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Identity Crisis

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Pejman Yousefzadeh has a moving cri de coeur today in Tablet Magazine on the contradictions one must grapple with when you are (as he is) an American-born Iranian Jew. Later in the essay, he has some important and provocative things to say about the Iranian-Israeli crisis, and he condemns the Obama administration’s failure to take a stronger rhetorical stand on the side of those who protest the ayatollahs’ regime.

But to me, the most memorable parts of the piece are the portraits of the writer as a young radical. “The images from Iran made me intensely political in 1978, at the tender age of 6,” Yousefzadeh relates. And there is this story:

From the very beginnings of the revolution, it was made clear to me that our family could not possibly visit Iran until a fundamental governmental change took place. In a phone call as a child, I once told my grandmother, who’d remained in Iran, that I probably would not be able to see her until there was a counterrevolution; an indiscretion that prompted my parents to quickly take the phone out of my hands, for fear the line was eavesdropped and I might get my family in trouble.

Personal Revolution

Mark Madoff, 46, Kills Himself

Elder son’s fate is not entirely unlike his father’s

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Mark Madoff with wife and son Nicholas.(Facebook/NY Daily News)

In December 2008, after Bernard Madoff finally informed his oblivious sons that the legendary family investment fund was nothing more than a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, all kinds of people were quick to call it a tragedy—even, grandly, “a tragedy of epic proportions.” Lots of people, including some old and feeble individuals and some important and well-known charities, were bankrupted, which was upsetting, and at least two high-profile investors took their own lives in the immediate aftermath. But, fundamentally it was really just a sad morality tale about people’s blind faith in the face of lots of cash.

That changed on Saturday, when Madoff’s elder son, 46-year-old Mark, was found hanging by a dog leash from a ceiling pipe in his SoHo loft, on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest and in the shadow of new lawsuits filed against the extended Madoff clan. The death, which the medical examiners quickly ruled a suicide, propelled the scandal into the realm of Greek tragedy—because it has now visited misfortune on one of the only members of the family to be definitively innocent in the mess: Mark Madoff’s two-year-old son, Nick, was peacefully asleep in the apartment where his father killed himself. (more…)

Daybreak: Back to the Proximity Talks

Plus Madoff suicide, Iran concerns, and more in the news

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U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell last month.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• Secretary of State Clinton announced that the United States would still back the peace process but revert to mediating negotiations—essentially a step back to the “proximity talks” of several months ago. [NYT]

• Thomas Friedman approves, and his pox is cast on both their houses. [NYT]

• Bernard Madoff’s elder son, Mark, was found dead of a likely suicide on the two-year anniversary of his father’s arrest. He was 46. [JTA]

• As the White House plans further economic sanctions, it openly fears that new negotiations are simply Iran playing for time. [LAT]

• A year ago, Syrian officials told Iranian counterparts that they would not join a Hezbollah or Iran war with Israel, according to a WikiLeaked cable. [JTA]

• How adoptions are—the literal metaphor cannot be avoided—changing the face of American Judaism. [WP]

Sundown: Clinton and Livni Talk

Plus Assange accuser in the West Bank, and more

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Clinton and Livni meeting last year.(Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)

• Before giving a big speech tonight, Secretary of State Clinton met with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni in Washington, D.C. [Haaretz]

• Get ready, Israel: Sarah Palin is visiting. [The Daily Beast]

• One of the women who has accused Julian Assange of a sex crime is reportedly now in the West Bank with a Christian outreach group. [HuffPo]

• Israeli MAD. Awesome. [The Magic Whistle]

• Whether or not Jews are greedy, Jewish law frowns upon greed, David E.Y. Sarna concludes. [NY Jewish Week]

• A short film on the making of the Beastie Boys’ iconic hit “Fight For Your Right” will debut in January at Sundance. [Jewcy]

Now that Hanukkah is over, we can get to the Christmas viral videos.

Watch A Real-Life, Live Filibuster!

Sen. Sanders does some talking

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You know the tax deal President Obama recently struck with congressional Republicans that you and/or your liberal friends have been complaining about all this week? Well, right now, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont (and a Jew), is filibustering the deal. And he is doing it old-school: Actually standing up there and saying and reading things, in an unmistakable Brooklyn accent! (He is saying and reading actual things related to the bill; sorta wish he were reading cookbooks and Dickens, Stackhouse-style.)

You can watch on C-SPAN2, because that is the world we live in now.

