Today on Tablet

Christmas in a shelter, sheltering your kids from Christmas, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, a blast from the Vox Tablet archives when Janice Erlbaum volunteers at a shelter for homeless girls on Christmas. Marjorie Ingall’s parenting column offers some yuletide strategies for the torn Jewish parent. Josh Lambert’s weekly rundown of forthcoming books of interest is woman-themed. The Scroll has chopped down a tree, but never put one up.

Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas

The ten best holiday songs penned by Jews

Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” (music and lyrics by Irving Berlin).(YouTube)

Yesterday, Jewcy noted that, for all the Christmas songs that have famously been written by, shall we say, People Who Don’t Celebrate Christmas, not one of a recent list of the Ten Most Depressing Christmas Songs was authored by a Member of the Tribe (“Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk on Christmas)” is John Denver, in case you were wondering).

But it reminded me that around this time last year, I collaborated with David Lehman, author of Nextbook Press’s A Fine Romance: Jewish Songwriters, American Songs, on a list of the ten best Christmas songs of all time. Check the original for extensive commentary; check after the jump for just the list itself.

My favorite? “Santa Baby.” I see Taylor Swift has ruined it, but below you’ll find a link to Eartha Kitt doing it right. (more…)

Daybreak: Unheard of Chutzpa

Plus Harvey Milk’s camera shop, and more in the news


• An Israeli official has accused Turkey of chutzpa most foul for the country’s claim to gas fields in the Mediterrenean. [JPost]

• The Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat believes that 10 European Union countries will soon upgrade their Palestinian missions abroad to embassies. [JPost]

Harvey Milk’s legendary camera shop is the center of a rift in the civil rights community. [NYT]

• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spent Sunday schmoozing with 60 Israeli politicians. [NYT]

• Senator Joe Lieberman led repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. More on this later. [Forward]

• The Magen Tzedek, a “kosher ethics” label, will begin testing companies in January. The label will vet already kosher certified companies in the areas of labor issues, animal welfare, environmental impact and business practices. [JTA]

• Firefighter Danny Hayat has died, raising the death toll of the Carmel forest fire to 44. He was 35. [JTA]

Sundown: France to Send Lebanon Anti-Tank Missiles

Plus Rahm gives tours of his basement and more


• France will send Lebanon 100 anti-tank missiles, no strings attached. [Haaretz]

• Drunk Serb killed alleged Zionist shark in Egypt. [MINA]

Serb with dead shark

• Jeffrey Picower’s estate will pay the $7.2 billion it earned from fraud to Irving Picard, the man overseeing the liquidation of Madoff’s firm . [Bloomberg]

• Rahm shows the world what’s in his crawlspace. No, that’s not a euphemism for anything. [Gawker]

• Does Israel need the West Bank to remain secure? Not according to Martin van Creveld, an Israeli military historian. [Forward]

Yesterday was Jane Austen’s 235th birthday and in honor of the marriage obsessed writer’s milestone, here’s a romantic YouTube video proposal making the rounds. With Muppets. Austen, here’s how we do romance in the 21st Century. (And if the couple is Jewish, do you think they’d make a Muppet marriage with a mini chuppah? A girl can dream.)

A Short History of Words

New Google tool reveals relative popularity of ‘shmuck,’ ‘Zionist,’ other terms


The name of the hot new time-waster is Google Ngrams! Google has taken the five and a half million digital books in its database (interesting fact: Yiddish was the first literature to be entirely digitalized), and created a tool that graphs the uses of phrases throughout history.

I now know that schlep and schmuck entered the English mainstream in the 40s, but their use increased rapidly in the 60s and 80s, respectively (thanks Lenny Bruce!). Zionist first arose in the 1910s, hit its peak in the 1990s, and is now at a 60 year low. For a bracing reminder, watch the spike of various words for Jew in the 30s and 40s… except for Hebrew, which hit its epoch between 1810 and 1830s, but declined in the 1940s. Why 1810? What happened? I have no idea.

Apparently, this tool is for scholars. In that vein, and in the holiday spirit, above see Marc Weidenbaum’s (of and creator of Tablet’s Anander Mol, Anander Weig Hanukkah remix album) scholarly exploration of the history of the word C/Hanuk/kah.

