Enter Sage, and the Giants

How our teams fared this weekend

Ahmad Bradshaw (44) eludes his Seattle pursuers.(Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The big news in the NFL is the Dallas Cowboys’ epic implosion to a record of 1-7 and counting (as well as, relatedly, the reign of goodness and happiness and frolicking little children throughout the land); the definitive return of Michael Vick (dude knocked off Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts yesterday); the fact that, over midway through the season, no one team or two teams have clearly emerged as favorites in either conference (as the New Orleans Saints and Colts were this time last year). But here at Tablet Magazine, the big news in the NFL can be summed up in one word: SAGE.

Yesterday, with the New York Giants up a gob-smacking 41-7 against the Seattle Seahawks—this in Seattle, where Coach Pete Carroll’s squad had actually resembled a real football team up until this point—near the beginning of the fourth quarter, Coach Tom Coughlin put Jewish back-up quarterback Sage Rosenfels in for Eli Manning. Rosenfels proceeded to game-manage the Giants toward a truly startling 13-minute drive, handing the ball off 16 times, mostly to third-stringer Danny Ware, who made the Seahawks look even worse while rushing for 66 yards—in only one drive!—and several first downs. Rosenfels’s final statistical line reads: Three rushes for a loss of three yards (which is to say, he knelt three times to burn clock in Seattle’s red zone, which was the classy move). Final score: 41-7. Hey, Coach Coughlin: Next time, let Sage throw a pass! (more…)

You Are What You Ate

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

Gil Marks is a rabbi, a chef, a food historian, and an award-winning cookbook writer, all of which came in handy in the writing of his new book, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. It’s a vast tome, with more than 650 entries, 300 recipes, and tons of trivia to impress your friends with. For instance, did you know that references to cucumber in the Bible (Numbers 11:5) are a mistranslation, and should probably read “chate melons”? For more, you’ll have to listen to tomorrow’s podcast. Til then, we leave you with this tidbit, pertaining to a rare North African delicacy:

“Stay Jewish”

What is your favored salutation?

Tony Soprano, staying Jewish.(Wikipedia)

A New York Times article on email etiquette apprises us of the Internet habit of David Hirshey, an executive at HarperCollins: He “tends to close his e-mails with the words ‘Stay Jewish’—‘though mostly with friends who are Gentiles,’ he added. ‘I find it works best when the person’s last name is something like O’Hara or Soprano.’”

Who has alternatives?

“Good Davening,” perhaps?

“Keep it Semitic”?

When ‘Best’ Isn’t Good Enough [NYT]

Steinsaltz Brings Talmud to the Masses

But do we deserve it?


How was your weekend? Maybe you caught a movie—or finally finished that novel on your nightstand, that’d be nice. Look, let’s be honest though, whatever you did was embarrassing compared to Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, who this Sunday, after forty five years, completed his 45 volume translation and commentary of the Talmud.

Steinsaltz’s work is one of the great egalitarian projects of modern Judaism, which of course only rubs in the fact that he is so much better than you. Born of secular socialist parents in Jerusalem, he studied physics and mathematics along with his rabbinical studies. He designed a word processor for his work. He’s written over sixty books, hundreds of articles, been compared to Rashi and Maimonides and called “a mind of the millennia.” He’s funny. He has fifteen grandchildren. Much like Hillel, he once beat up Chuck Norris while standing on one leg.

And what now for the Rabbi? He says, “I have plans for the next 70-odd years.” So. What are you doing this weekend?

You can watch the Rabbi translate the final words here:

Does Bloomberg Think Obama Is ‘Arrogant’?

More important, should we care?

Mayor Bloomberg last month.(Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Late Friday, it broke that Rupert Murdoch told an Australian publication (interestingly, one he does not own) that Michael Bloomberg had told Murdoch that he found President Obama the most “arrogant” man he had ever met. The reason we care, of course, is that some in Bloomberg’s circle want the Jewish New York City mayor to run for president (a new New Yorker piece reports he might be willing to spend between $1 to $3 billion of his own money on a campaign; for what it’s worth, Ross Perot’s son-in-law thinks it maybe a good idea. A Bloomberg candidacy in turn could very well be how one former Alaska governor finds herself in the White House. (Saleswoman’s gotta dream!)

An amusing sidenote concerns exactly how Murdoch quoted Hizzoner: According to Murdoch, Bloomberg said, “I never met in my life such an arrogant man.” And I never met in my life an Aussie media baron with such an ear for a Yiddish-inflected manner of speaking!

Murdoch: Mayor Bloomber Called President Obama the Most ‘Arrogant’ Man He Ever Met [ABC News]
Bloomberg, 2012? [The New Yorker]
Earlier: How Bloomberg Could Make Palin President
Bloomberg for President?

