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On His Own

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Today in Tablet Magazine, the Vox Tablet podcast follows Luzer Twersky, 24, for the year after he left behind the Satmar Hasidic community he grew up in for the world of modernity.

Breaking Away

Scandal Passing, Pearl’s Vols Enjoy Success

Our favorite coach apologizes for, makes light of situation

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Pearl helps his injured son, Steven, from the court last month.(Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The University of Pittsburgh’s powerhouse basketball team, ranked third in the nation, was dealt its first home-loss by a nonconference opponent in nearly six years on Saturday, 83-76. The Panthers’ conqueror was the No. 11 and undefeated Tennessee Volunteers, whom readers will recall is Tablet Magazine’s official college basketball team thanks to Coach Bruce Pearl. Pearl is one of the Volunteer State’s most prominent Jews, the most recent coach of the Maccabi USA men’s team, and a general all-around mensch—to say nothing of a fantastic coach.

Readers will also recall that Pearl’s menschiness was called into question in the past several months when news broke that he lied to NCAA investigators about violating guidelines by making excessive calls to recruits. Pearl, who is already being docked $1.5 million in pay over five years and barred from off-campus recruiting for a year, was thought to be in jeopardy as Tennessee’s coach; instead, he has been barred from coaching the Vols’ first eight in-conference games (which begin in January), which on the one hand is something of a slap on the wrist and yet on the other hand is pretty much unprecedented. The NCAA is trying to make an example of Pearl—in part because he has long served as an example of how to be a successful and all-around good head coach. (more…)

Woven History

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Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall appreciates a new exhibit of Jewish textiles and quilts at Hebrew Union.

Raving Stitches

Does Bibi Have the Upper Hand?

What happens after the step backward from direct peace talks

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Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday at his weekly cabinet meeting.(Bernat Armangue - Pool/Getty Images)

And we’re back to proximity talks*! A few days after the United States announced it was giving up on trying to secure a 90-day freeze extension—which itself was something of a step back from the heady late-summer days of biweekly direct talks and a one-year timeframe for peace—Secretary of State Clinton proclaimed that the U.S. would switch back to trying to facilitate an agreement via indirect negotiations, with envoy George Mitchell once again serving as the prime shuttle between Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government and President Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.

Clinton’s most (and only?) telling line was: “The Palestinian leaders must be able to show their people that the occupation will be over.” This signaled American awareness of Abbas’s precarious position—the P.A. has no control in Gaza and arguable popularity and democratic legitimacy in the West Bank—while it also arguably placed the onus on Israel to take steps to buttress Abbas.

Yet most accounts have Israel as the winner and the P.A. as the loser in the two-sided negotiating battle. “The Israeli reaction to the American decision was relief,” reported Ethan Bronner, the Times Jerusalem bureau chief, last week. He added, “The Palestinians are unhappy with this turn of events.” (more…)

Why Kissinger Dismissed the Soviet Jews

Gal Beckerman explains newly revealed ‘gas chambers’ remark

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President Nixon and then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, September 1973.(AFP/Getty Images)

The big news from the latest release from the Nixon White House tapes—a.k.a. the gift that keeps on giving—does not come from the man himself (he rants against Jews, blacks, and Italians, surprise surprise), but from his most notorious adviser, at least among the un-indicted ones. On March 1, 1973, President Nixon met with Golda Meir. The Israeli prime minister urged Nixon to pressure the Soviets into letting at least some of her people go. But afterward, Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, expressed that the administration should not heed Meir’s request.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” he said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

Responded Nixon: “I know. We can’t blow up the world because of it.”

After getting over the initial shock at a German-born Jew saying such things, I called Gal Beckerman, a Forward reporter and author of the new When They Come For Us, We’ll Be Gone, a history of the movement to save Soviet Jewry that both The New Yorker and the Washington Post just named among the best books of the year. (Tablet Magazine critic Adam Kirsch liked it, too; I’d further highly recommend Yossi Klein Halevi’s much more personal take in The New Republic.)

Beckerman shared my shock at Kissinger’s choice of imagery, but was unsurprised at the content behind the quip. “In my darkest imaginings, that’s what I thought he was thinking, but I never assumed he was actually articulating it quite that way, or would use the Holocaust language,” he said. “This is not outside of Kissinger’s political philosophy. In fact, it’s almost the perfect distilled example of his realpolitik, except it’s this extreme realpolitik, where basically we have blinders on except for things that concern us geo-strategically, and if it’s a moral issue—a question of what a country is doing to its own citizens—that’s just outside the realm of our consideration as a country.” (more…)

Identity Crisis

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Pejman Yousefzadeh has a moving cri de coeur today in Tablet Magazine on the contradictions one must grapple with when you are (as he is) an American-born Iranian Jew. Later in the essay, he has some important and provocative things to say about the Iranian-Israeli crisis, and he condemns the Obama administration’s failure to take a stronger rhetorical stand on the side of those who protest the ayatollahs’ regime.

