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Ami Eden Named JTA’s New Head

Our editor reflects on a great mentor

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Ami Eden at a Tablet Magazine party in June.(Yasmine Soiffer for Tablet Magazine)

Nine years ago this month, I got my first paying journalism commission. If memory serves, I was tasked with interviewing a Florida grandmother who had been kicked out of her senior living complex because she had taken in her grandson, which was against housing rules. For the life of me, I couldn’t reach the woman. I called every single person with her last name in the Florida phonebook, I called the housing development, I called the lawyer she had allegedly hired, I called the AP and Miami Herald reporters who had written about the story—no one would get back to me. After two days of trying, I gingerly approached the Forward‘s news editor, Ami Eden, and conceded defeat. He barely looked up from his computer, but I knew that he was secretly rolling his eyes at the young intern who couldn’t get some Bubbe on the phone.

Years later, Ami would admit that this was, in fact, exactly what he was thinking. But that afternoon, as I sulked dejectedly at my desk, he did something deeply, profoundly generous: He gave me another assignment. I got this one right, and over the next few months, I became—in no small part because of his guidance, insight, and friendship—a journalist.

Yesterday, Ami was given responsibility for overseeing (and, I hope, revamping) JTA, the historic Jewish news agency. It’s a move that is good for the Jews, good for JTA readers, and even good for non-JTA readers—since, if my experience working with Ami is any indication, he will give every one of his competitors a run for their money. That includes Tablet Magazine, as well as that other official publication of American Jewry. In short, yesterday was a banner day not just for Ami and the JTA and the Jews, but for American journalism.

JTA Publisher Steps Down, Editor Tapped To Lead Agency [JTA]

Today on Tablet

Summer is tomatoes and blockbusters, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Joan Nathan tells you exactly what to do with those great summer tomatoes. Liel Leibovitz manages to fit both Isaiah and Inception into his weekly haftorah column. Roslyn Bernstein finds that a visit to Coney Island today brings back memories of the Coney Island of old. The Scroll is planning some major tomato-eating this weekend.

A Yidisher Pop

Snooki, Levi, and a lesson in Yiddish

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This week’s installment is about being and having, tanning and loving, new mammals and irate mothers-in-law. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop


זי איז שיין, זי איז קלוג, און אַ ביסעלע מעוברת. וואָס איז אַזוי שלעכט, פֿאָקס?

Transliteration: Zi iz sheyn, zi iz klug, un a bisele meuveres. Vos iz azoy shlekht, Fox?

Meaning: She is beautiful, she is smart, and she is a little pregnant. What’s the problem, Fox?

(more…)

Daybreak: Six-Month Freeze on Bill

But Reform woman arrested at the Wall, and more in the news

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• Prime Minister Netanyahu cut a deal under which there is a six-month freeze in the Knesset on the controversial Rotem Bill. [Haaretz]

• In Jerusalem, American Jews, led by an Orthodox rabbi, protested the arrest of a Reform woman for holding a Torah at the Western Wall. [JPost]

• Hezbollah expects a U.N. tribunal to indict its top members in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [NYT]

• Among the papers recovered from Kafka’s boxes so far includes correspendence between him and his friend, Max Brod, and between him and another great writer, Stefan Zweig. [Haaretz]

• Israel is returning the flotilla boats to Turkey. [Ynet]

Sundown: PLO Diplomats Promoted

Plus Obama’s newly strong support for Israel, and more

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President Obama today.(Brendan Hoffman-Pool/Getty Image)

• The U.S. State Department upgraded the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s diplomatic mission, bringing it to the level it enjoys in Canada and most European nations. [Haaretz]

• Longtime JTA Executive Editor and Publisher Mark J. Joffe is stepping down. A big mazel tov to his replacement, current Editor-in-Chief Ami Eden. [JTA]

• After waffling, writes Aluf Benn, the Obama administration has determined that the old Mideast fundamentals—containing Iran, securing oil, etc.—indeed make Israel “a vital ally.” [Haaretz]

• And the Obama administration (and other national Democratic politicians) have the talking points to get that message out. [Laura Rozen]

• An interesting survey on responses to the Rotem Bill, from the Orthodox newspaper of Long Island’s Five Towns. [The Jewish Star]

• Wish I was going to “Jewstock,” on Bank Lake, north of Budapest, in a couple weeks. [JTA]

Heeb dug up this Milton Berle cameo from a 1984 episode of Diff’rent Strokes:

So That Happened

Smith’s column gets quite a response

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Lee Smith wrote a column yesterday, which pointed to several prominent bloggers who are “obsessed with Israel and the machinations of the U.S. Israel lobby” (he didn’t, shall we say, mean it in a good way) and accused them of being “Jew-baiters” (he didn’t mean that in a good way, either). It provoked … well, I am not positive that 211 comments is a Tablet Magazine record, but, I mean, it must be. This was, after all, an article in part about comments and commenters.

