The New Leaders

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry talks to Ari Y. Kelman, an author of a new study about the changing composition of American Jewish institutional leadership.

Melting Steel

How our teams fared this weekend

Tom Brady leads the Pats to victory.(Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

While the main story through this NFL season has been the lack of one or two truly stand-out teams thus far (such as last year’s New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts, both of whom were undefeated through 12 games), if you forced me, at gunpoint (or at being-a-Buffalo-Bills-fanpoint—congrats on the win, guys!) to pick the top two teams, I would have picked the two that met last night: The Pittsburgh Steelers and Tablet Magazine team the New England Patriots. There are still seven more weeks of regular season to go (thank God!), but last night, the Pats, coming from the egg they laid last week in Cleveland, continued their tour through the Rust Belt with a real show in Pittsburgh.

The Pats scored 39 points—which is two touchdowns and a field goal more than the Steelers’ top-ranked defense had allowed to any other team this season—and held Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall, and the rest of the Steelers offense to 26 points (and half of that came in garbage time, as the Steelers were allowed wider sway to march up the field in nearly certain futility). The Pats established their running game early on. Rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski scored three touchdowns, making a very, very small number of fantasy owners very, very happy. But the real story was quarterback Tom Brady. He went 30-for-43, 350 yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions, and a QB rating of 117.4, at times making it look as though he were running some top-tier college offense mowing down a vastly inferior in-conference rival. More than that, he fired up himself and his young team and led them to victory. You were reminded that he is the superstar he is, the legend who won three rings and nearly a fourth last decade. (more…)

The Gallivanting Spatula

Words Jews use

(Mark Alan Stamaty)

We’re sorry for the delay, but it took more time than expected to sort through your hundreds of delightfully belligerent “suggestions” for The Gallivanting Spatula, our compendium of words only Jews use. (We hope you’ll continue to send your entries, to From this point forward, we’ll update every couple of weeks or so. And you can go here to see the complete list.

Additionally, with each new installment we’ll also induct our favorite suggestion from a reader, who will receive a Gallivanting Spatula mug—emblazoned with Mark Alan Stamaty’s fantastic logo—as a token of our appreciation.

This week’s winner is Ed, who relayed the following: “My mother (72 years old, Jewish, Brooklyn) and her friends have always referred to the gastroenterologist as the ‘gastro-man.’ I thought this was normal and used it myself until someone asked me if my stomach doctor wore a cape and tights.” To be frank, the more popular locution is “GI guy.” But we’re giving this one to Ed on account of the clever superhero joke.

And now, the new words: (more…)

Teach Your Children

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall reviews several books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Though some are aimed at children and some at young adults, and though they were written by people looking in on the conflict from both sides, Ingall divines a common message: “The insistence that we not lump an entire people into one undifferentiated mass we label The Enemy.”

She adds, “this may seem like a naïve answer to a complex set of questions. But the ability to empathize goes a long way.”

The Others

Report Details U.S. Knowledge of Nazi Residents

Newly revealed document shows CIA awareness

Arthur Rudolph, in NASA’s employ, showing off a Saturn V model.(Wikipedia)

The CIA knowingly permitted some former Nazis ‘safe haven’ in the United States after World War Two to an extent previously not publicly understood, according to a Justice Department report kept secret for four years but obtained by the New York Times. Among the revelations in the 600-page document, which Justice says was six y’ears in the making and never formally completed:

• The CIA knew early on that Tscherim Soobzokov, who was killed in New Jersey by the Jewish Defense League, had been a Waffen SS agent, despite court filings stating the contrary.

• Otto Von Bolschwing, who aided Adolph Eichmann in planning the extermination of the Jews of Europe, was the subject of a series of CIA memos concerning what the agency should do if Von Bolschwing’s background ever came up—that is, after he had gained admittance to the United States, where he lived until his 1981 death. (more…)

Daybreak: Bibi Agrees to Freeze Deal

Plus preparing for the worst in Lebanon, and more in the news

Prime Minister Netanyahu presents the deal to his cabinet.(Uriel Sinai/AFP/Getty Images)

• The seven-hour conversation between Secretary of State Clinton and Prime Minister Netanyahu led to something after all: Bibi presented a new, 90-day West Bank freeze deal to his cabinet Sunday (which still must approve it). President Obama praised him; the Palestinians remained skeptical. [NYT]

• Thomas Friedman accuses Bibi of incredible hubris (chutzpah?). [NYT]