BREAKING: 16 Sentenced in Murder of French Jew

Sentences range from eight months to life


A French appeals court has handed down sentences to 16 people for the 2006 kidnapping, torture and murder of twenty-three year old Ilan Halimi, a French Jew. The sentences ranged from eight months to 18 years. The ringleader, Youssouf Fofana, had not appealed his life sentence.

Court Sentences 16 Over Murder of French Jew [NYT]
Related: Battle of Paris
New Wave

Salita Slaughters Wayka

Yeah, we said ‘Who?’ too

(Matthew Fishbane/Tablet Magazine)

Since his 2009 pummeling in Newcastle, England, at the hands of the current WBA world light welterweight champion Amir Khan, Jewish pugilist Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita has been searching for the road signs to a place called redemption. So far, that road has led him through his own Brighton Beach, for a win over Franklin Gonzalez, and, last night, to midtown Manhattan to headline a nine-fight bill in a packed Roseland ballroom.

But the Scroll wonders if those of us who saw this fight—and the train of brutal undercard knockouts, including Jonathan Cuba’s scary fourth-round blast to the head of Artie Bembury—weren’t just extras in Dmitriy Salita’s dream. There was his name in lights, on the marquee just off Broadway. There was Matisyahu, rapping as Salita made his way to the ring. There was Thomas Hauser, author of 34 boxing books, scribbling on a yellow legal pad as if ringside at Ali-Foreman ’74 or trailing Manny Pacquiao through the Philippines. Salita’s original opponent, Mike Anchondo, had pulled out sick, and in his place in the blue corner stood some scared-looking guy named James Wayka, fresh off the streets of Shawano, Wisconsin, wearing orange-soled Nike Jordan boxing shoes. (more…)

Unsilent Night

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

Writer and performer Janice Erlbaum volunteers at a homeless shelter for teens. On Monday’s Vox Tablet podcast, she shares this story (from our archive) about a Christmas Eve shift she worked a few years back, during which she came armed with videos and a takeout menu. The girls in attendance were dubious, to say the least. Here’s a preview.

Sitting Pop Culture Shiva for Larry King

Larry King hangs up his suspenders. We tell you how to cope.

TV host Larry King arrives at CNN's Larry King Live final broadcast party yesterday at Spago restaurant in Beverly Hills.(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Last night, Larry King Live aired for the final time on CNN after 25 years and over 6,000 shows. Though the 77 year old and Bill Maher, who along with Ryan Seacrest officiated the episode, insisted that this “was not a funeral,” it kind of felt like one. Katie Couric read a poem (or eulogy?); Regis Philbin led us in a Sinatra song (a hymn?), The Best is Yet to Come; and major political leaders appeared (President Bill Clinton, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger), presiding over his departure as though he were a former head of state. Since Mr. King was born in Brooklyn and raised in a Jewishly observant family, it is only fitting for fans to sit pop culture shiva* for him.

Wishin’ and Hopin’ and Thinkin’ and Prayin’ on New Year’s Eve

Share your New Years resolutions!


I have made the point that the eve of the Jewish New Year (aka the REAL New Year) is not about making resolutions, yelling WHOO! and making out. But there’s nothing stopping you from doing those things on December 31 at 11:59pm!

I’m working on a column about New Year’s resolutions and would love your input. Do you resolve anything? Why or why not? If you do have a resolution (or have ever had one), what prompted it? Was there a single moment of genesis? Please share your resolutions; please make them original, achievable and meaningful. They needn’t be Jewish, but if they are, that’s icing on the Clark. (Dick Clark, get it? That was a long way to go for a lame New Year’s joke. Sorry.) Post here or email me at

Related: Recycling Time

Silicon Valley 2.0

High-Tech Holy Land

(Morton Landowne/Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Start-Up Nation, the surprise best-seller about Israeli innovation, provided the theme for my four-day “Israel Innovation Summit,” sponsored by Beit Issie Shapiro, an Israeli non-profit organization that provides innovative services for children with special needs. It’s a sort of Birthright for people curious as to why Israel is second only to the United States in the number of companies listed on NASDAQ and why its currency is one of the world’s strongest.