C-SPAN2 Live Stream
Sen. Bernie Sanders Filibusters Obama Tax Deal With GOP [USA Today]

Into Another World

Your Vox Tablet preview

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(Eric Molinsky)

There have been many stories about Hasidic Jews leaving the fold. But few of them, in our humble opinion, are as intimate and honest as the audio portrait coming your way next week. Radio producer Josh Gleason spent about a year with 23-year-old Luzer Twersky, chronicling his efforts to get his bearings after departing the religious community he grew up in in Boro Park, Brooklyn. The story begins like this:

Check out Monday’s “Vox Tablet” for the rest.

Patient Testimony

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Today in Tablet Magazine, famed Holocaust scholar (and Nextbook Press author) Deborah Lipstadt reconsiders Claude Lanzmann’s classic, mammoth documentary Shoah on the occasion of a new theatrical run.

Monumental

Jewish Badger Named Best Lineman

Carimi is Wisconsin’s left tackle

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Carimi (#68) celebrates after a dramatic win at Iowa in October.(David Purdy/Getty Images)

Congratulations to Gabe Carimi, this year’s winner of the Outland Trophy, which is given to college football’s best interior lineman (on either side of the ball). A Jewish kid from the Badger State, Carimi played at the all-important left tackle position, a crucial role in the bruising offense that rushed for 239.9 yards and gave up fewer than one sack per game; three times scored 70 or more points; and carried the Badgers to an 11-1 record, a Big Ten title, and a Rose Bowl berth.

If drafted (or, rather, when drafted—the best left tackle tends to get drafted), Carimi will join the elite fraternity of professional Jewish offensive linemen, which currently includes Lennie Friedman of the Cleveland Browns, Kyle Kosier of the Dallas Cowboys, Adam Goldberg of the St. Louis Rams, and Geoff Schwartz of the Carolina Panthers.

But first, the favored team of such Jewish luminaries as Sen. Herb Kohl, Rabbi Andy Bachman, and your humble blogger, meets Texas Christian University on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. On, Wisconsin!

Gabe Carimi Wins Outland Trophy [Orlando Sentinel]

Former FBI Lawyer Opposes Pollard Release

Alleges spy’s full damage remains untold

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Jonathan Pollard.(Haaretz)

Over the past months, momentum had been building toward the United States perhaps releasing Jonathan Pollard, the man who in 1987 was convicted of and sentenced to life for spying on behalf of Israel. You had early chatter that Pollard could be released in exchange for some sort of peace process deal; then you had former deputy defense secretary Lawrence Korb claim that his former boss Caspar Weinberger’s anti-Israel bias contributed to Pollard’s life sentence; then you had 39 Democratic congressmen, including influential ones like Barney Frank and Anthony Weiner, asking President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence; and finally you had reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu had asked for the freedom of Pollard (since honorarily made an Israeli citizen) as part of a deal in which his cabinet would approve a 90-day West Bank construction freeze. (The case for Pollard’s release, perhaps best articulated by Gil Troy in Tablet Magazine, rests not on his innocence, but on the arguable lack of damage his crimes did and on the disproportionate nature of his sentence compared to similar spies.)

But in the past week, two things have happened to make Pollard’s release less likely. First and most important, of course: The United States has given up on attempting to secure an extension of the freeze, in turn leaving Bibi with less of a quid to offer for the Pollard quo. But secondarily and more interestingly, M.E. “Spike” Bowman, a former Navy and FBI lawyer who told a Washington Post reporter that he was “the only person who actually touched all aspects of the case,” has come out and opposed Pollard’s release, on the grounds that the disclosures did immense damage. (more…)

The Other Jerusalem

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Todd Gitlin takes us on a tour of East Jerusalem (with photos!) today in Tablet Magazine, reporting firsthand on the realities of Jewish settlers living in Arab neighborhoods—some in houses that once belonged to Palestinians (and perhaps still should).

He arrives in the Arab village of Silwan during one of its famed regular Friday-afternoon protests, which frequently attract prominent Israeli left-wing activists.

On this occasion, the 300 to 400 demonstrators, some banging drums, were in a festive mood, perhaps because they knew that former President Jimmy Carter and former Irish President Mary Robinson were expected. They were mostly young, almost entirely Israeli, and cheered on by an encampment of young Palestinians. These Friday afternoon gatherings have evolved into the quintessential rituals of the Israeli left. On a Saturday evening last March, some 3,000 protesters showed up.

At the dot of 4 p.m., Carter’s limo drove up. Chants began: “Carr-terr! Carr-terr!” Carter and Robinson waded into the crowd, Carter was handed a bullhorn and offered “congratulations” to the protesters for “trying to resolve this injustice peacefully.” He deplored “demolition” and “confiscation.” Carter, the president who brokered a peace treaty between Israel and its most formidable military enemy, is regularly, vehemently, reviled by the Israeli right and its American supporters. At the Mt. Zion Hotel, his name was synonymous with the devil incarnate.

