‘Declaration of Loyalty’

Your weekly dose of Israelispeak

(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.

In the winter of 2009, Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party campaigned under the slogan, “Bli ne’emanut ein ezrahut”: No loyalty, no citizenship.

This week, the Israeli cabinet voted in favor of a bill that, unless the Knesset shoots it down, would require new non-Jewish citizens to pledge allegiance to a “Jewish and democratic state.” There are a few Hebrew terms for this oath: Hatzharat ne’emanut, or “declaration of loyalty,” which includes a word that, as Lieberman has discovered, has the advantage of sort of rhyming with the Hebrew word for “citizenship”; hatzharat emunim, or “declaration of allegiance”; and shvu’at emunim, which means “oath of allegiance” and is also the Hebrew title for the 2003 movie Pledge of Allegiance.

These terms have in common the Hebrew root that also appears in the word emunah, meaning belief, faith, trust, or confidence, often in a religious context. The same root is also used in a term that frequently comes up on Israel’s version of C-SPAN: Hatza’at ee-eemun, or no-confidence motion. (more…)

Daybreak: The Iran-Lebanon Merger

Plus A’jad praises, meets with Hezbollah, and more in the news

Ahmadinejad speaking yesterday; next to him is a Hezbollah representative.(Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu accused Lebanon of becoming “an extension of the ayatollah regime in Iran.” [Haaretz]

• This after President Ahmadinejad stood a few miles from the Israeli border and loudly praised Hezbollah. [NYT]

• He also reportedly met with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut. [Jewish Journal/Haaretz]

• The Arab League warned that continued West Bank construction could lead it to ask the U.N. to recognize an independent Palestine. [JPost]

• President Abbas punted on the question of recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, saying how Israel defines itself is up to Israel. [JPost]

Sundown: Boom Market

Plus the lampshade made of skin, and more

The lampshade.(Forward)

• Israel has arguably the fastest-rising property market in the world. [AP]

• All the major world powers, including the United States and China, have proposed nuclear talks with Iran for next month. [Laura Rozen]

• Prominent Palestinian intellectual Mustafa Barghouti proposes a unilateral declaration of independence “on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, including East Jerusalem.” (And Gaza?) [IHT]

• Tablet Magazine contributor Jon Kalish reviews Mark Jacobson’s The Lampshade. [Forward]

• Iranian President Ahmadinejad has formed an “independent and neutral team” to investigate U.S. complicity in 9/11. [NY Daily News/Vos Iz Neias?]

• New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis has promise, even if the Mets don’t. [Kaplan’s Korner]

Rabbi Levin on the teevee last night.

The Jewish Media

If everyone else were like Tablet Magazine


Presumably apropos l’affaire Sanchez, CollegeHumor has a few examples of what certain mainstream news outlets would look like if Jews really did run the media. It’s pretty funny, although, predictably, the New York Times gag falls too close to reality to be effective satire.

If Jews REALLY Ran the Media [CollegeHumor]
Earlier: Sanchez Says Jews Run Media, Is Fired

Yehuda Levin’s Vaudeville Act

Message: I’m Jewish

Rabbi Yehuda Levin.(AP/Gawker)

It was hard to read Rabbi Yehuda Levin’s rant—the sentence could end right there, of course—without noticing how ostentatiously Jewish he was being, how he seemed to be going out of his way to remind you of his religious and cultural authenticity.

“The speech that you gave in Brooklyn to the Orthodox Jewish community.”

“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich.”

“Mazel tov!”

“I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

Let’s repeat that one, just for fun: “I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Atlantic blogger, has an illuminating take. “A lot of what this Rabbi is doing strikes me as what a lot of my folk would call ‘cooning’ if this dude were black,” he writes. I was unfamiliar with the term (and probably wouldn’t use it myself, given its etymology): According to Urban Dictionary,

Modern day coons are blacks who play stereotypical roles and black entertainers that promote ignorance. Cooning is someone is acting like a ‘coon’.

(a is singing and dancing in public with white people watching)

b: Will you come on and stop cooning!

Sounds about right.

Paladino’s Rabbit Cont. [Ta-Nehisi Coates]
Earlier: Carl Paladino’s Betrayal of Reason

Bloomberg for President?