• A rundown of just how slippery Iran has proved when it comes to pinning down details of nuclear talks. Seems like they’re stalling. [WP]

• Lebanese residents are securing second passports and making plans should the country devolve into chaos following a U.N. tribunal’s indictments related to Rafik Hariri’s assassination. [WP]

• Outgoing Democratic Rep. Howard Berman lifted the hold on $100 million in military aid to Lebanon. [Laura Rozen]

• An anonymous donor stepped forward with $20 million to help the Lincoln Center Synagogue construct its new building—provided the shul raise $3 million on its own. Get to work, guys! [Vos Iz Neias?/DNAInfo]

Sundown: White House Becalms Jewish Leaders

Plus Glenn Beck and Iran are bedfellows, and more


• A senior White House official assured Jewish-American leaders that the administration was not trying to force a confrontation with the Israelis over settlements. Read the need for that assurance as you wish. [Ben Smith]

• On Eric Cantor’s assurances to Prime Minister Netanyahu, James Traub writes: “It’s extraordinary to think that any country’s security can be ‘synonymous’ with that of the United States.” [FP]

• Glenn Beck and Iran see eye-to-eye on George Soros. [The Lede]

• Fethullah Gülen, the reclusive leader of a Turkish Islamic movement, is profiled. [TNR]

• The National Museum of American Jewish History opened in Philly. [NYT]

• Contributing editor Josh Cohen’s suggestions for writers borrows from Bluto Blutarski’s suggestion to Flounder: “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.” [The Paris Review]

It gets better: The Orthodox version.

Talking Politics and Bowling Together

Mark the day on your calendar

Susan Sher.(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Conde Nast Publications)

On November 30, your excuse can’t just be, “I’m not in town.” Because that night Tablet Magazine is hosting/sponsoring not one but two sweet events in not one but two sweet cities.

In Washington, D.C., at the historic Sixth & I Synagogue, we are hosting a conversation with Susan Sher, the Chief-of-Staff to the First Lady and White House liason to the Jewish community; her interlocutor will be New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor. It is the first installment in our ongoing Jews & Politics series.

And in New York City, we are co-sponsoring Festival of Strikes, a Hanukkah party at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, featuring comedian Eugene Mirman, the band The Sway Machinery, and much else besides.

Bonus points will be given to anyone who somehow manages to attend both.

Jews & Politics: Susan Sher
Festival of Strikes


Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, Ethan Friedman’s Kislev-themed crossword puzzle includes elements of the two holidays American Jews will celebrate during the next 30 days.

Fire Abe Foxman?

Why it’s his fault that Glenn Beck is free to be Glenn Beck

Abraham Foxman in 2005.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Despite grotesquely mischaracterizing George Soros’ actions as a young Jewish boy during the Holocaust; despite accusing Soros of orchestrating a conspiracy designed to topple economies and currencies and bring the world under his control; despite citing the notoriously anti-Semitic former prime minister of Malaysia and quoting someone else to the effect that Soros is a blood-sucker; despite all of this, it looks as though Glenn Beck is just going to keep on keepin’ on. The left that hates him anyway is going to say his documentary on Soros was anti-Semitic; the right that supports him anyway is going to say it wasn’t; the middle is not going to care.

Is Randy Scheunemann—a top foreign policy adviser to Sarah Palin whose firm also has Soros’ Open Society Institute as a client—a hypocrite? How about all the Jewish contributors to Fox News? The problem is that there is no Archimedean point from which an otherwise neutral observer could stand and declare, “Glenn Beck is being anti-Semitic”; there has been no universally trusted validator who can be cited to someone who denies this. So, while a part of me wants to call up Bill Kristol, and Eric Cantor, and every other prominent Jewish person of the right, and ask them where they stand, I know they will simply say, “Beck wasn’t being anti-Semitic,” and that I will have no rebuttal beyond my own opinions. I have no one to cite as definitive “proof” that Glenn Beck was being anti-Semitic. I cannot put them on the spot, because I have no spot to put them on. (I did request a comment from News Corp. yesterday regarding Simon Greer’s charge that Beck had engaged in “Holocaust revisionism.” I haven’t heard back.*) (more…)

Jacob’s Virtual Ladder

Today on Tablet


Today in Tablet Magazine, in his weekly parsha column Liel Leibovitz points to the striking (and revealing) similarities between the story of Jacob’s ladder and the video game Minecraft.