But to me, the most memorable parts of the piece are the portraits of the writer as a young radical. “The images from Iran made me intensely political in 1978, at the tender age of 6,” Yousefzadeh relates. And there is this story:

From the very beginnings of the revolution, it was made clear to me that our family could not possibly visit Iran until a fundamental governmental change took place. In a phone call as a child, I once told my grandmother, who’d remained in Iran, that I probably would not be able to see her until there was a counterrevolution; an indiscretion that prompted my parents to quickly take the phone out of my hands, for fear the line was eavesdropped and I might get my family in trouble.

Personal Revolution

Mark Madoff, 46, Kills Himself

Elder son’s fate is not entirely unlike his father’s

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Mark Madoff with wife and son Nicholas.(Facebook/NY Daily News)

In December 2008, after Bernard Madoff finally informed his oblivious sons that the legendary family investment fund was nothing more than a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, all kinds of people were quick to call it a tragedy—even, grandly, “a tragedy of epic proportions.” Lots of people, including some old and feeble individuals and some important and well-known charities, were bankrupted, which was upsetting, and at least two high-profile investors took their own lives in the immediate aftermath. But, fundamentally it was really just a sad morality tale about people’s blind faith in the face of lots of cash.

That changed on Saturday, when Madoff’s elder son, 46-year-old Mark, was found hanging by a dog leash from a ceiling pipe in his SoHo loft, on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest and in the shadow of new lawsuits filed against the extended Madoff clan. The death, which the medical examiners quickly ruled a suicide, propelled the scandal into the realm of Greek tragedy—because it has now visited misfortune on one of the only members of the family to be definitively innocent in the mess: Mark Madoff’s two-year-old son, Nick, was peacefully asleep in the apartment where his father killed himself. (more…)

Daybreak: Back to the Proximity Talks

Plus Madoff suicide, Iran concerns, and more in the news

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U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell last month.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• Secretary of State Clinton announced that the United States would still back the peace process but revert to mediating negotiations—essentially a step back to the “proximity talks” of several months ago. [NYT]

• Thomas Friedman approves, and his pox is cast on both their houses. [NYT]

• Bernard Madoff’s elder son, Mark, was found dead of a likely suicide on the two-year anniversary of his father’s arrest. He was 46. [JTA]

• As the White House plans further economic sanctions, it openly fears that new negotiations are simply Iran playing for time. [LAT]

• A year ago, Syrian officials told Iranian counterparts that they would not join a Hezbollah or Iran war with Israel, according to a WikiLeaked cable. [JTA]

• How adoptions are—the literal metaphor cannot be avoided—changing the face of American Judaism. [WP]

Sundown: Clinton and Livni Talk

Plus Assange accuser in the West Bank, and more

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Clinton and Livni meeting last year.(Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)

• Before giving a big speech tonight, Secretary of State Clinton met with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni in Washington, D.C. [Haaretz]

• Get ready, Israel: Sarah Palin is visiting. [The Daily Beast]

• One of the women who has accused Julian Assange of a sex crime is reportedly now in the West Bank with a Christian outreach group. [HuffPo]

• Israeli MAD. Awesome. [The Magic Whistle]

• Whether or not Jews are greedy, Jewish law frowns upon greed, David E.Y. Sarna concludes. [NY Jewish Week]

• A short film on the making of the Beastie Boys’ iconic hit “Fight For Your Right” will debut in January at Sundance. [Jewcy]

Now that Hanukkah is over, we can get to the Christmas viral videos.

Watch A Real-Life, Live Filibuster!

Sen. Sanders does some talking

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You know the tax deal President Obama recently struck with congressional Republicans that you and/or your liberal friends have been complaining about all this week? Well, right now, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent from Vermont (and a Jew), is filibustering the deal. And he is doing it old-school: Actually standing up there and saying and reading things, in an unmistakable Brooklyn accent! (He is saying and reading actual things related to the bill; sorta wish he were reading cookbooks and Dickens, Stackhouse-style.)

You can watch on C-SPAN2, because that is the world we live in now.

C-SPAN2 Live Stream
Sen. Bernie Sanders Filibusters Obama Tax Deal With GOP [USA Today]

Into Another World

Your Vox Tablet preview

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(Eric Molinsky)

There have been many stories about Hasidic Jews leaving the fold. But few of them, in our humble opinion, are as intimate and honest as the audio portrait coming your way next week. Radio producer Josh Gleason spent about a year with 23-year-old Luzer Twersky, chronicling his efforts to get his bearings after departing the religious community he grew up in in Boro Park, Brooklyn. The story begins like this:

Check out Monday’s “Vox Tablet” for the rest.