First, though, quick-links to the responses of the bloggers whom Smith referred to by name:

• Andrew Sullivan: “There are no substantive arguments in the piece, and there are no quotes in the piece from any of the bloggers and writers concerned that could even faintly be called anti-Semitic. There is just cherry-picking of vileness that often shows up on comments sections (which this blog does not even have). I mean: seriously. [Andrew Sullivan]

• Stephen Walt calls it a “screed.” [Foreign Policy]

• Phillip Weiss looks at our funders and related boards—apparently William Kristol is our distant cousin (and not just from the Old Country)—although he also (graciously) acknowledges that we have “some bandwidth,” for example having published “a pretty good piece today.” Actually, Marissa’s piece is great, not pretty good, but close enough. [Mondoweiss]

• Dan Luban (a Tablet Magazine contributor) wonders, at Jim Lobe’s blog (which Smith mentions), why Smith, “a neoconservative political operative,” gets a column to use “exclusively as an echo chamber for talking points from Commentary and the Weekly Standard.” Answer one: Don’t ask me, I’m just the blogger! Answer two: Smith’s profile of Robert Malley would never run in the Standard. [Lobelog]

Additionally, some unmentioned writers got in on the action. (more…)

Court Compromises on Kosovo

Ruling likely won’t set precedent for Palestinian cause

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Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Vice President Biden, yesterday.(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

In late 2008, the United Nations General Assembly voted to ask the International Court of Justice the following question: “Is the independence of Kosovo in accordance with international law?” Today, the ICJ answered: Yes, it is. This stamp of approval for the unilateral declaration of self-sovereignty by this one-time province of Serbia could have profound implications on other separatist/secessionist movements around the world—notably the Palestinians’.

… Or it may not.

Earlier this year, Milena Miletic laid out the possibilities in Tablet Magazine: “The first would be for the court to state that the declared independence of Kosovo violates international law,” Miletic explained. “The second would be for the court to rule in favor of Kosovo’s independence. …The third and most widely expected outcome is for the court to issue an opinion each party can interpret as it pleases, a result unlikely to increase international stability.”

The ICJ appears to have chosen Option 3. Writes the Times: “Legal experts emphasized that while the court had ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was legal, it had scrupulously avoided saying that the state of Kosovo was legal under international law, a narrow and carefully calibrated compromise.”

What does this mean for the Palestinians? (more…)

Emergency Committee v. J Street

Penn. candidate is proxy battlefield for Israel groups

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Earlier this week, when J Street cut an ad defending Rep. Joe Sestak, the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate, it was implicitly picking a fight with the Emergency Committee for Israel, the brand-new Bill Kristol-founded outfit that announced itself in part with an attack on Sestak for his allegedly not-pro-Israel views.

(By the way, for a great take on Kristol’s committee-forming-mania, read Jonathan Chait.)

Now, the New York Times has smartly compared and contrasted the two groups’ pro- and anti-Sestak ads (which you can find after the jump).

The Emergency Committee attacked Sestak’s 2007 praise for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has subsequently been accused of being a Hamas front. “The target audience,” says the Times, “is not really Jewish voters in Philadelphia and its suburbs—they tend to be a reliable Democratic constituency and an important source of campaign donations. Rather, the ad is aimed more at mobilizing the right and evangelicals in support of Mr. Sestak’s Republican opponent, former Representative Pat Toomey.”

J Street responded by depicting Sestak’s repeated insistences of support for the Jewish state. “It does not dwell on the finer points of the attack but goes big picture,” the Times notes, “casting Mr. Sestak as a defender of Israel. By featuring President Obama, the ad suggests that J Street, anyway, believes that the link will be a plus for Mr. Sestak in November, or at least for its cause.” (more…)

Collaborator Remembers Pekar

Seibel describes an unlikely optimist

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Seibel’s drawing of her first meeting with Pekar.(Arts Beat)

Perhaps the final work in comic-book writer Harvey Pekar’s oeuvre that appeared while he was still alive—the last strip to be, if I may, published humously—was (as I noted) his collaboration with Tara Seibel in the Jewish Review of Books.

Today, Seibel opens up about her strip-writing partner: ““He could be sitting there worried,” she recalls, “all rumpled up over $500 and has it come in yet, versus having cancer. I was really surprised at how optimistic he was.”

Their final collaboration—and perhaps Pekar’s final piece of work—will be published in the catalog for “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics By Jewish Women,” an exhibition at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum opening October 1.

Some Last Bits of Splendor with Harvey Pekar [Arts Beat]
Related: Gut Shabbes [JRB]
Spendor [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Harvey Pekar Dies

Today on Tablet

They’re young, they’re Jewish, they’re anti-Zionist, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marissa Brostoff reports on the predicament of young Jewish non- or anti-Zionists: Too left-wing for most Jewish groups, and too overtly Jewish—even religious—for the rest of the left. Toby Perl Freilich profiles an historian who has wandered outside the scholarly boundary that all but discounts survivor testimony in researching the Holocaust. And The Scroll hopes you enjoyed the Top Chef round-up, and will enjoy the rest of today’s stuff.

