New Book Claims Jack the Ripper Was Jewish

DNA said to link Polish barber Aaron Kosminski to gruesome 1888 murders

A picture shows a street near Spitafields market where Jack the Ripper killed most of his victims in London. (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images)

The story of Jack the Ripper is a dark, tragic one. Believed to be responsible for least five East London murders in 1888, the deranged serial killer targeted prostitutes, whose throats he slashed and whose organs he often removed. Police never arrested him, and his identity has long been subject of speculation and theories.

Russell Edwards, a longtime Ripperologist, as those obsessed with studying the unsolved case are known, has published Naming Jack The Ripper, a book that claims to offer DNA evidence that the 19th century killer was Aaron Kosminski, a 25-year-old Jewish immigrant from Poland. (more…)

Fran Drescher Weds Scientist Shiva Ayyadurai

‘Every day is a celebration with Fran,’ Ayyadurai has said of the actress

Shiva Ayyadurai and Fran Drescher. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for DuJour Magazine)

As Fran Fine would say, “Maaaaaaaazel tov!”

Fran Drescher married Shiva Ayyadurai this weekend, E! Online reports: “Close friends and family members attended the intimate gathering where the sounds of Drescher’s famous laugh were likely heard by all.” (more…)

Orthodox ‘Get’ Gang Gets GQ Spotlight

Group said to use violence to get Jewish men to grant their wives a divorce

Image of GQ's Sept. 2014 profile, 'The Orthodox Hit Squad.'(GQ)

It’s not often that the “Bloods, the Crips, or the Mafia” are invoked in a story about the ultra Orthodox. In the new issue of GQ, Tablet contributor Matthew Shaer does his part to correct that oversight in a profile of a gang of Hasids hired for thousands of dollars to persuade Orthodox men who have refused to grant their wives a “get”—a Jewish divorce document—to reconsider that decision. In Orthodox Judaism, a get is required by the husband in order for a couple to get divorced. Without a get, a woman is not permitted to remarry and is therefore considered to be an agunah: a chained woman.

The gang Shaer depicts used strong powers of persuasion to get their job done: physical assault with ropes, acid and cattle prods. That last implement earned the head of the gang, Rabbi Mendel Epstein, the Prodfather nickname. He and his henchmen were arrested in an FBI sting last year. (more…)

Israeli Cats Are Trying To Take Over the Internet

Bloggers hope to make the country’s long-maligned strays into online stars

(Felines of Israel)

I vividly remember the Israeli soldiers on my Birthright trip watching, bewildered, as I began to pet a cat that had sauntered toward the stoop where we were sitting. Bewildered not because it might come as a surprise that I’m a cat person, but because cats—that ever-adored household pet and Internet phenom in the United States—are something of an invasive species in Israel.

There are probably very few charming Holly Golightly stories of stray cats mewling their way into an Israeli’s heart. That’s because in Israel, on seemingly every corner of every city there are about half a dozen stray cats, lurking and skulking and often clawing at each other’s faces. While Birthright may have been trying to sell us on Israel as the land of milk and honey, I quickly realized it could more accurately be described as the land of falafel and kittens.

In an odd marriage of viral Internet cat culture and Israel’s highly visible stray epidemic, a strange, niche series of tumblr blogs has emerged: cats of Israel. (more…)

Yale Chaplain Who Wrote Controversial NYT Letter Resigns

Claimed ‘best antidote’ to anti-Semitism was for Jews to pressure Israel

Yale University in New Haven, Conn. (Shutterstock)

Rev. Bruce Shipman, the Episcopal chaplain at Yale, has resigned in the wake of controversy over a New York Times letter he wrote suggesting Jews were collectively culpable for Israel’s actions and for subsequent rises in global anti-Semitism. “The Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, on his own initiative, has resigned as Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale, effective immediately,” said a statement released by the Episcopal Church at Yale. “It is our belief that the dynamics between the Board of Governors and the Priest-in-Charge occasioned the resignation of the Rev. Shipman.”

In his letter to the Times, written in response to Deborah Lipstadt’s op-ed about rising European anti-Semitism, Shipman claimed that “the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.” Many readers expressed outrage at what they deemed Shipman’s exercise in victim-blaming, and an attempt to hold all Jews across the globe responsible for the actions of the Israeli state. (more…)

Study Yields Sobering Results for Jewish Women

All Ashkenazic women may carry genetic mutation linked to breast cancer

BRCA1 tumor supressor protein. (Shutterstock)

Oh for those halcyon days when only women with a family history of breast or ovarian cancer had unique cause to worry about the likelihood of facing chemo themselves. Now, according to a new study from Israel, every woman of Ashkenazic descent may have reason to be alarmed.

A team of researchers in Israel and the United States have found that even without any family history of cancer, Jewish women may carry the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations—those linked to breast and ovarian cancer. (more…)

Can We Grieve? Remembering Joan Rivers

Fearing a world bereft of the comic’s watchful eye

Flowers are placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star for Joan Rivers in Hollywood, California on September 4, 2014, following news of the comedian's death in New York at the age of 81. (MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Hi. Well, here we are sitting shiva together yet again. God, why does this keep happening?

