How Jews Will Do Next Tuesday

Bennet and Sestak may come from behind to win

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado) campaigns earlier this month.(John Moore/Getty Images)

Are you exhausted yet? Are you registered yet? Simchat Democracy, on which we celebrate the end of a grueling election cycle and the dawn of a new one the very next day, is only one week away.

Two weeks ago, I predicted (with Nate Silver’s indispensable aid) that of the ten Jewish Senate races, the Tribe would hold onto seats in New York, California, and Oregon while gaining a seat in Connecticut, losing two in Wisconsin and Colorado, and falling short in Arizona, New Hampshire, and Ohio. The Pennsylvania seat, which currently belongs to Democrat Arlen Specter, is already lost. But two weeks is forever in politics, and the races in Colorado and Pennsylvania (which remains Jewish-related) have become competitive. (more…)

Synod, Cardinal Question Jewish Claims

To Israel, mainly, but also to pretty much everything

Pope Benedict XVI presides over the close of the Middle East Synod on Sunday.(Fillipo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images)

The Catholic Church’s Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, which concluded Sunday, was not expected to produce something that Israel would cheer. And its official “Message,” reports John J. Allen, Jr., does “refer to the damaging consequences of Israeli ‘occupation,’ as well as the security wall, military checkpoints, political prisoners, and efforts to alter the demographic balance of Jerusalem.” However, it also “acknowledges the ‘suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live,’” condemns anti-Semitism, and backs a two-state solution.

But there is one big problem. In reference to relations with Jews, the Message reads: “Recourse to theological and Biblical positions which use the Word of God to wrongly justify injustices is not acceptable.” And there is a bigger problem: Speaking at a press conference, Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros—who is actually based in Newton, Massachusetts (so you would think he would have some sense of relations with Jews)—commented on that passage, saying, “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people—all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.” (more…)

Today on Tablet

Obama’s Jewish maybe-problem, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Pejman Yousefzadeh writes as a Jewish Hyde-Park-in-the-wool Chicagoan when he questions whether President Obama will be able to hold onto a substantial majority of the American Jewish vote come November 2012. Adam Kirsch reviews an exhibit at Yeshiva University of films documenting early-20th-century Jewish-American life along with a new book, edited by Nextbook Press author Ruth Wisse, containing two novellas from the Poland-born New York Jewish author Jacob Glatstein. The Scroll recognizes Yousefzadeh’s bona fides, yet asks, with Jed Bartlet, “What is it with people from Chicago that they’re so happy to have been born there? I meet so many people who can’t wait to tell me they’re from Chicago, and when I meet them, they’re living anywhere but Chicago.”

Dick Miles, Top Ping-Pong Player, Dies

Jewish-American had a mean, mean forehand

Dick Miles watching the 2000 hardbat championships.(John Oros/

Legendary American ping-pong player Dick Miles passed away earlier this month at 85. Miles appeared in Man Booker winner Harold Jacobson’s profile of his longtime rival Marty Reisman (Miles was Jewish, as Reisman is), which Tablet Magazine published earlier this month. Miles won more men’s U.S. table tennis championships than anyone else.

I called up Reisman to get his take on his longtime friend and rival. “He was as good as the best and unbeatable when in top form,” he said. “The foundation of his game was an impenetrable, close-to-the-table defense, which imparted tremendous back-spin to the ball, taking the steam out of every aggressive player he faced with this never-before-seen paralyzing chop on both wings. He combined it with a crushing forehand attack delivered into the vulnerable gut of his opponent.”

Reisman continued: “His forehand drive was a stroke of beauty with deadly effectiveness, a circular motion requiring such intricate timing that he had lost it by the time he was 25. I saw him make Richard Bergmann, a four-time world champion, break down and cry after the beating Miles gave him in 1949 before 10,000 spectators in Wembley Stadium.” (more…)

Daybreak: Iran Revs Up Reactor

Plus U.N. hints at unilateral state backing, and more in the news

When the reactor was first loaded, in August.(IIPA via Getty Images)

• Iran re-started loading its nuclear reactor with fuel, after a delay presumed to have been caused by Stuxnet; it should start producing electricity in the next few months. [WP]

• The U.N. Mideast negotiator told Prime Minister Fayyad that the body would support a Palestinian declaration of statehood over the next year. [JPost]

• Rep. Nita Lowey (D-New York) fired back at minority whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) for saying the GOP would separate aid to Israel from the foreign operations bill, ostensibly to protect it from cuts. [Laura Rozen]

• Roger Cohen blames the West for provoking Turkey’s eastward turn. [NYT]

