Cropping Out the Truth

A closer reading of Ernest Coles

An Ernest Cole photograph.(The Ernest Cole Family Trust/Hasselblad Foundation Collection/NYT)

The Times just posted a fascinating story about Ernest Coles, the under-appreciated photographer of apartheid South Africa whose work is being rediscovered. The article notes the reaction of famed South African photographer Stephen Goldblatt to seeing the whole collection:

Later, when he carefully studied scans of them at his home in Johannesburg, Mr. Goldblatt, now 80, said he began to realize that many of the photographs in “House of Bondage” had been cropped severely to enhance their impact in a powerful anti-apartheid polemic. But the full frames showed Mr. Cole’s artistry.

Now where have I heard this before? Oh, right:

Vishniac released, over the course of a five-decade career, an uncommonly small selection of his work for public consumption—so small, in fact, that it did not include many of his finest images, artistically speaking. Instead the chosen images were, in the main, those that advanced an impression of the shtetl as populated largely by poor, pious, embattled Jews—an impression aided by cropping and fabulist captioning done by his own hand. … Vishniac, who often strained to present himself as superior to others, in fact never showed the world some of his best work.

Homecoming for Photos of Apartheid [NYT]
Related: A Closer Reading of Roman Vishniac [NYT Magazine]
Out of Focus [Tablet Magazine]

Porn Heats Up AIPAC Lawsuit

And former bigwig promises it will get hotter


The American Israel Political Action Committee probably isn’t the Zionist organization most would associate with prostitution, sexual experimentation, and pornography (Hadassah always seemed a bit wild to me), but, according to this 260-page deposition that has been released by AIPAC, in response to former employee Steve Rosen’s $20 million civil defamation law suit. (The man formerly accused of leaking classified national security documents says his former employer defamed his character.)

Under questioning from AIPAC’s lawyers, Rosen, the former director of foreign policy, admitted to checking out pornographic Websites at work; described the subjects which intrigued him (“Anything that occurred to me”); and confessed to looking for a male companion through Craigslist. (more…)

Harry Potter Died Here

Photo of the day


Via Andrew Silow-Carroll, the town of Ramle, in central Israel, has become something of a tourist attraction for the tombstone, below, in its British military cemetery.

Moti Milrod/AP/July 20, 2007

In Drab Israeli Town, Harry Potter’s Grave Beckons Tourists To Make Unusual Pilgrimage [AP/Pix]

Hanukkah Is Only Two Weeks Away!

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, we get you ready for this year’s early Hanukkah with a collection of prior pieces we have published about the holiday. Naturally, look for brand-new stuff in the next two weeks as well.

Hanukkah 2010

The Great Intern Search

Apply to work at Tablet Magazine


Tablet Magazine is looking for interns for our spring term, which runs from the beginning of the new year through May.

If you have experience in journalism and are familiar with the landscape of American Jewish life, we’d love to hear from you. We are hiring interns to work either two or three days a week at our office in New York City. Interns will contribute blog posts and full features as well as assist the editorial staff with research and administrative tasks. They will be paid stipends. If you’re interested, please send a cover letter, a résumé, and three writing clips to, by Friday, December 3. We look forward to hearing from you.

The Soviet Republic of Israel?

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Alexander Zaitchik interviews Yuli Edelstein, a Ukrainian-born Refusenik who is now serving as Israel’s first minister of Public Affairs and the Diaspora. “Soviet Jews in Israel have never voted against the stream,” he says. “They are always with the stream, sometimes with a slight shift towards the winner. In 1992 they mostly voted for Rabin and the Labor Party. In ’96 they mostly voted for Netanyahu, but so did most Israelis. In ’99, they voted for Ehud Barak and Labor, as most Israelis did. And then Ariel Sharon—the same thing. So it’s a nice legend about all Soviet Jews being very hard-nosed.”

Russian Arc

Jews With Soul

Musicians throwback to Motown


Probably worth pointing out that many of the cool kids in last weekend’s Times Magazine feature about white kids in L.A. who do soul music are … y’know … “white middle-class Jewish guy[s]” like Mayer Hawthorne (real name: Andrew Mayer Cohen) and Eli (Paperboy) Reed (real name: Eli Husock).

Pretty cool. And even cooler when you see Paperboy Reed bust out “Come and Get It.” And even cooler when you remember that some of the best Motown songs were written by a woman from Brooklyn named Carole King (real name: Carol Klein).

Can a Nerd Have Soul? [NYT Magazine]

Pick Your Favorite Chanukiah

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse highlights some of the most provocative and beautiful chanukiahs (that is, Hanukkah-appropriate menorahs) on the market. “That these pieces occupy the particularly female realm of our religious universe is relevant,” she writes, “but that the point of these accoutrements is to hold fire is even more so.”

Below is my favorite, Hanuka Menora by Sari Srulovitch. It strikes me as a playful, self-conscious, almost ironic nod to the fact that it is a utilitarian object also made to be beautiful. But what’s yours?

Dissenting on Facebook

A Jewish conspiracy? Well, sorta


Three repressive Middle Eastern regimes recently felt threatened by the popular social-networking Website. In the West Bank, a blogger used Facebook as his prime platform to publish Koranic satires under the name “God Almighty”; he was arrested by the Palestinian Authority (naturally, a group has sprouted in solidarity). Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia briefly blocked the site, saying its content had “crossed the line.” And Iran’s government released a video arguing that Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Jewish founder, is secretly working for Mossad.

