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The Purloined Purée

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’

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The episode begins where the last one left off: With talk of strategizing against Kenny. “Would you rather for Kenny to go home,” Kenny asks rhetorically, “or Amanda to go home?” He is referring to the other chefs, who would presumably want the stronger chef (Kenny) out of their way. Speaking as a viewer, I would rather Amanda go home. But then again, speaking as a blogger focusing on Top Chef D.C.’s Jewish aspects, I need my Amanda Baumgarten fix like these chefs’ seared bay scallops need haricots verts. Sorry, them’s the breaks.

The Quickfire Challenge features Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois), the youngest member of the House and, as featured in the New York Times, possessor of a killer six-pack. (Also, he recently voted against repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Who exactly does Bravo think its viewers are again?) Congressman Schock is here to give us an ethics lesson. Wait, we’re getting an ethics lesson from a politician? You know the ethics those guys have, it’s like a notch underneath child molester! (Related: Is it ethical to lift quotes if you provide a handy hyperlink?)

The challenge requires putting the flavors of a whole meal onto a toothpick, in keeping with the relatively new law that allows lobbyists to serve legislators only toothpick food. Winner gets not only the usual immunity but, additionally, $20,000. This really is a lobbyist-themed challenge!

“I notice Amanda,” says one cheftestant. “She doesn’t seem like she really knows what she’s doing.” Yes, in more ways than one. (more…)

Daybreak: Abbas Still Avoiding Direct Talks

Plus Ayalon in ‘WSJ,’ Amar’e in Jerusalem, and more in the news

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Amar’e in May after his team was eliminated from the playoffs.(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

• Despite strong pressure from the Americans, Palestinian President Abbas continues to resist direct talks. [AP/Haaretz]

• German authorities charged the 88-year-old who was number three on the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s most-wanted list with aiding the murder of 430,000 Jews at Belzec as a guard and personally shooting ten himself. [NYT]

• In an op-ed, deputy foreign minister (and former ambassador) Danny Ayalon defends the blockade and calls flotilla-type activists hypocrites who don’t really care about Palestinian suffering. [WSJ]

• The 11th Commandment at Agudas Achim outside Washington, D.C., is: Thou shalt not bother Rahm about politics. [Page Six]

• 47 congresspersons are co-sponsoring a non-binding resolution that would articulate support for Israel’s right to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. [Suite 101/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A reporter catches up with New York Knick and Jew Amar’e Stoudemire dining with his girlfriend in Jerusalem. “I have been aware since my youth that I am a Hebrew through my mother, and that is something that has played a subtle but important role in my development,” he said. “I have never hid my spiritual roots. They just weren’t something that came under the spotlight.” [JPost]

Sundown: Orthodox Gay Rights

Plus the new meaning of the swastika, and more

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• A group of American Orthodox rabbis and educators is urging, “Jews with homosexual orientations or same sex-attractions should be welcomed as full members of the synagogue and school community.” [Haaretz]

• Not all swastikas are anti-Semitic, says the Anti-Defamation League. No, really! [NY Jewish Week via JTA]

• Rabbi Andy Bachman, an FOTM, has a simple solution to Emily Henochowicz’s hospital bill: The Israeli government should pay it. [Water Over Rocks]

• A Latvian-born Jewish woman was nabbed in Dallas trying to smuggle night-vision goggles to Moscow. Surely this has been optioned already. [NY Daily News]

• We win things. [JPS]

• Ancestral voices prophesying war! Or, rather, a calm, knowledgeable voice predicting a Mideast war in the next year or two. [Falafel Mafia]

The part-Jewish band Yo La Tengo’s “Stockholm Syndrome” has been in my head for at least 24 hours.

‘Curb’ Is Looking for a Minyan

Casting call drops plot hint

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Oh, Larry.(IMDB)

As if you weren’t excited enough that they are setting the next season of Curb Your Enthusiasm in New York City, this email just came across the transom:

Curb Your Enthusiam for TOMORROW Thursday

Looking for people to be a minyan minus one!