• Jonathan Franzen visits the White House, and Ben Smith thinks the inspiration for one of Freedom’s main characters, the former rocker Richard Katz, is newly Tea-drinking former Velvet Underground drummer Mo Tucker. (Although one pictures Katz in a Lou Reed-type leather jacket.) [Ben Smith]

• Joseph Stein, who wrote the book to a musical you may have seen called Fiddler on the Roof, died at 98. [NYT]

Sundown: Turkey Crowds Out Israel

Plus Russian Jews skipping town, a Russian Jew returns, and more

Shteyngart in Moscow.(NYT)

• Turkey is conditioning missile-defense cooperation with the United States on a ban on sharing related intelligence with Israel. [Laura Rozen]

• The Haaretz journalist accused of helping Anat Kam, the reporter accused of espionage, returned to Israel for questioning and a possible indictment. [Ynet]

• Five shells were launched from Gaza, two falling inside Israeli territory. No one was injured. [JTA]

• A new Russian census will likely show a decline in the Jewish population of at least 25 percent over the past decade. [JTA]

• “The thing about Russia is that, for a satirist, it’s almost too easy,” says contributing editor Gary Shteyngart, on book tour there. [NYT]

La Patti gets the Sunday Styles treatment. God help us. [NYT]

The model for the memorable Bronx judge in Tom Wolfe’s novel Bonfire of the Vanities died at 88. Both Burton B. Roberts (the real-life judge) and Myron Kovitsky (Wolfe’s judge) were Jewish, but in the movie version, the judge is black, because when you can get Morgan Freeman …

NYT Praises Subway Artist

Eric Molinsky is a frequent Tablet Magazine contributor

A new Molinksy portrait.(Eric Molinsky)

If the pictures accompanying the Sunday New York Times profile of artist Eric Molinsky, who discreetly draws portraits of subway riders on his iPhone, looked familiar to you, it is probably because you have seen lots of Molinsky’s work on Tablet Magazine, including in the Vox Tablet previews every Friday. He has also produced several Vox Tablet podcasts (like this one).

The video accompanying the article is particularly recommended.

An iPhone Artist Haunts the Subways [City Room]

ASCAP To Honor ‘A Fine Romance’

Lehman’s book tells of ‘Jewish songwriters, American songs’


Congratulations to David Lehman, who, we are told, will be given a 2010 Deems Taylor Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for his Nextbook Press book on Jewish influence over American songtunes, A Fine Romance.

In an email, Lehman reported, “‘I’ve got a feeling you’re fooling,’ I said when the guy from ASCAP called. I was sure he was mouthing little white lies. But True Blue Lou was on the level. My heart stood still, and now I’m sitting on top of the world, which I’ve got on a string.”

A Fine Romance [Nextbook Press]

How Bloomberg Could Make Palin President

No one takes a run more seriously than the White House

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

Though the man himself has ruled it out, New York explores the implications of a Michael Bloomberg candidacy, whose likelihood “is just as great as, if not greater than, it was when he considered taking the plunge in 2008.” If the fiscally conservative, socially liberal Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent three-term mayor of New York City makes himself the first major Jewish presidential candidate, he could siphon votes from President Obama and hand the election to the Republican nominee, even (perhaps especially) if said nominee is a certain former Alaska governor. “The White House has made a gaudy show of sucking up to the mayor,” reports John Heilemann, “to keep him on the sidelines in 2012, where he and his billions would pose no danger of redrawing the electoral map in unpredictable and perilous ways.” (more…)

The Rangers Win the Pennant!

Kinsler helps Texas to first World Series

Ian Kinsler knocks in his ninth run of the postseason Friday night.(Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Though we had to abandon our first Major League playoff team, the Tampa Bay Rays, you’ll recall we eagerly adopted their conquerors, the Texas Rangers and their hot-hitting Jewish second baseman, Ian Kinsler. And this time, we were not let down: The Rangers defeated the New York Yankees in a six-game series that was, if anything, less close than it appeared—after all, to get the job done, Texas required neither its final home game nor the second start of its ace, Cliff Lee, who in eight career postseason starts has now gone 7-0 with a 1.26 ERA, 67 strikeouts, and seven walks. And Kinsler! Through the ten playoff games, he is hitting .342 with three home runs and nine RBI, the final of which drove in a crucial insurance run in game six.

In the National League, the Giants won the pennant (the Giants won the pennant); Game 1 is Wednesday night in San Francisco (Lee will face Giants ace Tim Lincecum, a match-up you won’t want to miss). The Giants, of course, date back to upper Manhattan, where they were based when they won their previous championship with the aid of a pretty good centerfielder. Texas, on the other hand, had gone 50 years as a franchise (it began as the second iteration of the Washington Senators) without a single World Series appearance, much less victory. The Giants are likeable, but there can be only one winner, and Tablet Magazine can have only one team. Go Rangers!

