‘Voice’ Considers Bad Orthodox Landlords

Examines piety versus decency

House in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where non-Orthodox tenants are allegedly denied repairs.(Village Voice)

The cover story of this week’s Village Voice confronts a phenomenon with which anyone who has had the Kafkaesque experience known as “renting an apartment in New York City” likely has first-hand experience: The fact that many landlords, including ones who are not very nice to you—and, in extreme cases, who are genuine slumlords—happen to be Orthodox Jews. The story, which was prompted by an earlier Voice list of the city’s worst landlords (which included several Orthodox) and a subsequent Forward column, is a series of interviews with Jews who come at the problem from various perspectives. These include a few familiar names—including unofficial Hasidic-hipster liason Baruch Herzfeld and former-Orthodox blogger Shmarya Rosenberg. Best quotes after the jump. (more…)

Summer Reading

Today on Tablet


Blake Eskin’s brief discussion of the Russian Jewish novelist Vasily Grossman’s epic Life and Fate and how it “draws parallels between fascism and Communism and the use of mass deportation, forced labor, and murder in both totalitarian regimes,” brought to mind Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, which books critic Adam Kirsch reviewed last week and which treats all the mass Nazi and Soviet killings from eastern Germany to western Russia between 1933 and 1945 as worthy of a single study.

It sounds like chilling stuff. “Never read Dostoevsky in winter,” Eskin advises, and Life and Fate may fall into the same category. But Eskin’s introduction and interview with Robert Chandler, Grossman’s foremost English translator, will tide you over until it is spring, or at least until you get your hands on Grossman’s shorter, more weather-appropriate works.


Is ECI a Typical Kristol Think Tank?

Loyalty to GOP is tested on missile treaty

Bill Kristol.(Fox News)

The New Republic has a fun article on Bill Kristol’s penchant for starting think tanks, committees, and the like. And next to the fun is a harsh conclusion: Kristol “has developed a singular talent: Cooking up conservative think tanks that churn out pseudo-intellectual arguments to serve the GOP’s immediate political interests.”

I made a similar joke about Kristol’s serial founding (without the reporting and the coherent argument and that other rigorous stuff) several months ago when he co-founded the Emergency Committee for Israel. The article brings up a question raised during the campaign season: Is ECI (and J Street, for that matter, but if J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami has a Kristol-esque pattern, I’m not aware of it) designed primarily to advance certain policies regarding Israel, or to help a certain American political party? (more…)

Daybreak: U.S. Gives Up on Freeze Deal

Plus Bibi slams rabbis’ ruling, and more in the news

Secretary of State Clinton yesterday.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Image)

• The United States admitted failure in persuading Israel to an additional 90-day construction freeze to get direct talks up again and the likely futility of talks at this point. [NYT]

• Next? Possibly more “proximity talks,” that is, U.S.-mediated indirect negotiations. Administration officials are meeting with both sides this week. [Haaretz]

• A top aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas broadly questioned the United States’s ability to broker peace. [JPost]

• On the other hand, Iran scheduled further nuclear talks with world powers, to be held next month in Istanbul. [NYT]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned several Israeli municipal rabbis’ rulings that Jews may only rent to other Jews (which is to say, they may not rent to Arabs). [JTA]

• Foreign Minister Lieberman’s people are starting something with Netanyahu’s people over the government’s recent endeavors to re-start Turkish diplomatic relations, possibly by apologizing, in some form, for the flotilla incident. [Haaretz]

Sundown: Turkish Parsing

Plus gross bagel snacks, homo Seinfeld-economicus, and more

Google Maps shows the area affected by the fire.(Jewish Journal)

• Turkey wants Israel to apologize for the flotilla raid; now Israel wants Turkey to acknowledge the raid was not malicious. [Haaretz]

• An Orthodox man was beat up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, last night. It is being investigated as a potential bias crime. [WABC]

• This water slide you ride down two-by-two. [NYT]

• Bagelfuls. Kraft ought to be ashamed of itself. [Contentions]

• “Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer are ruthless people who faithfully follow the rules of classical economics, even if they violate the dictates of decorum. In one episode, Jerry barters away the intellectual-property rights to one of his sexual techniques. Where the rest of us laugh and gasp, an economist would only nod in understanding.” [Business Week]

• Did Mossad try to kill Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was in Lebanon earlier this fall? They would never do anything like that! [Ynet]

The original “Eight Days of Hanukkah,” written and sung by the great and late Tuli Kupferberg.