Patient Testimony

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Today in Tablet Magazine, famed Holocaust scholar (and Nextbook Press author) Deborah Lipstadt reconsiders Claude Lanzmann’s classic, mammoth documentary Shoah on the occasion of a new theatrical run.

Monumental

Jewish Badger Named Best Lineman

Carimi is Wisconsin’s left tackle

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Carimi (#68) celebrates after a dramatic win at Iowa in October.(David Purdy/Getty Images)

Congratulations to Gabe Carimi, this year’s winner of the Outland Trophy, which is given to college football’s best interior lineman (on either side of the ball). A Jewish kid from the Badger State, Carimi played at the all-important left tackle position, a crucial role in the bruising offense that rushed for 239.9 yards and gave up fewer than one sack per game; three times scored 70 or more points; and carried the Badgers to an 11-1 record, a Big Ten title, and a Rose Bowl berth.

If drafted (or, rather, when drafted—the best left tackle tends to get drafted), Carimi will join the elite fraternity of professional Jewish offensive linemen, which currently includes Lennie Friedman of the Cleveland Browns, Kyle Kosier of the Dallas Cowboys, Adam Goldberg of the St. Louis Rams, and Geoff Schwartz of the Carolina Panthers.

But first, the favored team of such Jewish luminaries as Sen. Herb Kohl, Rabbi Andy Bachman, and your humble blogger, meets Texas Christian University on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. On, Wisconsin!

Gabe Carimi Wins Outland Trophy [Orlando Sentinel]

Former FBI Lawyer Opposes Pollard Release

Alleges spy’s full damage remains untold

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Jonathan Pollard.(Haaretz)

Over the past months, momentum had been building toward the United States perhaps releasing Jonathan Pollard, the man who in 1987 was convicted of and sentenced to life for spying on behalf of Israel. You had early chatter that Pollard could be released in exchange for some sort of peace process deal; then you had former deputy defense secretary Lawrence Korb claim that his former boss Caspar Weinberger’s anti-Israel bias contributed to Pollard’s life sentence; then you had 39 Democratic congressmen, including influential ones like Barney Frank and Anthony Weiner, asking President Obama to commute Pollard’s sentence; and finally you had reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu had asked for the freedom of Pollard (since honorarily made an Israeli citizen) as part of a deal in which his cabinet would approve a 90-day West Bank construction freeze. (The case for Pollard’s release, perhaps best articulated by Gil Troy in Tablet Magazine, rests not on his innocence, but on the arguable lack of damage his crimes did and on the disproportionate nature of his sentence compared to similar spies.)

But in the past week, two things have happened to make Pollard’s release less likely. First and most important, of course: The United States has given up on attempting to secure an extension of the freeze, in turn leaving Bibi with less of a quid to offer for the Pollard quo. But secondarily and more interestingly, M.E. “Spike” Bowman, a former Navy and FBI lawyer who told a Washington Post reporter that he was “the only person who actually touched all aspects of the case,” has come out and opposed Pollard’s release, on the grounds that the disclosures did immense damage. (more…)

The Other Jerusalem

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Todd Gitlin takes us on a tour of East Jerusalem (with photos!) today in Tablet Magazine, reporting firsthand on the realities of Jewish settlers living in Arab neighborhoods—some in houses that once belonged to Palestinians (and perhaps still should).

He arrives in the Arab village of Silwan during one of its famed regular Friday-afternoon protests, which frequently attract prominent Israeli left-wing activists.

On this occasion, the 300 to 400 demonstrators, some banging drums, were in a festive mood, perhaps because they knew that former President Jimmy Carter and former Irish President Mary Robinson were expected. They were mostly young, almost entirely Israeli, and cheered on by an encampment of young Palestinians. These Friday afternoon gatherings have evolved into the quintessential rituals of the Israeli left. On a Saturday evening last March, some 3,000 protesters showed up.

At the dot of 4 p.m., Carter’s limo drove up. Chants began: “Carr-terr! Carr-terr!” Carter and Robinson waded into the crowd, Carter was handed a bullhorn and offered “congratulations” to the protesters for “trying to resolve this injustice peacefully.” He deplored “demolition” and “confiscation.” Carter, the president who brokered a peace treaty between Israel and its most formidable military enemy, is regularly, vehemently, reviled by the Israeli right and its American supporters. At the Mt. Zion Hotel, his name was synonymous with the devil incarnate.

Facts on the Ground

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