Facts on the Ground

On Fire

A tragedy in Israel lets the ‘ethnic genie’ out of the bottle

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(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use Hebrew. Behind the literal meaning, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday, we reveal what is really being said. To view all the entries in this series, click here.

Last week’s wildfire in northern Israel caused the deaths of more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of acres of forest. It also let the shed ha’adati—the ethnic genie—out of the bottle.

You might think the ethnic genie (which is probably best thought of, in English, as playing the race card) is a reference to the Arab-Jewish divide. But actually it concerns the rift—stoked by political rhetoric—between Ashkenazim and Mizrahim, perhaps best encapsulated by the way European Jews are venerated as the pioneers who tamed the swamps and desert, while Jews of Middle Eastern or North African origin were dumped in ma’abarot, a kind of refugee camp for new immigrants. (more…)

Daybreak: Turkey and Israel Talk, Don’t Deal

Plus is Abbas a perennial no-sayer? and more in the news

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President Abbas yesterday.(Khaled Desouki/AFP/Getty Images)

• While Israel and Turkey have exchanged kind words over their recent diplomatic talks, an apology, and therefore a deal, has been conspicuously absent. [Haaretz]

• Obama administration officials clamored to have their ideas heard over what the United States’s next step vis-à-vis the peace process should be. Their deadline is tonight, when Secretary of State Clinton is set to give a big speech expected to lay out the new strategy. [LAT]

• Columnist Jackson Diehl blames the failure of the latest round of talks on Palestinian President Abbas—who, he reports, has a history of declining good deals—and on the administration for failing to recognize this. [WP]

• Roger Cohen’s column is about an activist-y young American Jew who went to Israel, was spat on by haredim, and then joined J Street. [NYT]

• Hadassah will pay back $45 million of Madoff-related money as part of Bankruptcy Court proceedings. [eJewishPhilanthropy]

• A WikiLeaks cable revealed U.S. plans to try to get Spain an underwater treasure in exchange for a Camille Pissaro painting, now in Spain, that the Nazis confiscated from a Jewish family. The ploy failed. [ARTINFO]

Sundown: Religious Women Get Together

Plus Rajon Rondo is a rabbi, and more

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Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics (and The Runnin’ Rabbi’s).(Deadspin)

• The first Reform, Reconstructionist, and Conservative woman rabbis celebrated Hanukkah with the first Open Orthodox Rabba. [Jewesses with Attitude]

• Rajon Rondo of the Boston Celtics played on a Louisville softball team called “The Runnin’ Rabbi’s.” Yes this really happened. [Deadspin]

• Mayor Mike Bloomberg needs to end every speech with “and I’m not running for President.” New rule. [Ben Smith]

• Bill Donahue of the Catholic League is attacking Boca Raton for displaying a menorah and a Christmas tree but no nativity scene. Does he not know who lives in Boca? [JTA]

• Sir Paul McCartney plays Chabad. [New Jersey Jewish News]

• A new poll shows that Americans favor U.S. engagement in the peace process. [Laura Rozen]

• A Swiss responder to the forest fire is moving to Israel to be with the woman he loves. Aw! [Ynet]

The White House Hanukkah party featured a menorah salvaged from a Katrina destroyed synagogue. The congregation broke ground on their new location today. Feels like a miracle to me.

Israel Attorney General Investigating Rabbis

Perhaps under pressure from you, the reader

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Earlier today, Liel Leibovitz wrote about the group of Israeli municipal rabbis who last week signed a religious ruling saying Jews should be punished for renting to non-Jews. He called for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to go beyond his already stern denouncement and instruct Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein “to take immediate action… and make sure [the rabbis] no longer enjoy the prestige and the public funding that comes with their posts.”

A few hours later, the Attorney General, perhaps under pressure from Scroll readers, has indeed ordered an investigation into the rabbis’ letter.

“The Attorney General believes that the comments attributed to the rabbis are seemingly problematic in a number of ways and are not emblematic of proper public behavior,” wrote Weinstein.

“The legal aspect of the incident is more complicated. The attorney general has instructed the relevant parties in his office to check the criminal and disciplinary aspects raised by the rabbis’ statements.”

While the Attorney General does not have the power to discipline the rabbis, he can instruct Israel’s two Chief Rabbis to take action. Legalese aside, this is the first step towards accountability.

Israel’s Legal Establishment to Examine Rabbis’ Letter Forbidding Rental of Homes to Arabs [Haaretz]
Earlier: Fire The Rabbis

‘Yishama-O-Rama (Radiata Edit)’

‘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: “Yishama-O-Rama (Radiata Edit).”

Here is the original track for “Yishama-O-Rama (Radiata Edit),” by Klezmer Rebs:

Here is the remix, by Cut Loose, aka Jen Bell:

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