This Is What We Look Like

Our Hanukkah party photo album


Consider this a wonderful opportunity to “like” us on Facebook.

Guy Finds Nazi, Maybe

Lawsuit could establish new class of plaintiffs


This morning, the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot reported that an American, Mark Gould, went “undercover” in Germany to expose a previously unknown Nazi war criminal—a 97-year-old man named Bernhard Frank, a former SS officer and assistant to Gestapo head Heinrich Himmler who had allegedly processed Himmler’s orders to SS field commanders concerning the extermination of Jewish residents of the Ukraine as early as 1941.

At a press conference this morning at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, Gould appeared with an Israeli lawyer, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, and the writer Burton Bernstein—brother of composer Leonard—to show clips of Gould’s video interviews with Frank, in which Gould discussed his work for Himmler, and to announce the filing of a federal civil complaint (PDF) demanding damages from Frank on behalf of relatives murdered in the village of Korets as a result of the orders he had signed. “He is the source,” said Gould, a boyish 43-year-old with a curtain of shoulder-length brown hair and an air of outrage. “He didn’t go to Argentina. He was in the phonebook.” Gould’s claims were backed up by Stephen Smith, the executive director of the Shoah Institute at University of Southern California, who said in a phone interview that he had reviewed Gould’s research, and felt it was significant. “The focus until now has been on the people at the scene of the crime or people who gave the orders,” Smith explained. “He sits at the intersection.”

Then things got complicated. (more…)

Top of the Pack

How our teams fared this weekend

Tom Brady.(Elsa/Getty Images)

On Sunday, two of Tablet Magazine’s teams faced each other, and the outcome was decisive: The New York Giants crushed the Washington Redskins, at home, 31-7. If anything, the game was even less close. Without their top two receivers, Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith, the Giants simply ran the hell out of the ball. The result was two touchdowns apiece for Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, as the Redskins—who should have been expecting run, and whose defensive injuries were mainly to the secondary—were simply powerless against the Giants’ aging but still effective offensive line and big, strong, cold-weather backs. (more…)

You Forgot One

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch takes issue with a new anthology ostensibly of translated writing from the Middle East that includes literature in Urdu from Pakistan (which is not typically considered part of the Middle East) but no literature in Hebrew from Israel.

Bordering on Malicious

‘Chanukah Chag Yafe’

‘Anander Mol, Anander Veig,’ day by day

(Brian Scott/Boondesign)

Every day of Hanukkah, we will publish a track from Marc Weidenbaum’s holiday-inspired album of remixes, Anander Mol, Anander Veig, along with its original version. Today: “Chanukah Chag Yafe.”

Here is the original track for “Chanukah Chag Yafe,” by Alexandria Kleztet:

Here is the remix, by ocp, a.k.a. João Ricardo:

Name That Cat

Why, yes, it *is* a slow news day, why do you ask?

A cute black kitten!(gittingsc/Flickr)

Breaking news from your humble parenting columnist: My children need help naming their new kitten. Said kitten is tiny and black with a very long tail. The Harry-Potter-obsessed children in question want to name it Bellatrix Lestrange, which has been rejected for being both goyish and evil.

Other name contenders currently include Vanessa Doofenschmirtz (a character on the cartoon Phineas and Ferb—such a cat’s nickname could be Essie, which is nice for a Lower East Side/East Village cat) and Weezy (which meets the Harry Potter criterion—it’s what Dobby calls Ron Weasley—and is appropriate given that, being Jews, we have a houseful of asthma sufferers). But additional ideas for monikers would be very welcome.