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Judith Matloff profiles architect Richard Meier, who after a long career is designing increasingly with reference to his Jewish heritage. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall praises Hush, a new young-adult novel that addresses pedophilia among the Hasidim. Josh Lambert has his weekly round-up of forthcoming books of note. The Scroll looks forward to a return to post-week-of-Election-Day normalcy.

U.N. Indictments Threaten Mideast Chaos

But urgency on Iran cuts both ways

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

What will spark the Iranian powder keg? Perhaps Israeli and/or American military action: Prime Minister Netanayahu was reportedly planning to tell Vice President Biden that only a credible military campaign will head off Iran’s nuclear weapons program. (The American response? Sanctions are working and enough.) It could be frustration with continued obfuscation on talks: After seemingly agreeing to finally sit down with the West, the Islamic Republic is now proposing talks in Turkey, which smacks of Iran, Turkey, and Brazil’s earlier proposal to strike a deal wherein Turkey, rather than Russia, facilitates a nuclear fuel swap (a deal opposed by AIPAC and J Street alike); it is also a provocation to Turkey’s ally-turned-rival Israel.

My bet, however, is that the most dangerous moment we have yet seen will come next month, when the United Nations tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is expected to indict several members of Hezbollah, Iran’s chief Lebanese proxy. If/when that happens, Hezbollah may attempt what amounts to a coup (although given how much power it already has, perhaps that is too strong a word). “Washington has organized a coalition, including Russia, to support the tribunal’s work,” reports Washington Post columnist David Ignatius. “If indictments are issued, Hezbollah may move to topple the Lebanese government—creating a new showdown. How the United States and Israel would respond isn’t clear, but their options would be limited.” It is plausible to see Israel dragged into this showdown and then Iran, too.

So is there also cause for optimism? (more…)

Daybreak: Talmud for all

Plus Israel to withdraw from Ghajar, and more in the news


• After 45 years of work, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz completed his translation and commentary on all 45 volumes of the Talmud. More on this later today. [JPost]

• Vice President Biden gave a speech yesterday at the Federations of North American’s General Assembly in New Orleans saying there is no daylight between Israel and the US. [Haaretz]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu gave Biden a very public private message that the sanctions will fail without a credible US military threat. [Haaretz]

• Speaking of which, Senator Lindsey Graham suggested at a security panel that if it comes to it, a US attack would not “just neutralize their nuclear program, but… neuter that regime.” [Digital Journal]

• Israel launched two airstrikes in the Gaza Strip. [JTA]

• Prime Minster Netanyahu will present UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with a plan today to unilaterally withdraw from the northern part of the village of Ghajar, says Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. [JPost]

Sundown: Olmert Asked Bush to Bomb Reactor

Plus is Israel really a liberal’s paradise? and more

Remember him?(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

• Former President George W. Bush discloses that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert asked the Americans to bomb what was probably a Syrian nuclear reactor, which Israel (probably) ended up doing in 2007. Bush said no. [Ynet]

• A response to my post about Israel as “a liberal’s paradise.” For the record, I was attempting to be tongue-in-cheek; also for the record, these are still valid points. [972 Mag]

• The Anti-Defamation League called on the chief rabbi of Safed to reverse a ban on Jews renting to Arabs. [JTA]

• George Soros’s fund has bought a five percent stake in a leading manufacturer of female condoms. Leave J Street puns in the comments. [Daily Intel]

• People of Houston! Our very own Alana Newhouse and Liel Leibovitz are participating in your Jewish Book Fair on Sunday! [Houston JCC]

• Friend-of-The-Scroll Rabbi Andy Bachman has a new column, “The East Bank.” Here’s the inaugural one. [NY Jewish Week]

Harvey Fierstein, Broadway’s most recent Tevye, reflects on Fiddler on the Roof following the deaths of Jerry Bock and Joseph Stein. Below: My favorite Tevye, Zero Mostel, imprecates the Lord about his wealth.

Not Nazis, But Not Perfect

Italy’s Jews suffered a more complex fate


My father—like many American Jews, an avid amateur Italophile—loves to point out that, despite being Germany’s first and arguably most important ally during World War Two, Fascist Italy did not go along with Hitler’s anti-Jewish policy, and not a single Italian Jew was shipped off to bad places until after the Germans essentially took over in 1943.

