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.

Girls Gotta Sing

And wear awesome wigs

THE KINSEY SICKS (l-r: Trixie, Winnie, Rachel and Trampolina)(Maurice Molyneaux)

The best—and raunchiest—Jewish-inflected holiday revue running will be in New York and Washington this month. For two weeks, The Kinsey Sicks, “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet,” will be offering their Christmas show, Oy Vey in a Manger.

Make that “Christmas show.” The titles of these rapier-sharp parodies of holiday standards tell it all: “God Bless ye Femmy Lesbians,” “Crystal Time in the City,” and “I’ll be Cloned for Christmas.” And for those who want to hear a Hanukkah ditty hoist on its own petard, there’s “I Had a Little Facial.”

Those who think drag is gawky transvestites in bad wigs lip-synching have another think coming: The Kinsey Sicks are gawky transvestites in bad wigs singing with voices to die for, whose lush arrangements would make the Sing-Off judges swoon.

Winona Reveals The Shocking Truth! Mel Doesn’t Like Jews!

Also, some thoughts on dodging kitchen appliances

(Getty Images)

In the same week the Nixon tapes revealed that former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, would’ve let Soviet Jews die gas chambers, we learn from Winona Ryder that Mel Gibson was anti-Semitic as far back as 15 years ago. Shocking. Who would’ve thought the man who brought us the Passion of the Christ didn’t just discover his anti-Jewish feelings when he was famously arrested for DUI in Malibu in 2006?

The actress, who is Jewishly known as Winona Laura Horowitz, spoke to GQ to promote her new film, Black Swan (which Allison Hoffman reviewed for Tablet), and told them about a big Hollywood party she had attended 15 years ago where she bumped into Gibson.

“Somehow it came up that I was Jewish,” Ryder told the magazine. “He said something about ‘oven dodgers,’ but I didn’t get it. I’d never heard that before.”

Neither have I but the phrase might be a stroke of evil genius – conflating the Holocaust with Vietnam draft dodgers. Or the Holocaust with dodge ball. (I can just hear Rip Torn’s Patches O’Houlihan from Dodgeball saying, “If you can dodge an oven, you can dodge a ball.”) Ryder goes onto say how she tried to warn others. “I was like, ‘He’s anti-Semitic and he’s homophobic.’ No one believed me!” Yes, Winona, you get to tell us all a big “I told you so!” But perhaps you should’ve stepped forward before this was common knowledge.

While GQ didn’t think that this little story was all that important and published it in parenthesis as merely a Mel Gibson anecdote, we here at Tablet (and the rest the of the Jewish media, if they’ll permit me to speak for them) think that Mel Gibson’s words from 15 years ago deserve more scrutiny and perhaps even a denouncement from Abe Foxman. It’s not like he’s busy calling anyone anti-Semitic these days, anyway.

Winona Forever [GQ]
Related: Why Kissinger Dismissed the Soviet Jews

Harper’s: Lord of the Flies meets Hasid

Fear and loathing in Crown Heights

A Lubavitcher walks by a policeman, in Crown Heights, in 2008.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images.)

The new issue of Harper’s has a must read, must debate article on Crown Heights Lubavitchers. A Shtetl Divided is nominally about the ongoing schism between two Lubavitch anti-crime patrols, the Shomrim and the explicitly messianic Shmira, but in atmosphere and theme reads like a Hasidic Winter’s Bone. New York City fades away. In its place is a claustrophobic village of factions that—if they can’t overcome one another—are perfectly content to feud forever (Allison Hoffman’s piece today on Rabbi Milton Balkany is an excellent companion piece).

It’s an incredible, often uncomfortable read. I’ll leave you with a throw away scene, wherein the author is hunting down a source in a yeshiva dormitory:

On the third floor, we were stopped by a knot of half-dressed bochurim, who spilled out of a room giggling and shrieking. As I got closer, I saw that one of the boys was carrying a shovel with a half-dead ray rat on it, its eyes flickering dully. Rats and mice are a huge problem in [the dorm], and because Lubavitch leadership doesn’t provide extermination services, the residents are forced to do the hunting themselves. Whack! One of the kids had dropped the rat onto the ground and was using the blade of the shovel to cut its neck. A tiny splatter of blood burst forth, and the boys cheered.

Or, in the words of William Golding: “‘Kill the beast! Cut his throat! Spill his blood!’”

A Shtetl Divided: Messianic Vigilants, Brawling Hasidim, and the Battle for Jewish Brooklyn [Harper's]
Related: Tribal Allegiance

Eating Blind

High-Tech Holy Land

(Morton Landowne/Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

The word “Blackout” conjures many images, but until visiting the Nalaga’at Theater in Tel Aviv, I had never associated it with fine dining.