*sorry Ladies, it’s a scene of 9 looking for a 10th.

According to DirectCast, producers are seeking “Male / Caucasian, MidEastern / 25 – 70 / Seeking AFTRA Jewish man for featured work as part of a minyan for Curb tomorrow.”

So the next season of Curb will include a minyan in New York (ooh, and also a “Jewish male who is avid Red Sox fan”). They just keep topping themselves, don’t they?

The Great Intern Search

Apply to work at Tablet Magazine

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Tablet Magazine is, once again (again!), looking for interns.

If you have experience in journalism and are familiar with the landscape of American Jewish life, we’d love to hear from you. We are hiring interns to work two or three days a week at our office in New York City. Interns will assist the editorial staff with research and administrative tasks, as well as contributing blog posts and full features, and will receive paid stipends. If you’re interested in applying for the upcoming fall term, which starts August 16, please send a résumé and three writing clips to our internship coordinator, Marissa Brostoff (mbrostoff@tabletmag.com), by Monday, August 2. We look forward to hearing from you.

Please Welcome Amar’e Stoudemire to the Tribe

Knicks big man is currently in Israel

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Amar’e Stoudemire.(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It was exciting when Jordan Farmar, the NBA’s only non-Israeli Jewish player, had signed with the New Jersey Nets, thereby bringing him to the Tristate Area. But—breaking!—it turns out that not only is there another Jewish player in the NBA, he too just signed to play in the Tristate Area (with the New York Knicks). And, oh yeah, he’s a superstar! That’s right, folks, Amar’e Stoudemire is Jewish, and he is on his way to Israel!

Recall that this is the same guy who, a few months ago, Tweeted “Shalom !!” for an unrelated reason. It seems he knew something that we didn’t. He has since announced that he has Jewish roots, and yesterday Tweeted: “On the flight to Israel. This is going to be a great trip. The holy land. Learn about it. This ze ha’halom sheli. Shalom.” (For those who lack the power forward’s Hebrew proficiency, that translates to, “this is my dream.”) According to Israeli Army Radio, Stoudemire plans to spend two months in the country learning Hebrew.

What people should understand is that Stoudemire—with due respect to Jordan Farmar—isn’t just another role player. When healthy, he is one of the best big men and generally most effective players in the NBA. This is massively cool.

Basketball Star Amar’e Soudemire Jewish? [JPost]
Earlier: Farmar Heads to Jersey
Latin Immigrants Are the Twelfth Tribe

Jacobson’s Novel Longlisted

Our official Man Booker nominee

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Howard Jacobson.(ManBookerPrize/Flickr)

The Man Booker Prize longlist is like the Oscar Best Picture nominees, except it has 13 names, it’s British, and it’s about books. But it is a big deal over there (for gambling purposes, among others), and it just so happens that, when this year’s longlist dropped yesterday, one name stuck out: Howard Jacobson and his The Finkler Question. (Incidentally, the notable snub was Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow.)

This is not just because he is Jewish! Jacobson was a podcast guest of ours two years ago, when he discussed his previous novel, Kalooki Nights (which was also longlisted). At the time, Jacobson—who has been called the “British Philip Roth”—was explaining why he had written another Jewish-themed novel after having sworn not to.

Did he live up to his oath for The Finkler Question? Well, if this review is any indication (and if the title is any other), the theme of Jewishness does, shall we say, come up in the novel. The shortlist will be revealed in September, the winner announced in October.

Man Booker Prize Announces Long List [Arts Beat]
Related: The Solipsist

Ground Zero Gives Islamic Center Its Blessing

Defeat for opponents

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45-47 Park Place, which Cordoba House is planning to occupy.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

Yesterday, the relevant community board okayed Cordoba House, the Islamic center and mosque planned for a lower Manhattan site two blocks from Ground Zero. Specifically, Community Board 1 recommended, by a 24-11 vote, that the building not be given landmark status (its vote is nonbinding). This is what Cordoba House advocates wanted. (Earlier this month, Tablet Magazine’s Mark Bergen reported on a heated Landmarks Preservation Commission meeting; the LPC will make the final decision.)