Additional data point: The name or nickname should work with Yoyo, the name of the Ingall crew’s other cat. (Yoyo is short for Miss Sparkles Yoyodyne. You see the risk of allowing children to name a pet.) Please post suggestions in the comments, lest I wind up with a cat named Bellatrix. No one deserves that.

A New Kind of Jew

Today on Tablet


Liel Leibovitz’s article today in Tablet Magazine is nearly as much about the similarities between two groups of American Jews—those born in Israel and those born in the former Soviet Union—as about the differences between those groups and the rest of American Jewry. His provocative point is that the Israeli and Russia Jews have made an outsize contribution to American culture, yet only uneasily fit the American Jewish mainstream’s idea of what it is to be an American Jew. Something, in other words, has got to give.

Those Israeli- and Russian-born immigrants who choose to stay in the United States, however, are challenging the community’s existing infrastructures. Primarily constructed around religious denominations, much of the organized American Jewish community has little place for people who, like Israelis, have grown up divorcing Jewish identity from religious practice, or who, like Russians, have grown up in societies that forbade the study and practice of religion. But the strongest apparent explanation for the gap between the recent immigrants and the established American Jewish community has little to do with institutions and a lot with intuitions: for American Jews, being Jewish is a complicated undertaking woven into a long history of fear and pride and doubt and desire. For Israelis, and for Russians, it’s simply something that you are, something that you do, something that requires less thought than action.

My favorite part is the comparison, toward the end, of the novels of typical American Jews and the novels of Russian-born American Jews. Some of us are still stuck in the shtetls, and it is not those of us who are the least far removed from them.

Eastern Front

Our Greatest Conquests

(They converted)

DiCaprio and Refaeli courtside last April.(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Word is Leonardo DiCaprio is considering converting in order to marry longtime girlfriend Bar Refaeli, the Israeli supermodel. If this all goes down, Leo would represent one of our people’s greatest coups.

Which got me thinking: Who are our people’s greatest coups? (That is, who converted for marriage-related reasons. Sorry, Sammy Davis, Jr.)

A preliminary list: (more…)

Daybreak: Iranian Talks Produce More Talks

Plus Israel and Turkey near deal, and more in the news

Iranian negotiaor Saeed Jalili and E.U. foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.(Anja Niedringhaus/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Iranian nuclear talks in Geneva concluded with another meeting next month scheduled … and nothing else concretely accomplished. [LAT]

• Also in Geneva, Israeli and Turkish diplomats are near to finalizing a deal that will fully restore diplomatic ties. [Haaretz]

• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren points to the firefighting aid Israel received from both friends and adversaries as proof that cooperation is possible in the Mideast. [LAT]

• After being shown Israeli intelligence, the United States urged Arab countries not to go along with Iranian smuggling to Hezbollah and Hamas, a WikiLeaks cable reveals. [Haaretz]

• WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange turned himself over to British authorities over charges of sexual coercion. [NYT]

• Director Claude Lanzmann, 85, discusses the re-release of his masterpiece, Shoah. “I dislike deeply Schindler’s List, for many reasons,” he says. [NYT]

Sundown: Brazil, Argentina Recognize Palestine

Plus sharks from Mossad! and more


• Brazil and Argentina have recognized the state of Palestine within the 1967 borders. About 100 other countries have done so. [Laura Rozen]

• Hummus controversy at Princeton. Read the whole thing. [NYT]

• A shark killed an Egyptian woman in the resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh. This was clearly a Mossad plot, much like the Amity Attacks of 1975. [JPost]

• Ron Kampeas argues that, as of now, there is no reason to be concerned about Tea Party members agitating to alter America’s Israel policy. [Capital J]

• Yiddish in Brooklyn! The Times should write more articles like this. [NYT]

• Iran’s new soccer coach might be one Diego Maradona. [CNN]

Maradona is a terrible soccer coach, but the guy could play alright.

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