Today on Tablet

Literally following your dreams, ‘Bonanza,’ and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Shalom Auslander considers the promise—and peril— of taking your artistic cues from your dreams. Ruth Ellen Gruber traces how the late creator of Bonanza was inspired by his own immigrant history to make a TV Western. The Scroll always follows its dreams.

Israel, A Liberal’s Paradise

On pot and gays, the left rules

Gili Shem Tov (R) and her dancing partner rehearse.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Are you a liberal upset over Tuesday’s results? Then have we got a country for you!

Starting next week, non-Jewish or -affiliated same-sex couples will be able to enter into civil unions. The bill’s sponsor wants to extend the law to all Israelis, including Jews; incredibly, the sponsor is none other than Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, notorious for sponsoring the heinous conversion bill. Even a blind squirrel catches an occasional nut, eh?

On top of that, an Israeli Health Ministry committee has made a new recommendation concerning medicinal marijuana. Not that it should be legalized—it already is legalized, natch—but that the country’s universal health care should pay for it.

And on the social front, two Israeli women became the first same-sex duo to compete together in a version of Dancing With The Stars. The “star” in this case was sportscaster Gili Shem Tov, a sportscaster who did the cha-cha. Shem Tov, a lesbian, said “it felt natural.” (Oh, and to answer your next question: They take turns leading.)

Knesset Committee Paves Way for Civil Unions [JTA]
Government May Cover Cost of Medicinal Marijuana [Haaretz]
Israel: New Step for Dance Contest [NYT]

Daybreak: Turning the Peace Machine Back On

Plus Iran called out on meddling, and more in the news

President Abbas yesterday.(Adam Jan/AFP/Getty Images)

• With the midterms over, efforts have begun to restart peace talks. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is in Washington; Prime Minister Netanyahu heads to New Orleans, for the Jewish Federations General Assembly, and then to New York. [Laura Rozen]

• Former President Clinton marks the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s death with a call for peace. [NYT]

• Israeli killed a Gaza militant planning an attack in the Sinai Peninsula. [LAT]

• In an Arabic-language paper, President Abbas blamed Iran for trying to sabotage peace, and said he may request an imposed American draft plan. [Haaretz]

• Opposition Kadima members and Netanyahu went at it in debate. [JPost]

• Lebanon’s reputation as a beacon of free speech has been threatened by various Internet restrictions. [NYT]

Sundown: Rubio Heads to the Holy Land

Plus half-observance, and more


• Marco Rubio, you’ve just won Florida’s open Senate seat and made yourself arguably the most prominent active Tea Party politician. What are you going to do now? “I’m going to Israel!” [Ynet/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A new, years-in-the-making report argues that the German Foreign Ministry—generally thought of as among the less complicit government departments—helped ferry ex-Nazis out of the country or employ them during and after World War II. [The Independent]

• Israel will cease to cooperate with UNESCO until the U.N. group reverses its decision removing the Cave of the Patriarchs from the list of Israeli national sites. [JPost]

• “Half-shabbos”: The kids are all about it these days. [Bloghead]

• If you’re in New York City tonight, Professor Jonathan Sarna is giving a talk about Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews—which just so happens to be the subject of his forthcoming Nextbook Press book. [NYPL]

• An Orthodox man explains how he drew away from his prior beliefs about homosexuality as he related to his lesbian daughter. [NJ Jewish Standard via JustASC]

They’ve gone and made a movie about a famous British joke about one “Mrs. Cohen.” The joke, which you’ll catch in the course of the trailer, isn’t bad:

Three of Four Openly Gay Reps. Are Jews

Plus Schumer won’t be leader, Feingold won’t be president

Rep.-elect David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island).(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

In an report that AIPAC was pleased with yesterday’s results (it helps when, as an Israeli Embassy spokesperson accurately put it, “Support for Israel at the Congress is strong and bipartisan”), Haaretz notes that Rep.-elect David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) “becomes the fourth openly gay member of Congress—and third Jewish gay member of Congress.” It’s true! The four openly gay congresspersons (there are no openly gay senators) will be Cicilline (currently the mayor of Providence); Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts); Jared Polis (D-Colorado); and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin). Baldwin is the only Gentile (and only lesbian) among them.