I’ve spent the better part of today trying to parse my feelings about Joan Rivers’ untimely death, trying to coax myself out of the deep denial I’ve been in since the news of her botched surgical procedure (unbelievably not one of the cosmetic variety, an irony I’m sure she would have appreciated.) Call me naïve, but I felt sure she would wake up and be touring again in the next couple of months, full of hilariously bitchy one-liners about how hideous the food in the hospital was and how the gowns look like something Tilda Swinton would wear to the Oscars. (more…)

Sunday, The Rabbi Skipped The New York Times: Part II

Responses to a Tablet essay about the newspaper’s coverage of the Gaza war

(Erika Cross /

On August 28, Tablet ran an essay by Reform rabbi Richard A. Block titled “Why I’m Unsubscribing from The New York Times.” The piece, an impassioned denunciation of what Rabbi Block saw as the newspaper’s biases in reporting on the Gaza war, struck a chord, and it has been shared on Facebook nearly 20,000 times. After it ran, we did hear from one reader who argued that Block ignored examples that didn’t serve his case. (more…)

Brooklyn Bitcoin Entrepreneur Pleads Guilty

Yeshiva of Flatbush grad Charles Shrem, 24, faces up to five years in prison

Charles Shrem leaving federal court in Manhattan, N.Y. (Photo )

Charles Shrem, once a rising star in the world of Bitcoin entrepreneurialism, faced what could be his lowest moment Thursday in a 14th-floor federal court in lower Manhattan.

“I knew that what I did here was wrong,” the 24-year-old told Judge Jed Rakoff. “I’m pleading guilty because I am guilty.”

Shrem, a graduate of Yeshiva of Flatbush, pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the operation of an unlicensed money transfer business. The charge could send him to prison for up to five years. (more…)

Gwyneth Paltrow Reportedly Converting to Judaism

The actress, whose father was Jewish, has been raising her children Jewish

Gwyneth Paltrow on April 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Page Six reports that Gwyneth Paltrow is converting to Judaism. The actress was raised both Jewish and Christian, which she’s described as “such a nice way to grow up”; her father, the late film director Bruce Paltrow, was Jewish, and her mother, actress Blythe Danner, is Christian.

The GOOP goddess has embraced Jewish tradition in recent years, saying in 2011 that her children, Apple and Moses, were being raised Jewish. (more…)

Mandy Patinkin Wants to be Israel’s Prime Minister

Homeland star announces plans to run for Israeli office on Colbert Report

Actor Mandy Patinkin on August 24, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Joe Kohen/Getty Images)

Last time Mandy Patkinin appeared on The Colbert Report, he sang the Shehecheyanu during the on-air wedding of a couple whose wedding plans were thwarted because of the government shutdown (remember that?). How do you outdo that kind of performance? Apparently by pledging to run for Israel’s highest office.

Patinkin appeared on the show earlier this week to promote Homeland, whose fourth season premieres October 5 on Showtime. He discussed his beard (“It just brings me along wherever it goes”) and the state of the world (“it’s like they’re stealing your scripts,” Colbert says). (more…)

Joan Rivers: Don’t You Dare Tell Me I Can’t Do It

An excerpt from Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish

Joan Rivers. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

In 2005, Abigail Pogrebin published Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish. The following is an excerpt from the chapter about Joan Rivers, the trailblazing comedian who died Thursday at 81 in Manhattan.

I HEAR JOAN RIVERS before I see her. “I’m coming! I’m coming!” she bellows from the elevator as she rides up to her private floor, where I’m waiting in her showily ornate Upper East Side town house. She’s running late, but her assistant, Jocelyn, a friendly, no-nonsense type, has made me feel at home in an extremely formal parlor. It is stuffed with fancy things that hover between chic and gaudy: leopard carpet, dog statues flanking a fireplace, large tufted leather sofa, and embroidered pillow emblazoned with the adage, “I need a man to spoil me or I don’t need a man at all.” (more…)

Jewish Museum of Belgium to Reopen

Four months after a gunman opened fire in the museum, killing four people

People pay their respects in front of a makeshift memorial at the entrance of the Jewish Museum in Brussels, on May 25, 2014, where a deadly shooting took place the day before. (GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)

Four months after a gunman entered the Jewish Museum of Belgium, killing four people, the museum will be reopening, JTA reports.

On Sept. 14 the museum will host a day-long program to commemorate the reopening, which will purposefully coincide with European Days of Jewish Culture. The event will include speeches by Philippe Blondin, the president of the Jewish Museum of Belgium, as well as Belgium’s Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo. (more…)

Joan Rivers Dies at 81

Legendary comedian was on life support, had been hospitalized last week

Joan Rivers on September 4, 2013 in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Joan Rivers died this afternoon, her daughter Melissa has confirmed. The groundbreaking comedian was 81.

Rivers was hospitalized last Thursday when she stopped breathing while undergoing throat surgery. She was temporarily put into a medically-induced coma, and then placed on life support. (more…)

Borscht Belt Ruins on Display in New York City

Photography exhibit shows the remains of the great Catskills resorts

Coffee Shop, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Grossinger, N.Y. (Marisa Scheinfeld)

The iconic hotels of the Catskills today are not what they used to be. Places like Grossinger’s and the Pines Hotel, which haven’t operated in years, have literally decayed since their 1960s and 1970s heyday—and one photographer has the haunting photos that show the extent of the physical erosion of these institutions of 20th-century American Jewish culture.

Marisa Scheinfeld, a photographer raised in Sullivan County, N.Y., returned to the Catskills to explore what remained of the iconic hotels and resorts, finding veritable ruins where once-great establishments once stood. She published a slideshow of the haunting images on Tablet in 2012. An exhibit of her work, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt,” will be on display at the Yeshiva University Museum starting next week. (more…)

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.