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Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch takes issue with a new anthology ostensibly of translated writing from the Middle East that includes literature in Urdu from Pakistan (which is not typically considered part of the Middle East) but no literature in Hebrew from Israel.

Bordering on Malicious

‘Chanukah Chag Yafe’

‘Anander Mol, Anander Veig,’ day by day

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(Brian Scott/Boondesign)

Every day of Hanukkah, we will publish a track from Marc Weidenbaum’s holiday-inspired album of remixes, Anander Mol, Anander Veig, along with its original version. Today: “Chanukah Chag Yafe.”

Here is the original track for “Chanukah Chag Yafe,” by Alexandria Kleztet:

Here is the remix, by ocp, a.k.a. João Ricardo:

Name That Cat

Why, yes, it *is* a slow news day, why do you ask?

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A cute black kitten!(gittingsc/Flickr)

Breaking news from your humble parenting columnist: My children need help naming their new kitten. Said kitten is tiny and black with a very long tail. The Harry-Potter-obsessed children in question want to name it Bellatrix Lestrange, which has been rejected for being both goyish and evil.

Other name contenders currently include Vanessa Doofenschmirtz (a character on the cartoon Phineas and Ferb—such a cat’s nickname could be Essie, which is nice for a Lower East Side/East Village cat) and Weezy (which meets the Harry Potter criterion—it’s what Dobby calls Ron Weasley—and is appropriate given that, being Jews, we have a houseful of asthma sufferers). But additional ideas for monikers would be very welcome.

Additional data point: The name or nickname should work with Yoyo, the name of the Ingall crew’s other cat. (Yoyo is short for Miss Sparkles Yoyodyne. You see the risk of allowing children to name a pet.) Please post suggestions in the comments, lest I wind up with a cat named Bellatrix. No one deserves that.

A New Kind of Jew

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Liel Leibovitz’s article today in Tablet Magazine is nearly as much about the similarities between two groups of American Jews—those born in Israel and those born in the former Soviet Union—as about the differences between those groups and the rest of American Jewry. His provocative point is that the Israeli and Russia Jews have made an outsize contribution to American culture, yet only uneasily fit the American Jewish mainstream’s idea of what it is to be an American Jew. Something, in other words, has got to give.

Those Israeli- and Russian-born immigrants who choose to stay in the United States, however, are challenging the community’s existing infrastructures. Primarily constructed around religious denominations, much of the organized American Jewish community has little place for people who, like Israelis, have grown up divorcing Jewish identity from religious practice, or who, like Russians, have grown up in societies that forbade the study and practice of religion. But the strongest apparent explanation for the gap between the recent immigrants and the established American Jewish community has little to do with institutions and a lot with intuitions: for American Jews, being Jewish is a complicated undertaking woven into a long history of fear and pride and doubt and desire. For Israelis, and for Russians, it’s simply something that you are, something that you do, something that requires less thought than action.

My favorite part is the comparison, toward the end, of the novels of typical American Jews and the novels of Russian-born American Jews. Some of us are still stuck in the shtetls, and it is not those of us who are the least far removed from them.

Eastern Front

Our Greatest Conquests

(They converted)

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DiCaprio and Refaeli courtside last April.(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Word is Leonardo DiCaprio is considering converting in order to marry longtime girlfriend Bar Refaeli, the Israeli supermodel. If this all goes down, Leo would represent one of our people’s greatest coups.

Which got me thinking: Who are our people’s greatest coups? (That is, who converted for marriage-related reasons. Sorry, Sammy Davis, Jr.)

A preliminary list: (more…)

Daybreak: Iranian Talks Produce More Talks

Plus Israel and Turkey near deal, and more in the news

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Iranian negotiaor Saeed Jalili and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.(Anja Niedringhaus/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva concluded with another meeting next month scheduled … and nothing else concretely accomplished. [LAT]

• Also in Geneva, Israeli and Turkish diplomats are near to finalizing a deal that will fully restore diplomatic ties. [Haaretz]

• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren points to the firefighting aid Israel received from both friends and adversaries as proof that cooperation is possible in the Mideast. [LAT]

• After being shown Israeli intelligence, the United States urged Arab countries not to go along with Iranian smuggling to Hezbollah and Hamas, a WikiLeaks cable reveals. [Haaretz]

• WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself over to British authorities over charges of sexual coercion. [NYT]

• Director Claude Lanzmann, 85, discusses the re-release of his masterpiece, Shoah. “I dislike deeply Schindler’s List, for many reasons,” he says. [NYT]

Sundown: Brazil, Argentina Recognize Palestine

Plus sharks from Mossad! and more

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(IMDB)

• Brazil and Argentina have recognized the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders. About 100 other countries have done so. [Laura Rozen]

• Hummus controversy at Princeton. Read the whole thing. [NYT]

• A shark killed an Egyptian woman in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. This was clearly a Mossad plot, much like the Amity Attacks of 1975. [JPost]

• Ron Kampeas argues that, as of now, there is no reason to be concerned about Tea Party members agitating to alter America’s Israel policy. [Capital J]

• Yiddish in Brooklyn! The Times should write more articles like this. [NYT]

• Iran’s new soccer coach might be one Diego Maradona. [CNN]

Maradona is a terrible soccer coach, but the guy could play alright.