In other midterm wrap-up news, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) put a quick death to talk of a challenge to re-elected Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada)’s leadership position; on a conference call, third-ranked Schumer and second-ranked Sen. Dick Durbin (Illinois) literally answered simultaneously, “Absolutely!” when asked if Reid would remain Majority Leader. And defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), known for being a maverick of the left (he was famously the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001), put an equally quick death to talk that he would consider a primary challenge to President Obama. Well, nearly as quick: A spokesperson said, “I would chalk up any Beltway chatter about Russ running against President Obama as simply Washington getting wee-wee’d up on the first day of a new election cycle that is two years away.” If the wee-wee’ing continues, we will keep you posted.

U.S. Midterms: AIPAC Lauds Re-Election of Pro-Israel Stalwarts [Haaretz]
Schumer Aide: Challenge Talk ‘Made Up’ [Ben Smith]
Feingold Won’t Challenge Obama in ’12 [Ben Smith]

J Street’s Silent Majority

Survey emphasizes ‘majority,’ results emphasize ‘silent’

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania), who narrowly lost his Senate race.(William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

BREAKING: Last night, a majority of American Jews voted for Democrats. Shocked? Of course not: Everyone (even those who hate it) knows that Jews are among the most steadfast Democratic partisans around. But, according to a national survey of Jewish voters released this morning by the left-leaning Israel lobby J Street (which I profiled last week), conducted by Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein (whom I have also profiled), far fewer Jews voted for various Democrats this year than voted for President Barack Obama in 2008—only 66 percent, to be precise, down from about 78 percent. Given the national outpouring of anti-incumbent (and anti-Democratic) feeling this year, this disparity is hardly surprising—and, given that only 21 percent of respondents indicated a favorable feeling toward the Republican Party, it is hardly indicative of a deep realignment in the American Jewish electorate. (Although 19 percent of polled American Jews looked favorably on the Tea Party, and 16 percent reported warm feelings towards Sarah Palin.)

So, how did J Street do? Well, all three of the Senate candidates it endorsed—all of whom went into Tuesday with the odds against them—lost, though Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania) ran a tighter race than expected. On the House side, where J Street endorsed 58 candidates (all Democrats), 11 lost, all in races projected to be tight. (more…)

Tel Aviv Finally Plays Like a Champion

Draws Schalke 0-0, disqualifying from elimination stages

From the match (Hapoel in red).(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

The elementary school outside Tel Aviv I attended was situated on the fault line between two dramatically divergent neighborhoods. To the south lay Herzliya Pituach, the affluent seaside community home to many of Israel’s wealthiest families. To the north was Nof Yam, a modest neighborhood built by the sons and daughters of the labor movement, a spacious but unassuming colony of small houses and sensible backyards. Walking around the school yard, you would’ve been hard pressed to tell which child came from which side of the socioeconomic divide; Israel in the 1980s still clung to whatever remained of its egalitarian dreams. One way to know for sure, however, was to observe each child’s attitude to his or her favorite soccer team.

The kids from Nof Yam, true to their ideological roots, tended to root for Hapoel Tel Aviv, the red-shirted flagship team of the historical left-wing labor movement. The kids from Pituach went for Maccabi Tel Aviv, the first football club in pre-state Palestine and the poster boys for professional, moneyed sports. The kids from Nof Yam would say things like “winning isn’t everything” and “fair play is great play.” The kids from Pituach would say things like “winning is the only thing” and “by any means necessary.” (more…)

Jews Who Booze

Match a drink to a novelist

Bring out the vodka!(Wikipedia)

HTMLGIANT comes up with various cocktails to match particular novelists—Franzen’s Blurry Gin n’ Tonic involves gin, tonic, a lime twist, and the removal of your glasses; Sartre’s Absent Absinthe entails a half-empty absinthe glass, a sugar cube, and leaving the table, never to return. Here are some more concoctions:

• The Shteyngart Shandy: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and lemon seltzah (thanks to Bambi Shlomovich on that one).