Of Tragedy and Testicles

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’

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This week’s guest judge is Miami-based Michelle Bernstein, who, according to her Website, is “of Jewish and Latin descent” (much like Miami). But already we see that this guest judge is not like any other guest judge: “Michelle and I are both chefs in Miami and there’s a bit of a rivalry between the two of us,” says Andrea, one of the not-Jewish (but still perfectly likable!) cheftestants. “So I guess I’m probably not comfortable with her judging me.” Are you sure that’s the source of the rivalry? Are sure it’s not that you look exactly alike?

The Quickfire Challenge involves cooking with odd proteins. Testicles are funny! (And they look like lima beans, at least duck ones do.) The cheftestants draw knives to determine picking order, and the two Jewish cheftestants get to select, respectively, first and last. “This is an easy choice for me, I’ll take the foie gras,” says Alex Reznik. “This one’s right up my alley,” he adds. Alex, you see, has special access to the joys of foie gras, despite it being literally the favorite substance of literally every foodie ever. Still, give him credit for picking something that, though it probably isn’t in this particular instance, at least could potentially be kosher. Usually he goes straight for the trayf.

Amanda Baumgarten, picking last, is left with emu egg, presumably because the only people who like emus are designers of crossword puzzles, who tend to find those two concentrated vowels quite helpful. “I’ve never cooked with emu eggs before,” Amanda says. “I’m having a little pity party for myself in my head.” (more…)

Daybreak: Shot at Sunrise

Plus a polarizing ‘rape,’ and more in the news

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• Israeli forces shot to death an unarmed Palestinian man on the edge of a West Bank settlement. [NYT]

• An Arab man was convicted of rape by deception and sentenced to 18 months in prison after having consensual sex with a Jewish Israeli woman while pretending he was Jewish. [Guardian]

• Israeli diplomats are working friendly diplomats to get them to persuade Lebanon and Syria to halt the latest Gaza-bound flotilla, which Lebanon appears to be behind and which is set to sail from Tripoli later this week. [Haaretz]

• Newt Gingrich, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, came out strongly against the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. [AP/Google]

• In an op-ed, Alan Dershowitz accuses J Street of misrepresenting his Mideast positions by lumping him in with Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. [JTA]

• Mel Gibson’s latest verbal incident has turned off his European fans—which were the only ones he had left! [NYT]

Sundown: A More Spacious Museum

Plus Turkey’s new sailing coach, and more in the news

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• The revamped Israel Museum in Jerusalem, opening Monday, has “far fewer objects on display, with twice the space to view them.” [NYT]

• Two Gazans were killed in Israeli shelling. [JTA]

• Rodger Kamenetz, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming Burnt Books, explores the current dispute over Kafka’s papers. [HuffPo]

• A Hasidic man who owns a Boro Park record store has meticulously restored the old recordings of the long-dead cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, a.k.a. “the Jewish Caruso.” [NYT]

• In the place of Journolist, the recently defunct left-leaning private listserv, is a new group called Cabalist. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Headline of the day: “Israeli Coaches Turkish National Sailing Team.” [Ynet]

Beach!


Beach Boys – Wouldn't It Be Nice (1966)
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Come Celebrate Rachel Shukert With Us

Clear your schedule next Tuesday

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Attention, readers within a hop, skip, and a jump—or even a train ride—of New York City: On Tuesday, July 27, Tablet Magazine is co-sponsoring a reading slash party for contributing editor Rachel Shukert’s new memoir, Everything Is Going to Be Great .

The evening will commence with a reading at McNally Jackson Books in SoHo at 7 pm, and will be followed by drinks at nearby bar Sweet & Vicious from 8 to 10.

Should be a fun night! Send your RSVPs to rsvp@tabletmag.com.

Full invitation after the jump.

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Charged Rabbi Faces New Accusations

Allegedly directed boys into a mikvah

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Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt.(Boston Globe)

Three men had accused Orthodox Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt of molesting them in the 1970 at the Boston-area Maimonides School, where he taught sixth grade, and he now faces indecent sexual assault and battery charges (to which he has pleaded not guilty); he had been similarly accused (and pleaded no contest to charges) by students whom he taught in the Philadelphia area. In a new twist, though, court records show (via Heeb) that on another occasion, in the course of a field trip to Montreal, Levitt allegedly directed students to enter a mikvah, naked.

In light of the Lieb Tropper scandal, which involved the alleged trading of sexual favors for conversion, the mikvah angle is viscerally troubling.

Roadblocks to reporting cases of rabbinical sexual abuse, the article reports,

include traditional Jewish rules, adhered to in some pockets of the Orthodox world, such as a prohibition against “chillul Hashem,’’ bringing shame on God’s name, and against “mesirah,’’ informing on fellow believers to secular authorities. …

the use of chillul Hashem and mesirah as reasons to avoid reporting sexual abuse by rabbis “is a misapplication of those laws’’ [said Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University], an opinion underscored by the Rabbinical Council of America in a resolution approved at its convention earlier this year.

Sex-Abuse Case Against Rabbi Raises Larger Issues [Boston Globe]

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