Midday: Gaza Tensions Subsiding

Plus Peretz in winter, and more in the news

Martin Peretz.(New York)

In case this wasn’t clear, The Scroll and Tablet Magazine are publishing on a light schedule this week. Which means: Mega-midday-roundup!

• Over the weekend, Hamas reconfirmed its commitment to a cease-fire in an effort to head off tensions in Gaza during the two-year anniversary of Cast Lead. [NYT]

• In another instance of WikiLeaks telling us for certain what we knew was almost certainly true, a newly released 2008 cable authored by then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice confirms that Israel bombed a Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. [JTA]

• Columnist Avi Shafran points out that President Obama has done pretty much every basic thing that typical pro-Israel American Jews have asked of him. [Jewish Standard]

• Henry Kissinger puts his 1973 remark, “If they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern,” “in context.” [WP]

• A must-read profile of longtime New Republic maven, owner, and editor-in-chief (soon to be editor at large) Marty Peretz reports that his controversial blog, The Spine, will soon be discontinued. [NYMag] (more…)

Duck au Juif

‘Traditional Jewish Christmas’ at Mile End

The view outside Mile End on Christmas night.(All photos by Amy Asheroff)

For those readers who intuited a degree of projection in my article about Mile End, the Brooklyn deli that served Chinese food on Christmas and thereby allowed certain young urban Jews to make “an elective assertion of their culture,” well, I plead guilty: 4 pm on Christmas Day found me there. Co-owning couple Noah Bermanoff and Rae Cohen knew who I was, and we chatted amiably—which is to say, if you want a critically honest, untainted account of the meal (or a critically professional one), you should read elsewhere. But for my money—or, rather, for my employer’s—Mile End’s meal was charming, and the food, with almost the exact right balance between whimsy and craftsmanship, was delicious, alternately Chinese-inspired and just, simply, Chinese.

The small crowd included two babies and three older couples—one of whom, sitting at the counter, were pretty clearly sous chef Aaron Israel’s folks. Along with the day’s menu, the chalkboard above the deli’s open kitchen noted that loaves of challah are for sale every Friday for $6. “We should get some and start celebrating Shabbat,” I overheard one diner say to another. “We have candles. Dunno if we have candlesticks.” There were three cooks (including Bermanoff and Israel), two servers (including Cohen), and one prep-chef in the back. That’s it. (more…)

Sundown: Happy Birthday, Bro

Plus, good will to all men, and more

(Flickr: 24gotham)

Tablet Magazine won’t be posting tomorrow and content will be light next week. Also, Marc Tracy will be back! Whether you’re eating Chinese food or sugar plums, watching Christmas pageants or True Grit—have a happy holidays.

• David Brooks and Gail Collins have a super funny conversation on why keeping Christmas religious is good for the Jews. I do not believe he really dated a girl named Holly Jolly. [NYT]

• This account of Jewish witches torturing inmates at Guantanamo is kind of funny, until you realize that between the lines they’re also describing an entire prison going insane. [Gawker]

• Hall of Famer Larry Brown has resigned from coaching the Charlotte Bobcats. Did I say Hall of Famer? I meant best coach in the history of the sport. [Kaplan Korner]

• Speaking of which, Phil Jackson (the son of two ministers, and whose “unbeatable” Lakers were defeated by Brown’s Pistons for the championship in 2003-04) went on a tirade against the NBA for ‘forcing’ teams to play on Christmas. Ron Kaplan takes issue. [Kaplan Korner]

• Nancy Lieberman, pioneer of the sport, is possibly the first woman coach in the NBA. [NYT]

• President Shimon Peres wishes everyone a merry Christmas, also clearly terrifies children. [Haaretz]

Safe travels!

Oh No! I Haven’t Bought Presents Yet!

In unrelated news, apparently everyone loves Nextbook Press


Apparently some people give gifts on December 25th. We wouldn’t dare suggest that Nextbook Press books would make an excellent stocking stuffer. Yet it would be negligent for us not to point out that all three Nextbook Press titles released in 2010 were named to “best of 2010″ lists!

Yehuda Halevi by Hillel Halkin was named one of the best non-fiction books of the year by Jewish Ideas Daily.