• HTMLGIANT provides the recipe for Roth’s Gin n’ Jews (gin, orange juice, and grapefruit juice), but executive editor Jesse Oxfeld notes that his cocktail would contain liver, crushed.

• Here are Dan Klein’s “Instructions” for the Guri-tonic War: Gin, tonic and penny served in a balloon. Understand you hold a drink.

• And Dan’s Dreyfus Affair: Equal parts Champagne, Bordeux, Chartreuse, Jewish parents. Shake drink while accusing it of treachery. Let sit locked in cabinet for a decade. Unlock and serve with an olive.

• The Icy Bashevis Singer has cold slivovitz and pickled beets.

• The Eggnog Ferber is imbibed on Hanukkah, not Christmas.

• The Jonathan Saffron Foer is a Sephardic spirit, a sangria featuring Spanish wine and enticing spices.

You know what the comments are for!

Bennet Wins Senate Seat in Close Contest

Does this make him the 12th Jewish senator?

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).(Matt McClain/Getty Images)

The Denver Post has called the Colorado Senate race for incumbent Michael Bennet (D), and moreover seems to imply that a recount will not be in the offing: One would be required were the margin less than one-half of one percent, or 3900 votes; but, as of writing, Bennet leads by 7000 with 30,000 votes remaining in Boulder County, which covers the state university and was won 72-26 by President Obama. So Bennet is the 52nd Democratic senator and the 12th Jewish one in the 112th Congress.

… Or does he? (more…)

Today on Tablet

Re-pronouncing them husband and wife, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Boris Fishman reflects on officiating at his parents’ wedding-vow renewal. Contributing editor Joshua Cohen praises the legendary Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s new translation of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The Scroll would remind you that, no matter what you thought of last night’s results, this too shall pass.

It Happened Last Night

GOP gains empower Cantor, not Schumer

Once and future California Gov. Jerry Brown.(Wikipedia)

Things went pretty much as expected: Sweeping Republican gains at the national and state levels—enough to win the House of Representatives (60-plus seats!), but not the Senate; enough to win the governorships of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia, but not California (where Governor Moonbeam won; for the record, Jerry Brown is not Jewish, merely awesome). Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) will become the second-highest ranking congressperson.

The Senate’s Jewish composition went mostly as Dan Klein predicted a week ago: A gain in Connecticut (Democrat Richard Blumenthal, the newest Jewish senator, defeated Republican Linda McMahon); a loss in Wisconsin (Republican Ron Johnson defeated Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold); holds in New York, California, and Oregon (Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer, Barbara Boxer, and Ron Wyden). In the competition to replace Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania), former Republican Rep. Pat Toomey beat Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak, in a proxy war between the Emergency Committee for Israel and J Street. Though how big a role Israel played is debatable, it is indisputably a big, albeit close, victory for Republicans in a bellwether state (and mazel tov to Toomey’s press secretary, Nachama Soloveichik, whom Allison Hoffman profiled). However, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), who is of Jewish descent but does not identify with any religion (but does note that his mother was a Holocaust survivor), is too close to call in his bid for a come-from-behind victory over Republican challenger Ken Buck. (UPDATE: See 12 pm post.)

A final note on the Senate: While it was thought that Schumer had the inside line over Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) to lead the senior chamber’s Democratic caucus, that may change now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nevada) pulled off an upset. (more…)

Daybreak: Huge Wins for GOP

Plus the Moses Herzog of terrorists, and more in the news

As expected, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin) lost his seat.(Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

• Midterm elections carried the Republicans to huge victories: They took back the House, but not quite enough seats to take the Senate as well; they also took many governorships and statehouses. [NYT]

• Meet your newest Jewish senator(-elect): Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. [NYT]

• A senior European diplomat reported that while economic sanctions have had a real impact on Iranian life, the country’s leaders remain stubborn in their nuclear ambition. [LAT]

• The two synagogue-bound bombs from Yemen were addressed to long-dead Muslim persecutors—Diego Deza, of Inquisition Spain, and Reynald of Châtillon, of the Second Crusade—leading some to further believe that the bombs were not intended to blow up at their destinations. In other news, someone in al-Qaeda got their hands on a copy of Herzog. [NYT]