The mosque became a statewide issue when New York gubernatorial candidates started talking about it, and then a national issue when the Tea Party (which opposes the mosque) caught on, and then an even bigger national issue when Sarah Palin made her famous Tweets against it and Newt Gingrich specified exactly where he would and would not be okay with a mosque being built in New York City (a city whose Jewish mayor, and borough whose Jewish president, both support the project).

By the way: The project is invariably described as a mosque, and while that’s not technically false, it is somewhat misleading. As planned, Cordoba House will be an “Islamic center” in much the same way that a Jewish Community Center is a “Jewish center”—in fact, Cordoba House is explicitly modeled after JCCs. “There will be a mosque component, which will be a separate not-for-profit component of the project,” backer Sharif El-Gamal told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s going to be a small component in a community center, just like the 92nd Street Y has a synagogue.”

Vote Boosts G. Zero Mosque [NY Post]
Earlier: Ground Zero for a Fight
Palin ‘Refudiates’ Cordoba House
Related: ‘This Is A Way for Me To Give Back’ [Forward]

Today on Tablet

Madoff imagined, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marissa Brostoff raves over Imagining Madoff, the controversial play that once featured Elie Wiesel as a character, which is playing upstate. The Scroll needs to get to the theater more often.

Will She Convert?

The groom’s family may contain a clue (or not)

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Rhinebeck, New York, the site of the nuptials.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

We know Chelsea Clinton is getting married to the tastefully named Marc Mezvinsky this Sunday Saturday; we know the wedding will take place in Rhinebeck, New York; we know some of the people who will be there; we know how the uninvited feel; we even know (courtesy @daroff) that the bride’s mother, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is already in the state.

What we don’t know, and what the Jewish community seems to want to know, is: Will Chelsea convert for her Jewish husband?

I don’t know! But one clue could be to know whether the Mezvinskys—the only Jews who could at least be argued to have an actual personal stake in whether Chelsea remains Methodist—are likely to care every bit as much as we do. Here’s what we got: In 1996, the groom’s mother, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, a onetime congressperson, disclosed that she was raised Reform; that her then-husband (now ex-husband), Edward Mezvinsky, was raised “very Orthodox”; and that as a compromise they chose to raise the kinder as Conservative.

That’s it. That’s all I got. There’s your speculation, as it were, for the day. Who knows, maybe we’ll have more tomorrow!

Ex-Congresswoman Laments Women’s Losses Since 1992 [J Weekly]
Earlier: Boldface Names at Chelsea’s Wedding
Flying the Friendly Skies With Clinton

Daybreak: The Future Is Foggy

Plus American girl mired in legal dispute, and more in the news

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Emily Henochowicz, 21.(NYT)

• What’s going to happen in September, when the settlement freeze ends? No one knows, and the Israeli government is sending mixed signals. All of which arguably makes direct talks more helpful. [WP]

• President Abbas plans to tell the Arab League to reject direct talks on the grounds that the “proximity talks” haven’t yet achieveved enough. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• Emily Henochowicz, the Jewish American girl struck in the eye by a tear-gas canister at a pro-flotilla protest in Israel a few months ago, now lies at the center of a dispute over who should pay her hospital bill. [NYT]

• Commercial airline pilots worry that new Israeli security protocol, requiring a code before landing, could end up leaving planes vulnerable to actions from the Israeli Air Force. [NYT]

• Israel bulldozed 45 Bedouin homes in the Negev, the largest such razing in awhile. [LAT]

• Heirs to a Hungarian Jewish banker filed a U.S. federal lawsuit against the Hungarian government demanding it account for and return more than $100 million of their benefactor’s art it came to possess after the war. [NYT]

