerusalem in 1952 and describes herself in one of her poems as a “slightly round woman with gray hair,” spoke about her life as well as her work, employing a distinctive tone of earthy specificity and dreamlike wonder. Her father, Leib Rochman, was a Yiddish writer who survived the Holocaust in Poland with his wife; they were hidden by a prostitute and a thief. Both parents’ entire families were killed, and that sense of ineffable loss infuses Miriam’s writing, as does the gratitude felt by her father, author of the harrowing memoir The Pit and the Trap. When Miriam was a little girl, he opened his Jerusalem home to writers, artists, wanderers, and musicians. On the streets of Jerusalem, her father’s eyes would sometimes fill with tears out of sheer joy that he was now living in the holy city. Her mother, deep in dementia, repeated the single phrase over and over that out of 6,000 Jews in her hometown, only 20 had survived, and that she, miraculously among them, “had the honor to live in Jerusalem.” (more…)

Sukkah of the Soul

What would you take inside?

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(our local sukkah at night by Bill Rogers; some rights reserved.)

To celebrate Sukkot, Tablet Magazine asked several folks what “must-haves” they would take with them into a sukkah. Here are some of the replies.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, novelist and author of Nextbook Press’s Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity.

“Sukkah of the spirit” suggests unlimited freedom of imagination, so I’ll break a metaphysical boundary and allow myself to imagine myself sitting in a sukkah with my father, who died in 1980, and my sister, who died in 2001. They are singing together. My father, Bezalel Newberger, was a cantor and my sister, Mynda, had inherited his perfect pitch and a miraculous voice. The two of them used to love to harmonize together. If I have to stay within the bounds of the metaphysically possible, I’d settle for a recording of them. Sadly, none exists, since it was on the Sabbath and holidays that they would sing together around the table. I can’t think of an item that could give me more pleasure than a recording of their living voices. (more…)

A Whole Lot of Crap

How our teams fared yesterday

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Rosenfels and Manning (looking clueless in the back).(The author)

Though only two of Tablet Magazine’s three NFL teams lost yesterday, the glass is not even one-third full: The victory was as troubling as a victory can be, and both losses were so putrid you can literally smell them, a day later.

First, the not-very-good news: The New England Patriots won a divisional game against the Buffalo Bills, bringing them to a 2-1 record in what is sure to be a very cutthroat division (after the New York Jets beat the Miami Dolphins last night, those three teams are all 2-1). They won 38-30, at home, against arguably the worst team in the NFL, who literally just cut the person who had been their starting quarterback two weeks ago. (Their new starter will apparently be Ryan Fitzpatrick, notable for being a Harvard man.) You can’t exactly fault an offense for putting up 38 points, although really, with the number of weapons they have—and the fact that they had an uncharacteristically good day running the ball, and they were playing at home—they probably should have. But giving up 30 (including a 95-yard kick return, which shows poor special teams acumen, generally an indicator of a lack of discipline), at home, is simply unacceptable if this team wants to compete. More to the point, it appears that the pass defense—specifically the inexperienced secondary—is the main liability, perhaps fatal. (more…)

In the Arms of an Angel

This week on ‘America’s Next Top Model’

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Esther Petrack.(The CW)

This week was the makeover episode of America’s Next Top Model, when the contestants are given new looks, whether they like them or not. (And a few really didn’t like their new hairdos.) For one, this meant a trip to the optometrist; for another, an appointment with the dentist. For Modern Orthodox contestant Esther Petrack and most of the other women, it meant not much at all: Several hours in a stylist’s chair as dye was applied, extensions were glued in, and layers were cut.

But before we get to the salon at Fred Segal (I always thought it was a clothing store—how little I learned after two years in L.A.), we begin at the models’ Venice Beach house. Ann, last week’s photo winner, buoyed by her triumph, has wrapped her head like a settler’s wife for the cutaway interview (maybe Esther gave her pointers). As Ann’s smile fades, the screaming commences because Tyra Banks herself has arrived to give them inspiration and to let them know about their impending makeovers. She tells the girls that the competition is getting “realer and realer every day,” which I suppose is one of those modelisms that people under 5’10” with advanced degrees in literature cannot possibly understand. And then she shows the girls how to kick it old school—or walk a runway circa 1995—all sass and ‘tude. (more…)

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