• The Palestinian Authority renovated 14 schools in East Jerusalem; in semi-defiance of an Israeli ban, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad made an appearance on the outskirts. [NYT]

• Will a U.N. tribunal’s finding of Syrian complicity in the 2005 assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister lead to a Hezbollah coup in Lebanon? [Jeffrey Goldberg]

Sundown: Bomb Plot Fallout Continues

Plus Godard and the Jews, and more in the news

Director Jean-Luc Godard.(New Wave Film)

• Two hundred Jewish community leaders were briefed by an FBI representative. [JTA]

• Contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg continues to doubt official explanations that the bombs were intended for the planes rather than the synagogues. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Richard Brody, Jean-Luc Godard’s biographer (and a Jewish film critic), rebukes charges that the honorary Oscar recipient is an anti-Semite. [The Front Row]

• Lonely Planet ranked Tel Aviv the third best city in the world. Second place went to Tangiers, Morocco; first place went to Los Angeles New York. [JTA]

• Todd Gitlin explains why the rise of the Tea Party is not good for the Jews. [Haaretz]

• Follow David Frum’s Halloween-origins theory closely, and his premise becomes clear: Gays are the new Jews. Sounds about right. [CNN]

You can vote however you like. You can also not vote—but if you don’t, then you don’t get to complain about the results. And complaining about the results is the best part.

What to Watch For Tonight

On the eve of midterm results

Los Angeles voters today.(Eric Thayer/Getty Images)

Few other countries are watching today’s midterm elections more closely than Israel, which anticipates that Republican gains in the House and Senate will hem the Obama administration in somewhat when it comes to pressuring Israel on issues like settlements (though many believe the midterms will have minimal effect on Mideast policy, and Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith predicted Republican gains will give the president more cover to do as he pleases vis-à-vis the region).

In the House, Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) is likely to remain the only Jewish Republican, but he is also likely to become the majority whip (yay). In the Senate, if Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) is ousted, Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is likely to become the next majority (or possibly minority) leader; last week, he chastised the Obama administration for its emphasis on settlements: “The reason we don’t have peace in the Middle East is because a large percentage, I would say the majority … of Palestinians and Arabs do not believe there should be a Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East,” he argued. “Period.”

Do check in tomorrow to find out how the Senate’s Jewish composition changes. Two races that merit special attention due to their status as proxy battles on Mideast issues are Rep. Joe Sestak (D) vs. former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat and, in a House district north of Chicago, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) vs. Joel Pollak (R). Oh, and don’t forget Prop 19! We’ll be watching that too.

Related: Full House [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: How Jews Will Do Next Tuesday
Change You Shouldn’t Believe In
Jews and Pot

Rushdie Calls Stewart Out on Yusuf Islam

Rally host doesn’t regret inclusion of fatwa-supporter

Salman Rushdie last month.(Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

I wrote today about Jon Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” which was held Saturday on the Mall in Washington, D.C. In the past few hours, some controversy has emerged over the organizers’ invitation to Yusuf Islam, the musician formerly known as Cat Stevens. Israel deported Islam in 2000 on the grounds that he donated money to a Hamas-affiliated charity; he denied having knowingly given money to the group.

Today’s to-do, however, concerns Islam’s semi-retracted statements in support of Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 fatwa against the novelist Salman Rushdie following the publication of The Satanic Verses. Via Ben Smith, Standpoint’s Nick Cohen received this from Rushdie:

I’ve always liked Stewart and Colbert but what on earth was Cat Yusuf Stevens Islam doing on that stage? If he’s a “good Muslim” like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar then I’m the Great Pumpkin. Happy Halloween.


I spoke to Jon Stewart about Yusuf Islam’s appearance. He said he was sorry it upset me, but really, it was plain that he was fine with it. Depressing.

Rushdie: Stewart’s Cat Stevens Stance ‘Disappointing’ [Ben Smith]
Chuckles [Tablet Magazine]

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