Sundown: Bibi Warms Up to Jordan

Plus Cameron calls Gaza ‘prison camp,’ and more

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British and Turkish Prime Ministers Cameron and Erdogan, today.(Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

• Without prior announcement, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Amman to ask Jordanian King Abdullah to back direct Israeli-Palestinian talks. [Haaretz]

• British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza “a prison camp” and advocated an end to the blockade while addressing a group of Turkish businessmen. [Haaretz]

• Six Israeli and one Romanian solder died in a helicopter crash in central Romania, where they were participating in joint military drills. [JTA]

• Oliver Stone apologized for his remarks yesterday about Jewish control of the media and clarified that the Holocaust was—indeed—“an atrocity.” [NYT]

• Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (author of Nextbook Press’ Betraying Spinoza) has a great essay on the brothers Singer (yup, there was another!). [The Book]

• Ian Buruma accuses Israel’s critics of holding it to a double standard. [Project Syndicate]

Nice song for a summer day:

Some See Jewish Conspiracy in Listserv

Of course, some also see Jewish conspiracy most places

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There has been a to-do over the past weeks concerning Journolist, a now-defunct listserv on which many like-minded liberals and center-liberals emailed about politics, policy, and other topics. Journolist members—who would presumably know more than anyone else—note that it was innocuous (that no policies or talking points were actively and regularly coordinated, for example) and mainly served as a helpful resource for journalists and academics, a way for different generations of thinkers to learn from one another, and generally a place that could be characterized by practically any other adjective before you got down the list to “insidious.”

But conservatives (and some others) have disagreed, saying in fact that this was a secret group of like-minded individuals in disparate, powerful institutions coordinating with each other in something very like a conspiracy to drive the course of history toward their preferred, nefarious ends. And, hey, there are a lot of interesting last names among the members of the group. Uh-oh. (more…)

Save a Torah Controversy Prompts Deal

Nonprofit pledges stricter authentication standards

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Rabbi Youlus at work in 2008.(Brendan Hoffman/NYT)

A Torah owned by the Upper East Side’s Central Synagogue that purportedly had been used by Auschwitz prisoners may not actually have come from the camp. So, Save a Torah, a Rockville, Maryland-based nonprofit that restores scrolls and had authenticated this particular one, struck a deal with local authorities only to authenticate Torahs “if there is documentation or an independent verifiable witness to such history.” It added: “In the absence of such independent verifiable proof, there will be no discussion of the circumstances under which the Torah was rescued.”

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a lawyer and activist, wrote to Maryland’s attorney general earlier this year alleging fraud and/or misrepresentation concerning Save a Torah rabbi Menachem Youlus’ contention that the Torah in question had been salvaged from Auschwitz by a Polish priest. (more…)

Obama, Dems Tout Pro-Israel Bona Fides

No effort is made to challenge prevailing assumptions

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Netanyahu and Obama in the Oval Office earlier this month.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After a year-and-a-half during which the United States has enjoyed at best a bumpy relationship with Israel, will Jewish voters bestow the same love on Democrats running in November’s midterm elections as they did on President Obama in November 2008? To try to get a “yes” on that, Obama and House Democrats have leaked a series of talking points that purport to show that Democrats and Obama have been just as good for Israel as the previous administration—if not better!

Many have said that the notion of “support for Israel” should be redefined because, sometimes, the way for the United States to be Israel’s best friend is to criticize it; that, in the case of American backing of Israel, there is such a thing as loving not wisely, but too well. This is, broadly speaking, the J Street line: We are “pro-Israel,” it says, but part of that involves telling Israel that, say, continued settlement beyond the Green Line, combined with demographic trends, is actually bad for Israel.

Certainly you could find plenty of people to agree with that notion. But these Democratic talking points indicate that the alternate, tough-love definition of “pro-Israel” has not penetrated the broader domestic political consciousness. The Obama administration and national Democrats are still playing by the old “pro-Israel” rules, which almost certainly favor the other side. As far as the midterms are concerned, the government that supports Israel best supports it most. (more…)

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