Black Out is a “pitch-black restaurant” (Google it: you’ll find examples of them all over the world) where up to 40 diners, stripped of their cell phones and watches, are escorted to their seats by specially trained, blind and visually impaired waiters, in a room totally devoid of any light. (I was in the midst of attending a four-day “Israel Innovation Summit,” sponsored by Beit Issie Shapiro, an Israeli non-profit that provides innovative services for children with special needs.)

The reason? The non-profit Nalaga’at (“Please Touch”) Theater company is a deaf-blind acting ensemble which performs in Tel Aviv and tours internationally. As part of its theater complex in a converted warehouse at the Jaffa port, Nalaga’at operates two restaurants, Black Out, and Cafe Kapish (all its waiters are deaf—get it?). Both provide job opportunities for the disabled and enable patrons to confront the role that sight and hearing play in the way we relate to others. But I don’t want to leave the impression that a meal at Black Out feels like a chore; when you go with even a small group (we were five), it becomes an entertaining, enjoyable, and unforgettable experience. (more…)

Today on Tablet

The horror of Debbie Friedman, law and order, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, funny lady Rachel Shukert wraps up her return to Amsterdam with the International Jewish Music Festival. Allison Hoffman examines the true crime story of Rabbi Milton Balkany. Marc Tracy uncovers the great mystery of our time: Why do Jews eat Chinese food on December 25th? Marc Tracy is on vacation. The Scroll will not shave until his return.

Time Magazine’s Anti-Semites of the Year

Also, Mark Zuckerberg won this year


Yesterday, that nice Zuckerberg boy bagged Time’s Person of the Year designation, bringing the Jews who have been thus crowned up to four. Yet this isn’t nearly as impressive as last year’s winner Ben Bernanke: The first Jew Time Magazine deemed unnecessary to couple with an anti-Semite.

Sure, there are good reasons to pair the Jew hating Richard Nixon with the Jew hating, but self-loving Henry Kissinger. Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat go together like pastrami and kosher salami. But, deep down, you know it’s weird that Jews needed a chaperone until 2009, while Charles Lindbergh made the cut the very first time around in 1927.

Below, Time Magazine’s People of the Year who didn’t like, actively hated, or were, as we say, not very good for the Jews.


Daybreak: Lebanon Claims to Have Destroyed Spy Cameras

Plus Palestinian studies at Columbia scrutinized, and more in the news.


• The Lebanese army claims to have destroyed two Israeli spy cameras. They also claim a third device in Sidon was destroyed by the Israeli Air Force. [JPost]

• Ties between Greece and Israeli have never been tighter—thanks to the decline with Turkey. [JTA]

• The Palestinian Authority has bypassed the European Union for the first time and is directly appealing to individual countries—Britain, Denmark, France and Sweden—to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state [Haaretz]

• Meanwhile, Congress unanimously passed a resolution opposing the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state. [Haaretz]

• Hizzoner’s media company Bloomberg LP will begin publishing editorials that channel his values and beliefs. [NYT]

• Columbia’s new Center for Palestine Studies is off to a bad start, writes former Tablet intern Jordan Hirsch. [TNR]

• Gerry Gittel, an American soldier, is dead. He was 69. [Boston Globe]

Sundown: Behold the Power of Stuxnet

Plus mazel to Neil, and more

Neil Diamond.(Wikipedia)

I will be on vacation, and The Scroll will be in the capable and hilarious hands of Dan Klein for the next week-plus. Give him your love!

• Stuxnet: “Nearly as effective as a military strike.” Score one for Israel whoever made the virus. [JPost via Goldblog]

• Hussein Agha and Robert Malley write a pre-emptive obituary for the peace process. [IHT]

• Speaking of obituaries: Can I say that having a regular column (soon-to-be-blog!) on prominent Jews who have just died is a brilliant idea? I am jealous, and can’t wait to RSS. [The Eulogizer]

• Timothy Snyder on Shoah. [NYRB]

• A Jew will enter the Bush clan. Not just any Bush: Lauren! And not just any Jew: A Lauren! (Wait, is her name going to be Lauren Lauren?) [JTA]

• I don’t get the joke in this post—what could possibly be snarky about saying that Neil Diamond rocks?—but congrats to a new entrant in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. [Jewcy]

My favorite Neil Diamond song.

Fancy Jewish History

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Jenna Weissman Joselit reviews Philadelphia’s new, high-tech National Museum of American Jewish History.

Liberty Bells and Whistles

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