Secondhand Smoke

The Israeli-fire culprit is hookah

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(chunsa88/Flickr)

Smoking hookah is gross. It is worse for you then delicious cigarettes, smells awful, and leads to bogarting. Also, cancer. And headaches. Plus, it turns out that the Carmel forest fire was caused by a 14-year-old smoking hookah. This could be the beginning of a new anti-smoking campaign. Hookah: Bad for you, bad for trees, bad for the Jews.

Young Smoker Is Blamed in Israel Fire [NYT]
Hookahs vs. Cigarettes [Fitsugar]
Earlier: What Israel Lost in the Fire

Jews in the Middle Ages

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Josh Lambert’s weekly rundown of notable forthcoming Jewish books of interest has a distinctly medieval feel to it.

On the Bookshelf

‘Ose Shalom’ and ‘Thermoglyphics’

‘Anander Mol, Anander Veig,’ day by day

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(Brian Scott/Boondesign)

Every day of Hanukkah, we will publish a track from Marc Weidenbaum’s holiday-inspired album of remixes, Anander Mol, Anander Veig, along with its original version. Today: “Ose Shalom” and “Thermoglyphics.”

Listen to the original track for “Ose Shalom,” by the Fourth Ward Afro-Klezmer Orchestra, here.

Here is the remix, by Diego Bernal:

Here is the original track for “Thermoglyphics,” by New Klezmer Trio (composed by Ben Goldberg):

Here is the remix, by Dance Robot Dance, a.k.a. Brian Biggs:

And the Number One Commandment Is …

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Today in Tablet Magazine, David Hazony discusses his new book, which is about the Ten Commandments, with host Sara Ivry on the weekly Vox Tablet podcast.

Top Ten

Tea Party Foreign Policy

Will Israel be the field of the forthcoming GOP civil war?

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Sarah Palin.(Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

The conventional wisdom following last month’s midterm elections is that the rousing Republican victory would mean a more favorable climate for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government in the United States—that the extra-friendly Congress would make it more difficult for the Obama Administration to put the screws to Netanyahu the way it has. However, the rise of the volatile and unpredictable Tea Party—which for practical, political purposes is a part of the Republican Party but at the same time is not necessarily of it, particularly on foreign policy matters—complicates that conventional wisdom considerably. (more…)

Justin Bieber Will Play Tel Aviv

April concert planned

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Justin Bieber Justin Bieber.(Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)

The Canadian-born almost-Jew is coming to Israel! On April 14, 2011, the 16-year-old pop superstar will play Tel Aviv’s Park Yarkon.

Scott “Scooter” Braun (né Shmuel ben Eliezer), the recording industry honcho who discovered Bieber, has said that Bieber recites the “Shema” before every show.

Did you know writing “Justin Bieber” is good for search engine optimization?

Justin Bieber To Perform in Israel [JTA]
Earlier: Justin Bieber, Almost Jewish

How Many Days of Hanukkah?

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Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall out-Patricia Marxes Patricia Marx with her Hanukkah gift guide today in Tablet Magazine. It seems a good opportunity to highlight the page from which you can view all of Tablet Magazine’s Hanukkah coverage, from this year and last. That even includes a certain video that contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg and his good friend Sen. Orrin Hatch put together for us (NSFW—your co-workers might kill you):


Delights

Gag Order

What Israel Lost in the Fire

Prestige hurt, but Turkish diplomacy is back

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The fire-scarred forest of northern Israel.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

The biggest and deadliest forest fire in Israel’s history has been brought under control after four days. The immediate toll: 42 deaths (including Israel’s highest-ranked policewoman), 10,000 acres of forest in the north, 4 million trees (though the Jewish National Fund guessed 5 million—so be extra-sure to plant one next time you’re over there). Presumably the financial cost was not insignificant—to take one example, renting the largest firefighting plane in the world, a retrofitted American-made 747 awesomely called the Evergreen Supertanker, can’t have been cheap.

The more lasting, geopolitical results of the fire are less knowable, although the time does feel pregnant. Israel’s prestige has been harmed, as it was clearly unequal to the task of stopping the fire on its own. (Interior Minister Eli Yishai, of the ultra-religious Shas Party, denied responsibility for the unpreparedness.) In another way, the fire provided an opportunity for a moment of good will in the international community for a nation not used to that, with 10 foreign countries (including the United States) sending aid. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas held a rare phone conversation so that condolences could be offered for the deaths, most of which were of prison-guard trainees whose bus got caught in the inferno; this is likely the first time they have spoken since September. And then there is the Turkey situation. (more…)

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