Burnt Books by Rodger Kamenetz was one of the year’s (we think century, but whatever) best religion books says the Huffington Post.

Hillel: If Not Now, When? by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin got the gracious nod from Publishers Weekly.

A Monumental Kiss

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

In 2008, a monument was erected in Berlin to commemorate gay victims of the Nazi regime. Architecturally, it borrows from the Holocaust memorial directly across the street, but it’s much smaller, and contains a continuously looping video showing two men kissing.

The video sparked a heated controversy that continues to this day, though not involving the parties you might expect. Vox Tablet brings us the story on Monday.

You Questioned Our 100 Greatest Jewish Songs

Our musicologists answered


All week we’ve been talking about Jody Rosen and Ari Y. Kelman’s wonderful, if controversial, thoroughly annotated list of the 100 greatest Jewish songs of all time. A lively and sometimes heated debate has sprung up over the choices on the list—in the Scroll, in the office, at 3 AM when my family in other time zones call to yell at me, and, of course, among our excellent commentators. We gleaned a few questions from the conversation and posed them to our musicologists. Jody Rosen answered.

Why are there so many secular/Ashkenazi/American songs? Why isn’t there more orthodox/Sephardi/other place/Israeli/whatever music?

Christmastime in New York

Sara Ivry investigates the man on the street


What are your Christmas plans? Chinese and a movie? Soup kitchen volunteering? Hiding your children? Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry went a’profiling around New York City to find out how other Jews are going to spend the holiday.

Related: Jewish Christmas
Spooltide Cheer
Elijah’s Plate
Santa Pause

Beck, the Schlemiel

An Alvy Singer for a new generation?

(Jonathan Wood/Getty Images)

Is there a more fitting song with which to seal our list of the 100 greatest Jewish songs of all time than Beck’s “Loser”? While the list’s authors, Jody Rosen and Ari Y. Kelman, acknowledge that Beck is barely Jewish—his maternal grandmother is a member of the tribe—they’re spot-on about the particular charms of his break-out debut hit. “Often described as a song of Gen X malaise,” Kelman and Rosen write, “’Loser’ is actually a headier concoction: some folk, some hip-hop, and some Dylanesque doggerel, all mashed-up with the nebbishy neurosis of Alexander Portnoy and Alvy Singer. It’s not a ‘slacker anthem’; it’s a schlemiel’s lament.” Here, then, is the man himself…

Today on Tablet

Trouble in the lone star state, love for the tastebuds, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Michelle Goldberg reports that the Texas House is a testing ground for Jew-baiting as a political tactic. Joan Nathan makes mouths water as she discovers unexpected dishes being served across the country. Alexander Gelfand enjoys—and is perplex by—Elie Wiesel in concert. The Scroll wonders how you roast chestnuts on an open fire in the city.

Q & A with Authors Sarah Rose and Joel Derfner

The stars of Sundance’s ‘Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys’

Sarah Rose and Joel Derfner(Sundance)

Sarah Rose and Joel Derfner have been best friends since they met in a Harvard dining hall 17 years ago. Both are Jewish, writers, and live in New York. (I probably only needed to say “writers” and you would’ve figured out the rest.) And now both of these authors — her book is For All the Tea in China and his is Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever and What Ended Up Happening Instead — are featured on a new Sundance Channel reality show, Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys, which is about gay men and the straight women devoted to one another (It’s way more platonic than what went down between David and Jonathan).

Though the show follows three other gay-hetero pairings, the couples aren’t forced to awkwardly interact, throw dinner parties and bitch slap each other so Sarah and Joel’s arc is devoid of typical reality show drama. Instead theirs is about love – one has found it, the other desperately seeks it. But there’s a twist. It’s the curly, red headed gay man who is getting married in Iowa and the attractive woman who is still looking. Actually, that’s doesn’t sound like a twist. That’s just life as a Jewish woman in New York.

Sarah and Joel kindly (and quite humorously) agreed to take us through their journey on the show.

How did you guys first become involved in Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys?