Celebrities Cross Paddles

Plus our ping-pong haiku contest

Judah Friedlander with his championship trophy.(Everything Is Pong)

Losing 11-1 at ping-pong could rattle anyone, but Jonathan Safran Foer (author of Everything is Illuminated) seemed particularly confused Wednesday at Lincoln Center. “I love Cabinet Magazine,” he insisted repeatedly.

Foer was competing in the Tournament of Champions, a celebrity table tennis competition that also featured Will Shortz, Davy Rothbart, Judah Friedlander, Jeff Staple, Nancy Franklin, and Sloane Crosley all fighting for table tennis honor and to celebrate Roger Bennett and Eli Horowitz’s new book Everything You Know Is Pong: How Mighty Table Tennis Shapes Our World.

After Rob Stone (the founder of Fader Magazine and a guy who almost certainly eats animals) routed him in the second round, Foer defiantly told me, “If I was in my basement, I would have won.” Yet when I asked him if his defeat changed the way he felt about ping-pong, he shook his head. “Ping pong isn’t the best game. It’s the only game.”

Noam Chomsky, A Simple Farmer

Today on Tablet


“Religion is based on the idea that God is an imbecile.” That is one of the many things that Noam Chomsky, the legendary left-wing linguist, academic, political thinker, and activist, has to say in his interview with contributing editor David Samuels today in Tablet Magazine. Chomsky, 81, narrates his childhood attending Philadelphia’s most elite Sephardic synagogue in a thoroughly cultural-Zionist milieu; explains how his revolutionary theory of generative grammar emerged from his study of Hebrew and Arabic; and offers his opinions on various facets of international affairs, including Israel’s crimes and the United States’s complicity in them.

Mostly what emerges is a still-fiery intellectual, ridiculously smart, whose feeling of obligation is powerful, yet also, at points, tempered by an unexpected sense of resigned, ironic self-awareness. (more…)

Rolling Stoned

Can you tell the difference between Keith and George?

(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Two icons have just published autobiographies of great interest to Jewish readers. The first is the story of a rock star supplied with wholesale amounts of cocaine by a Yiddish-accented Holocaust survivor. The second is the story of a president who turned in his bourbon for chummy chats with Ehud Olmert. Keith Richards’s Life is 576 pages; George W. Bush’s Decision Points is 512. Rather than make you read both (or either), instead play our quiz: Can you guess which is from which? Answers after the jump.

1. “Charlie decided we needed more alcohol to enjoy the experience fully. To our amazement, he was able to convince a stagehand that Willie Nelson needed some beer. The guy dutifully went out and bought the beer with Charlie’s money. Charlie left one case for Willie and snuck one back to us. We hunched over in our seats and drank like thirst-ravaged wanderers.”

2. “I underwent medical tests to prove that I was drug free. … Then Nixon resigned.”

3. “You don’t realize what a weird place you’re growing up in.”

4. “We lived in a tiny apartment and shared a bathroom with—depending on whom you ask—either one or two prostitutes.”

5. “If you are going to f— me, you better give me a kiss first.”

6. “This little bearded Jewish gnome who would sit naked out in the garden and sort of spew down at people who drove by. He was going through his naturist stage, which was a bit terrifying for Long Island.”

7. “I went on racking my memory for a single dry day over the past few weeks; then the past month; then longer. I could not remember one. Drinking had become a habit. I have a habitual personality.”

8. “I can’t remember any sense of fear or apprehension about quitting. It was just, this is what has to be done, and it has to be done now.”

9. “I knew what she was thinking. I had talked about quitting before, and nothing had come of it. What she didn’t know was that this time I had changed on the inside—and that would enable me to change my behavior forever.”

10. “‘Are my testicles black?’”


On Strike

Is organized labor protest divinely ordained?

(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.

The details of labor negotiations may make for tedious reading, but talks between the Finance Ministry and the Histadrut labor federation, the national umbrella organization for Israel’s unions, were all over the newspapers recently as Israel braced for a massive public-sector strike, or shvita. It’s exactly the sort of thing that sends shudders through anyone who might need to renew a passport or driver’s license, receive a shipment of goods from overseas, fly out of the country, or just take the train to work. Fortunately, the union and treasury folks were able to resolve their differences without grinding the country to a halt.

But now there’s a different strike threat on the horizon: Israeli farmers have announced they plan to stop putting fresh produce on the market later this month because the government has not let in all of the 26,000 foreign laborers (mostly from Thailand) the farmers say they have been granted permission to hire. (more…)

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