Unaffiliated group may have affiliated backing

Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this month.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

When, in the summer of 2007, I dropped in on one of the weekly get-togethers of the New York City chapter of something called the Committee to Draft Michael Bloomberg at Manhattan’s Old Town Bar, the only draft was the beer. But are things different this time? The Wall Street Journal reports that the current incarnation of the Committee has received the tacit backing of Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s former deputy mayor and top adviser.

On the other hand, Hizzoner said in August. “I will rule out a run for president. I have the best job I could possibly have.” Maybe Rahm Emanuel will have to be our first Jewish president after all.

Bloomberg Supporters Plot Draft [WSJ]
Related: These Ten People Want To Make Bloomberg President

Just Desserts

Knowing your kichel from your babka

Blackberry rugelach. Mmmmm.(Wikipedia)

Today is National Dessert Day, which, unlike Valentine’s Day, is not a sham of a Hallmark holiday. It’s the real deal, at least for me. (I bake cookies when I’m stressed.) In honor of this hallowed occasion, I’ve compiled a by no means exhaustive list of classic Jewish desserts. Leave your favorites in the comments!

Kichel: This dessert biscuit is made from egg and sugar often shaped into circles or bowties. It was served after services nearly every Shabbos in the basement of my shul, the Young Israel of Redwood. However if I wanted to get my hands on one I had to get past the old men who crowded around the table of food, mostly to spear pickled herring with toothpicks. (The kichel often proved too hard for their dentures.) These were the kind of men who yelled, “Kiddush! Kiddush!” every time a wedding, birth, bar mitzvah, graduation, or even a bat mitzvah was announced. (more…)

In Lebanon, Ahmadinejad Gets Mixed Reviews

Shiites applaud, others suspect

Lebanese well-wishers await President Ahmadinejad yesterday.(Salah Malkawi/Getty Images)

A U.S. diplomatic spokesperson’s understatement yesterday was so pronounced, he was almost being wry. On the occasion of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s first-ever state visit to Lebanon, where he was thronged by thousands of supporters in a predominately Shiite southern suburb of Beirut, the spokesperson said the United States has “strong suspicions about the motives of Iran and its—you know, the groups that it supports who do not have Lebanon’s long-term interest at heart.” Of course, part of the problem, as Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith has argued, is that these “groups”—chiefly the Shiite militia Hezbollah—are arguably already in Lebanon’s driver’s seat. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Aliyah B intrigue, Chagall de-Jewified, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, acclaimed spy novelist Alan Furst “reviews” an out-of-print book about Aliyah B, which was the wave of illegal Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine, and calls for its republication. Judith Matloff reports that Belarus is very proud of Marc Chagall, but to them he is pure Belarusian; a certain other aspect of his identity goes unmentioned. Paula Sadok describes how being a Syrian Jew, and therefore a Mizrahi, has made her feel like the Other even among Jews. The Scroll sometimes feels like the Other of the blogosphere, though not usually.

Carl Paladino’s Betrayal Of Reason

And a sensational, near-fatal kosher sandwich!

Rabbi Yehuda Levin yesterday.(AP/NYT)

Not only did the right-wing, attention-grabbing, sketchy-ass Rabbi Yehuda Levin abandon Carl Paladino after the New York Republican gubernatorial candidate apologized for warning that children were being “brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is an equally valid and successful option.” Yesterday, he revealed the hazardous circumstances under which he learned of Paladino’s perfidious turnabout to the politically expedient position that homosexuality maybe isn’t bad for kids:

“I was in the middle of eating a kosher pastrami sandwich. While I was eating it, they come running and they say, ‘Paladino became gay!’ I said, ‘What?’ And then they showed me the statement. I almost choked on the kosher salami.”

(Let’s pause and note that Levin was eating a pastrami and salami sandwich. I don’t care how kosher it was, he’s about to be dead.)

As for Paladino’s having cited the concerns of his gay nephew? “He discovered now he has a gay nephew?” Levin replied. “Mazel tov! We’ll make a coming-out party!” Sources say he was being sarcastic.