Earlier: So Much For Our Team
The MLB Playoffs Kick Off

Today on Tablet

Viva Shelley Berkley, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Steve Friess reports from Las Vegas, from which he profiles the flamboyant—and massively pro-Israel—congresswoman, Shelley Berkley. The Vox Tablet podcast explores what will become of Shanghai’s recently restored Ohel Rachel synagogue after the Expo 2010 shutters at the end of the month. The upcoming dueling D.C. rallies prompt parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall to ask: Is it more important for parents to Restore Sanity or Keep Fear Alive? Josh Lambert offers his weekly round-up of Jewish books of note. And The Scroll revs itself up. Vroom!

Israel Crops Up in Chicago Suburb Race

But issue’s real resonance may appear in ’12

Joel Pollak and Rep. Jan Schakowsky.(Andrew A. Nelles/Chicago News Cooperative/NYT)

Both the Emergency Committee for Israel and J Street appeared to make the Pennsylvania Senate race between Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak their prime proxy war when it came to translating President Obama’s Mideast policy into the electoral language of the midterms. But that race (which Nate Silver projects Toomey to win narrowly) has largely turned on other issues, and instead the midterm race in which Israel looks to play the biggest role is that between Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), who has represented Chicago’s northern suburbs (including a significant Jewish population) for over a decade, and Republican Joel Pollak, an Orthodox Jew who first popped on our radar when he became the first Republican ever to be endorsed by influential Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz. (more…)

Daybreak: Bibi’s ‘Jewish’ Tactic Under Scrutiny

Plus the death of a ‘lexical supermaven,’ and more in the news

Netanyahu presiding over his weekly cabinet meeting yesterday.(Sebastian Scheiner - Pool/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu’s demand that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state is being questioned as a tactic on the Israeli side. [NYT]

• “Halt To Palestinian Peace Talks Could Become Permanent.” We’ve noticed! [WP]

• A former nuclear inspector reports that Syria should be under a higher level of inspection and that many of Iran’s centrifuges are not working to full capacity. [Haaretz]

• Iran is sidestepping many international sanctions with Chinese help. [LAT]

• Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia)—due to become House Majority Leader if (when?) the Republicans take over the lower chamber—proposed separating Israeli aid from the foreign budget so that the budget could be opposed without threatening Israeli funds. [JTA]

• Sol Steinmetz, an etymologist whom William Safire once dubbed a “lexical supermaven,” died at 80. He edited an edition of Webster’s Dictionary, and his speciality was Yiddish; he was an ordained rabbi. [NYT]

Sundown: Bibi’s Preferred Donors

Plus a stealth subway artist and more.


• Yediot Ahronoth reports that 98 percent of Netanyahu’s 2007 campaign contributions came from abroad.

• Rabbi Shmuley Boteach calls homophobia an abomination. (That’s also written somewhere in Leviticus. I wish.) [The Huffington Post]

• And speaking of same-sex pairings, the Israeli version of Dancing with the Stars will feature a female couple. [Digital Spy and The Gloss]

• The newest Text/Context, which is published in a partnership by the Jewish Week and Nextbook Inc., has been released.[Text/Context]

• Eric Molinsky, a frequent contributor to Tablet Magazine, whose illustrations have accompanied several podcasts, is featured in this weekend’s NYT Metropolitan section “Subway Issue” for sketching fellow commuters on his iPhone. [NYT]

• New Yorker Hye Wolf’s quest to keep Yiddish alive. [BBC]

In honor of the gymnastics competition at this week’s World Championships in Rotterdam, Holland, here is Ekaterina Lobaznyuk’s floor routine at the 2000 Olympic Games, which she performed to an old Jewish favorite, Hava Nagilah. (Warning: Don’t try this at your next wedding or bar mitzvah. Not that you’d want to.)

The Dream Doctor Is In

Ever wonder what your dreams are trying to tell you?

(Ravi Joshi/Tablet Magazine)

Jews have been in the dream business ever since Genesis.

When Nextbook Press author Rodger Kamenetz isn’t writing books, he works as a dream therapist. And in writing Burnt Books, his newly published dual biography of Franz Kafka and Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav, he found two Jewish figures who were also fascinated by dreams. As anyone who has read The Metamorphosis or The Trial could tell, Kafka frequently immersed himself in “dreamlike states” when he wrote. Rabbi Nachman also based several of his teachings on dreams. Both drew on the Jewish tradition of dreaming and dream interpretation, rooted in what Kamenetz calls, in The History of Last Night’s Dream, “the primordial dream book in the West, the book of Genesis.”

Now it is time to bring that tradition to the present. Send in your dreams, and Kamenetz will respond with his interpretation. (more…)

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