Sarah: Joel is a composer and a friend from the musical theatre world – Jack Lechner, the executive producer – suggested Joel audition because of his book Swish. I was the natural choice for the Girl who likes Joel (who likes boys).

Joel: They realized that nobody on The A-List (aka Bravo’s Real Gay Housewives of New York) was Jewish, so they had to rush to fill the vacuum.

How do you guys feel, as stereotypically neurotic Jewish New York writers about having your lives broadcast on television?

Daybreak: Wikileaks Comes for Israel

Plus, a Jewish American baby boom, and more in the news


• Julian Assange said in an interview that Wikileaks will release thousands of documents related to Israel—particular the Dubai assassination and the second Lebanon war. [Al Jazeera]

• Despite earlier estimates that show a decline, the Jewish population of the US has actually increased 20% since 1990, says a new study. [Brandeis]

• A pair of alleged Torah thieves was arrested in Jerusalem. [JPost]

• Rahm is officially in the race for Chicago mayor. “The candidate in 2009 and 2010 did not abandon his status as a resident of Chicago, and so remained a resident of Chicago,” wrote the hearing officer. [NYT]

• Settlements in the West Bank are experiencing a building boom [NYT]

• Israel is making some strange friends in Europe. [NYT]

Sundown: Finally, Someone Wins

Plus, the mystery of the Jewish surname, and more

(Fox via Mediaite)

• According to Fox News, Eli Wiesel is a “Holocaust Winner.” According to Tablet Magazine, Fox News needs new interns. [Mediaite]

• Landon Cohen just signed. That makes the Pats officially Tablet’s team. Oh, wait, “It’s a Jewish last name and I don’t know how I got it.” [ESPN]

• Alan Dershowitz examines Bishop Desmond Tutu’s difficulties with, in his words, “a peculiar people.” If Dershowitz isn’t your cup of tea (he gently scolded me once, with reason, and I never recovered) read Sudanese human rights activist Simon Deng on the subject. [Hudson New York]

• Former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey has written to President Obama asking him to convert Jonathan Pollard’s sentence to time served. [JPost]

• Bolivia has formally recognized Palestine as an independent state. [Haaretz]

• Minority Affairs Minister Avishav Braverman said in a speech that Israel is becoming Iran. Maybe Iran could become Israel too in a remake of Freaky Friday. [Ynet]

The Eternal Conundrum

Barney Frank is very funny, but why?


Making the rounds right now is a video of high ranking Rep. Barney Frank being extremely funny and sassy while mocking a reporter from CNS (the question concerns the showering habits of gay men). Of course, this made us wonder, where is this coming from? Which stereotype applies? Does Frank’s funny spring from being gay or Jewish? In the comedy arms race who gets to claim the congressman for their stockpiles?
Watch below and decide for yourself.

The Hebrew Beatles?

No. 66 on our song list marks the birth of Israeli rock


To most American Jews, the Israeli pop anthem “Yo Ya”—number 66 in Jody Rosen and Ari Y. Kelman’s monumental list of the 100 greatest Jewish songs of all time—is a sort of musical falafel, a savory, imported bit of culture that one is glad to have sampled once or twice but that is never a part of anyone’s steady diet. In Israel, however, the song and the band behind it—known in Israel as Kaveret and elsewhere as Poogy—are on par with Agnon, Amichai, and other cultural giants. This is because Kaveret, it is safe to say, invented Israeli rock n’ roll.

“Who’s Angrier?”

Luzer Twersky responds to his critics

Luzer Twersky in 2009(Evan Abramson)

Last week Josh Gleason reported for Vox Tablet on Luzer Twersky, a young man who spent the first twenty three years of his life in Satmar communities, only to break away two years ago. We got a lot of feedback on the piece, some praising, some extremely critical.

Mr. Twersky response, which he posted in the comments, is below.

To all of you who have expressed your support for your fellow human being, Thank you. It’s nice to know that there are still people out there who are capable of empathizing with a person whose views they don’t necessarily agree with. Your comments gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. May the feeling you gave me be upon you, and if you believe God exists and likes and rewards those who make other people feel good, then…

To those who decided to enter a “Who’s Angrier?” contest with me, sorry to break it to you, I win.

Thank You!

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