Rabbi Breaks With Paladino Over Apology [NYT]
Earlier: Rabbinic Svengali Quits Paladino

Daybreak: You Better Recognize

Plus the Bibi-Lieberman bickering, and more in the news

Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman.(Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren blames Palestinian resistance to recognizing Israel as a Jewish state as an important insult and the immediate obstacle to peace talks. [NYT]

• U.S. diplomats are seizing on a PLO official’s willingness to recognize Israel this way at the pre-1967 borders as a welcome place to start negotiating. [JPost]

• The rift between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Lieberman is growing, and Bibi’s biggest fear is moving so far to the center that Lieberman and his nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu come to define the right. [NYT]

• After Israeli security razed illegal outposts in the northern West Bank, settlers and Palestinians clashed. [JTA]

• Ahmadinejad says: Nuclear power plants for everyone! [Haaretz]

• This article. More at 10. [NYT]

Sundown: Pollard Gets New Advocate

Plus the first step on Iran is acceptance, and more

The Iranian nuclear reactor at Bushehr.(IIPA via Getty Images)

• Lawrence Korb, who had been an assistant secretary of state at the time of Jonathan Pollard’s conviction of spying for Israel, reportedly wrote President Obama arguing that Pollard’s life sentence is too harsh. [JPost]

• President Obama’s incoming national security adviser, Tom Donilon, has close ties to pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC. (Also, his wife is Mrs. Biden’s chief-of-staff.) [JTA]

• Barry Gewen argues that the necessary first step in the debate over bombing Iran is to acknowledge that bombing can, at most, merely delay nuclear capability. [Entanglements]

• A top player in the Palestine Liberation Organization said he would consider recognizing Israel as a Jewish state—the precondition du jour—assuming “Israel” is confined strictly to the pre-1967 borders. [Haaretz]

• Gary Rosenblatt, editor of New York Jewish Week, weighs in on the New Jersey Jewish Standard same-sex announcements controversy; Andrew Silow-Carroll calls him out on copping out. [JustASC]

• Interesting personal essay from a former Haaretz night editor about how the Second Intifada irrevocably changed his politics. [972]

They’re rescuing the miners! Here’s Phish’s “Buried Alive.”

A New Production of an Old Mamet

As seen by one of our editors

Patrick Stewart in A Life in the Theatre.(NYO)

A new production of A Life in the Theatre by David Mamet—also the author of Nextbook Press’s The Wicked Son—opened on Broadway yesterday. It (apparently) features Patrick Stewart looking very funny. Tablet Magazine executive editor Jesse Oxfeld, who moonlights as the New York Observer’s theater critic, said it was “fun to watch” but ultimately “insubstantial and unfulfilling, more an exercise than a play.”

When All The World’s A Stage [NYO]
Related: The Wicked Son [Nextbook Press]

Jewish Mining Exec Donates to Chileans

This story is apparently something people are caring about

They are rescuing miners.(Martin Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

In my job, you want to hit the Jewish stories, and you want to find the Jewish angles to the big stories. Problem solved! Leonardo Farkas, a Jewish mining executive, has given each of the 33 rescued or soon-to-be-rescued miners $10,000 each. I command you to care about this!

Jewish Businessman Gives $10,000 to Rescued Chilean Miners [JTA/Forward]

Rabbinic Svengali Quits Paladino

Candidate is no longer sufficiently homophobic


This keeps getting better and better.

• On Sunday, New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, a Tea Party favorite, says offensive things about gay people to applauding ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. However, he omits this especially heinous sentence in his prepared remarks: “There is nothing to be proud of in being a dysfunctional homosexual.”

• Then, on Monday, Paladino clarifies his remarks, cryptically blaming unnamed Jewish leaders whose consultations had provoked the line he skipped.

• Then, yesterday, we learn what Paladino was talking about: An explicitly right-wing pseudo-Hasidic Brooklyn hack rabbi named Yehuda Levin has become Paladino’s ambassador to Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community. Of Sunday’s speech, Levin says, “I stand ready to defend the content.”

• Then, this morning, Paladino apologizes for his speech.

• And finally! This afternoon, speaking in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral (!), Levin—who mere days ago was so close to Paladino that the candidate could joke about firing his campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, and hiring Levin—withdraws his support for Paladino, saying he cannot back him “until such time as he straightens out.” Pun, hopefully, intended.

Meanwhile, Caputo just described Cuomo as “oily.” So that’s the gays and now the Italians you’re offending. Who could be next? (I have a guess!)

N.Y. Rabbi Drops Support for Paladino After Apology [AP/NYT]
Earlier: The Rabbi Who Influenced Paladino’s Speech
N.Y. Candidate Gay-Bashes to Orthodox Applause

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