On our final day, Dan Senor, co-author of Start-Up Nation, convened a panel of five of the key players in Israeli technology, all of whom had featured prominently in his book. The panelists included Meir Brand, who heads Google Israel; Scott Tobin, a U.S. venture capitalist and general partner at Boston-based Battery Ventures; and three Israeli venture capitalists: Chemi Peres, Eddy Shalev, and Tal Keinan. The discussion took place in the striking new Shimon Peres Peace House, overlooking the waterfront in Ajami, Jaffa’s mixed Arab-Jewish neighborhood. “It’s not a book for Jews,” Senor told us. “In Barnes and Noble, it’s in the Business section, not Judaica.” (more…)

Today on Tablet

Pyromania, authenticity, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Etgar Keret defends some draperies from his son and his son from the prime minister of Israel. Daniella Cheslow reports from Jerusalem on the Rabbis’ edict forbidding renting to gentiles in Israel. In his weekly parsha column, Liel Leibovitz suggests the facebook generation look to Jacob for a lesson in authenticity. The Scroll will work on building its own generation.


For the Christmas spirit, Israelis look to their Filipino caregivers

(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.

In most of Israel, December 25 is just another day. Banks and stores are open, people go to work (when it doesn’t fall on Shabbat, as it does this year), and nary a Christmas tree is to be seen.

As for Christmas lights, you’re more likely to see them strung in a sukkah than decorating the streets or one of the scraggly little Arizona cypress trees the Jerusalem municipality hands out at Jaffa Gate before hag hamolad (“holiday of the birth”), which Israelis also refer to as Krreeestmahs.

Outside the predominantly Christian areas and those that feature prominently in the Jesus narrative, like Bethlehem and Nazareth, there lies a pocket of red suits and tinsel that is crowded with Christmas shoppers. But those shoppers aren’t the Christian Arabs you might expect in what is, after all, the cradle of Christianity; they’re the migrant workers who flock to what has become the de facto Filipino section of Tel Aviv’s cavernous and labyrinthine central bus station, which doubles as a down-market mall.

The migrants from the Philippines are generally women working as caregivers for the elderly, and they have become so closely identified with the job that the term Filipiniyot, or Filipinas, has become virtually interchangeable with “caregiver.” (more…)

Daybreak: Knesset to Cut Off Yeshiva Students

Plus, Salita scores a KO, and more in the news


• The Knesset will likely adopt a new plan on Sunday limiting government funding for yeshiva students to five years. Currently, 11,000 students receive the stipends. [Haaretz]

• As the blockade eases, progress in Gaza remains slow. [NYT]

• Dmitriy Salita won his self-promoted bout against James Wayka in the third round to claim the NY state title. [Fighting News]

• Former employee Steve Rosen’s new court filings in his defamation law suit claims that AIPAC condones its employees receipt of classified information. [Forward]

• George Soros attended a conference of Esperanto scholars. He told a story about how his father learned the language in the camps. [City Room]

• Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. [Oregon Live]

Sundown: A Picture Worth A Thousand Cables

Plus long live the King, and more


• The Lebanese army published pictures of the alleged Israeli spy cameras. The pictures show a small plaque with both Hebrew writing and “Israel” written in English. Whoops. [JPost]

• “Comics are the literature of outcasts, of pariahs, of Jews, of gays, of blacks,” says Ta-Nehisi Coates. You can expect more articles about comics for the next week. [Ta-Nehisi Coates]

• Bon Jovi is playing Israel in 2011! Where? He told Larry King, “Whatever the Olympic Stadium is.” You can tell he’s excited. [JPost]

• Speaking of whom, the King (nē Zeiger) is abdicating his throne tonight at 9 EST. His 25 years at CNN were longer than any of his eight marriages. [CNN]

• American rabbis have almost unanimously rebuked the Israeli rabbis who are telling their followers not to rent to non-Jews. Feel free to proudly hum the national anthem. [Forward]

Speaking of which, Jewcy scored an interview with Peter Beinart. You know: The guy who wrote that essay about how Jewish-American liberalism and Zionism are drifting apart.

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