Of course, as Liel Leibovitz argued in these digital pages, there is something inherently Jewish about Facebook and other Web 2.0 platforms. And something inherently threatening: <--more-->

Under the influence of Wahabism, the new zealots find in Web 2.0 a terrifying threat to an intolerant and hierarchical stream of Islam that spends as much energy crushing intrafaith competition as it does opposing foreign influence. Unlike China, which objects to social media platforms and search engines only when they are used to disseminate anti-government messages … they know that the most radical thing about [Google founder Sergey] Brin, Zuckerberg, and the technologies they created is that they encourage constant commentary, ongoing debate, endless involvement. It’s a way of thinking that is very bad for oppressive corporations, zealous theocracies, and anyone else wishing to exert complete control over information. But it is very good for the Jews.

Palestinian Blogger Angers West Bank Muslims [NYT]
Saudi Arabia Blocks Facebook [Ynet]
Video dispatch 2: Iran: Zuckerberg created Facebook on behalf of the Mossad[Mideast Dispatch Archive]
Related: Web Jew.0 [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: Secrets and Porn at AIPAC

Plus Gates pushes for sanctions instead of bombing, and more in the news

Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

• Court depositions reveal two things about AIPAC: That it only recently stopped accepting classified information; and that pornography was viewed on office computers. [JTA]

• Israeli officials warn that without an imminent peace deal, the Palestinian Authority could be replaced as the West Bank government by Hamas or other Iranian proxies. [WP]

• Outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that sanctions are working—dividing Iran’s leadership—and therefore military action is unnecessary. [WP]

• Where U.S. military aid to Lebanon has been notably controversial, Russia announced it would give an unconditional gift of helicopters, tanks, and more to strenghten the Lebanese army. [Haaretz]

Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner chats with novelist David Grossman. [NYT]

• Former George W. Bush adviser Dan Senor is rumored to be mulling a run for Kirsten Gillibrand’s Senate seat for New York in 2012. [Page Six]

Sundown: The East Jerusalem (Non-)Issue

Plus the tailor from Auschwitz, and more

The tailor Martin Greenfield.(NYT)

• President Obama’s top Mideast national security adviser assured Jewish leaders that the administration hadn’t meant to make a big deal over last week’s East Jerusalem housing announcement. [JTA]

• Martin Greenfield is a tailor to the New York stars; he has been doing it for 60 years. His introduction to the trade came in Auschwitz. [NYT]

• Create your own Pamella Geller rant! [Little Green Footballs via Goldblog]

• Ron Radosh, who has written extensively on the Rosenbergs, responds to Gil Troy’s essay about Jonathan Pollard. [Pajamas Media]

• Tablet Magazine is co-sponsoring a nonfiction essay contest. Winner gets to go to Vilnius. Yes, yes, Vilnius in summer. [Summer Literary Seminars]

• Gagosian Gallery is running a very Jewish show, Anselm Kiefer’s “Next Year in Jerusalem.” [WSJ]

Jewish Funds for Justice finds the consonances between Glenn Beck’s Soros documentary and the Protocols.

White House Jewish Liaison Departing

Come see Susan Sher before she goes!

Susan Sher and her boss last year.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The office of the first lady announced (via email) that Susan Sher, Michelle Obama’s chief-of-staff and the White House’s liason to the Jewish community, will depart come the new year. “Susan has brought tremendous skill and dedication to the First Lady’s office,” said President Obama, “as well as my administration’s outreach to the Jewish community and our efforts to pass health care reform.” Michelle Obama noted that Sher ended up staying longer than she had planned to build the First Lady’s office.

If you want to catch Ms. Sher before she heads back to her family in Chicago, you should drop by the historic Sixth & I Synagogue in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, November 30, for her Tablet Magazine-sponsored chat with New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor.

Jews & Politics [Tablet Magazine]

‘The Dybbuk’ as Memoir

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews a new life of the early-20th-century Russian-Jewish playwright S. An-sky.

Cantor Didn’t Really Pledge to Back Bibi

Congressman struck with case of foot-in-mouth

Eric Cantor, opining.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Remember last week when it was widely and clearly reported that soon-to-be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Republican of Virginia, had told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the GOP majority would side with him against the Obama administration? And how this was kind of extraordinary in a bad way—not because politicians should march in lockstep with members of the other party, but because there is principled opposition, and then there is telling a foreign leader you will side with him over the leader of your own country?

Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief: Cantor never actually said that. A spokesperson explained that the highest-ranking Jewish congressperson told the Israeli prime minister that “the new Republican majority will serve as a check on the administration” just, y’know, in a general way, not specifically on Mideast issues—“not in relation to U.S.-Israel relations.” You see, Netanyahu is known for his special curiosity as to domestic U.S. tax policy. (It is interesting that Cantor’s office felt the need to clarify, implying that it agrees that there would be something wrong with Cantor having said that.)

The remaining problem is that Cantor seems to say things concerning Mideast policy that he doesn’t actually mean. Late last month, recall, he pledged to separate Israeli aid from the rest of foreign aid, a universally disliked idea that, fortunately, he didn’t actually want to enact. Maybe the thing to do is discount absolutely everything Cantor says about the Mideast and just wait to hear what his spokespeople say?

Obama Remark Misinterpreted, Cantor Spokesperson Says [JTA]
Candid Cantor [Capital J]
Earlier: Cantor’s Foreign Aid ‘Trial Balloon’ Is Popped’

The Higher Authority

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Sara Ivry interviews Sue Fishkoff, author of Kosher Nation, for the Vox Tablet podcast series on the growing and broader appeal of non-trayf.

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