Well, sorry dad. The latter part of that is true. But a steady stream of new revelations have shown that Italy did indeed enact plenty of anti-Jewish policies. In Italy in 1938, Jewish children were forbidden from attending school; Jewish professors were banned from universities; Jewish bankers were banned from plying their trade; Jewish soldiers were banned from serving. There was much dispossession besides. (more…)

Houdini’s Yahrzeit

Honoring the magician with a wand and a prayer

The wand-breaking ceremony yesterday in Queens.(Julian Voloj)

Rachel Shteir’s essay on Houdini today is pegged to a new exhibit at the Jewish Museum. But its timing is propitious: Houdini, who died on Halloween (no, really), was buried 84 years ago yesterday, and, this year, his yahrzeit happened to fall yesterday as well. Which meant that, yesterday, a group of Jewish-magician admirers observed the great man’s death in their distinctive annual way. Participant Julian Voloj emails:

When a member of the Society of American Magicians dies, his fellow magicians perform a “Broken Wand” ceremony at his funeral. “When a magician becomes a member of the society, he is given a wand, a magic wand,” explains George Schindler, Dean of the Society. “Without the magician the wand is useless.” (more…)

Resisting ‘Re-Ghettoization’

Lunch with Yossi Klein Halevi

Yossi Klein Halevi.(Wikipedia)

When Yossi Klein Halevi gets around to writing the essay he is working on, what follows, I’m guessing, will be the lead. It is November 1975. The settlement movement is in its infancy. Settlers stage a Masada-like stand at Sabastia, near Nablus in the West Bank, and the Israeli prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin—who, during his second go-round as head-of-government, was assassinated 15 years ago yesterday—gives in, despite being ill-inclined to the movement. The cause of the settlers’ fervency? The cause for Rabin’s backing down? Simple: Mere months before, the United Nations had declared that Zionism is equivalent to racism, and, as one of the settlers, a young man named Ehud Olmert, put it at the time, “This is the Zionist answer to the U.N.”

Halevi, a kind-looking, good-humored middle-aged man with close-cropped whitish hair and a kippah, made aliyah in 1982 (he grew up in Boro Park, Brooklyn), but yesterday he sat around a table with 20 or so journalists and activists, mostly Jewish (though Irshad Manji, the prominent Muslim critic of Islam, sat opposite me), as we munched on kosher sandwiches as guests of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service. I decided to schlep to the fourth floor of SoHo’s Puck Building all the way from Tablet Magazine’s offices on the fifth floor of SoHo’s Puck Building to hear what Halevi had to say, because I’ve long admired—though not always agreed with—his work in The New Republic, where he is a contributing editor.

Halevi used hand-written notes as he talked for the first 30 minutes. In between writing his book—which will follow a group of paratroopers from the Six Day War, some of whom ended up leaders in the settlement movement, some of whom ended up leaders in the peace movement—he has been grappling with an essay about the danger of what he called the “re-ghettoization” of the Jewish people. Lunch was based around his essay-in-the-making, and therefore had the welcome feel of a creative writing workshop: One person reads his story; then everyone else responds with their constructive criticism and complaints; the story itself is strengthened. (more…)

Jacobson’s Politics and England’s Jews

Intellectual skywriting with James Wood, Harold Bloom, and more!

Jacobson, last month, with his book.(Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

One person who—unlike Tablet Magazine’s Adam Kirsch, the New York Times’s Janet Maslin, and the Man Booker Prize committee—did not particularly enjoy Howard Jacobson’s novel The Finkler Question was New Yorker critic James Wood, who found it striving too hard to make the reader laugh—“monochromatically devoted to funniness, as a fever is devoted to heat”—thereby sacrificing verisimilitude, plausibility, and therefore the ability to make the reader care.

Well, to each his own. It is worth noting Wood’s closing remark, on the novel’s politics, though. Writes Wood: (more…)

Today on Tablet

Uncovering Houdini, political birthright, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Rachel Shteir figures out Harry Houdini through a new exhibit at New York’s Jewish Museum. In his weekly parsha column, Liel Leibovitz observes how today’s political Esaus remain dumbfounded at the dirty tricks the Jacobs are able to pull. The Scroll wonders why so many magicians were Jewish.


In Israel, ‘politics’ is not politics as usual

(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.

Israel is more corrupt than two-thirds of the other member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by anti-corruption group Transparency International, found that Israel fared better than fellow OECD countries Portugal, Hungary, and Turkey, but worse than Chile and Slovenia. “The list of corruption investigations in Israel in recent years reads like a Who’s Who of the political elite,” writes the Los Angeles Times. “It includes every prime minister of the last 14 years, two previous presidents, two past Jerusalem mayors, numerous Cabinet ministers and one recently convicted felon who is still serving in the Knesset, or parliament.”

That “politics” and “corruption” often go hand-in-hand in Israel can be seen even in the way Israelis use the word “politi,” the Hebraicized equivalent of “political.” The word generally signals that the subject is domestic politics, political infighting, corruption, or all of the above. (more…)

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