Sundown: Midterms Won’t Affect Peace Plans

Plus remembering Rabin, and more

President Obama yesterday.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• President Obama’s commitment to restarting Mideast peace talks is “unwavering” in the face of huge Democratic losses in the midterm elections, said a senior adviser. [JTA]

• Speaking at a memorial service for Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated 15 years ago, President Clinton said he imagined the late prime minister would have approved of his daughter marrying a Jewish guy. [JTA]

Echoing our very own Liel Leibovitz, Shmuel Rosner says Rabin should be remembered with an exceedingly light touch. [Slate]

• A J Street spokesperson lashed out at a former AIPAC spokesperson who trashed J
Street through a Commentary blogger. Shtetl fight! [Washington Jewish Week]

• Sarah Glidden talks about her new graphic novel, How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less. [Comics Alliance]

• The first female rabbi was ordained in Germany since … well, you know. [BBC]

Legendary Cincinnati Reds and Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson died today at 76. Below: Him being baseball.

Israel Snubs UK Over War Crimes Law

But in other news, James Bond may go to Tel Aviv

Hague in the Holy Land today.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

British Foreign Secretary William Hague is having an awkward time on his first trip to Israel. Only a few days after Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor canceled a London trip for fear of arrest, Israeli officials confirmed that they would “postpone” an annual high level British-Israeli military dialogue planned for later this month to avoid falling afoul of the U.K.’s “universal jurisdiction” law.

Oh snap! While Israel is denying that the cancellation is intended to send a message, it doesn’t seem like many are buying it. The dis reflects Israel’s disappointment that the law has not changed, as British politicians have promised it would be, ever since an arrest warrant was issued for opposition leader Tzipi Livni last December. The English papers, on the other hand, were not amused by the snub. The Daily Mail suggested it was “an ambush” and the Financial Times called the matter an “embarrassing spat” which is “irritating British officials.” (more…)

Jerry Bock, of ‘Fiddler,’ Dies at 81

Composer passes mere days after writer


Not two weeks ago, Joseph Stein, who wrote the book of Fiddler on the Roof, died at 98. Yesterday brought news that Jerry Bock, the composer of Fiddler on the Roof, died at 81. (Fiddler lyricist and frequent Bock collaborator Sheldon Harnick is alive and—we hope!!—well.) This is all made yet more eerie by the fact that Fyvush Finkel discussed Fiddler on this week’s Vox Tablet podcast. (Also, last year, executive editor Jesse Oxfeld interviewed Chaim Topol, the most prolific Tevye.)

What’s your favorite song from Fiddler? This is probably mine.

Jerry Bock, Composer of ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ Dies at 81 [NYT]
Related: A Milkman in Winter [Tablet Magazine]
A Serious Mensch [Tablet Magazine]

Alan Furst, Hellenophile

Spy novelist talks Greece at LES shul

Alan Furst.(

“How could I say no to signing books at a Greek Jewish synagogue in the Lower East Side?” asked Alan Furst, Tablet Magazine contributor and best-selling author of spy novels such as Spies of the Balkans. It was last Thursday at Kehila Kedosha Janina, an 83-year-old synagogue on Broome Street near Allen. The entrance to the New York City landmark sported two flags: Old Glory and the proud blue-white of Greece. That’s because Kehila Kedosha Janina was founded in 1927 by Romaniotes, Jews who according to legend shipwrecked on the Grecian coast after the destruction of the Second Temple. The congregation has maintained close ties to the old country since its founding, and now doubles as a museum devoted to Greek Jewry.

Museum director Marcia Haddad Ikonomopolouos invited Furst to speak because she was impressed by “the picture he painted of Salonika at the time.” Furst, who is known for his fastidious grasp of historical details, demurred, “You can’t get it wrong when you write about historical facts. The idea of getting it wrong is unthinkable.” (more…)

What The Midterms Mean for the Jews

A quick chat with pollster Douglas Schoen


Douglas Schoen is a Democratic pollster whose latest book, co-written with Scott Rasmussen (of the eponymous polling outfit), is Mad As Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System. I called him up to get his thoughts on Tuesday’s results.

Which races did you work on, and were you pleased with the outcomes?
The only race I worked on was Andrew Cuomo’s [for governor of New York]. I was pleased with how we did. I was not particularly pleased with how the election turned out. It was a repudiation of Democratic policies and politics.

78 percent of Jews voted for President Obama in 2008; only 66 percent voted for Democrats yesterday. How does this bode for Obama’s prospect of receiving a similar level of Jewish support in 2012 as he did last time?
Elections are not only referenda on incumbents, they’re choices—particularly presidential elections. It isn’t clear what or who the Republican alternative nominee and policy will be and what Obama will say or do. My biggest and most obvious comment is I think it’s all a work in progress, uncertain.

Those statistics may suggest the beginnings of movement away from Obama. On the other hand, if Jews voted 66 percent, that’s still 20 points more Democratic than the rest of the country. That’s slippage, but compared to the national movement, it may well be less pronounced.

I think the Jewish community is concerned about Obama, I think there’s a lot of doubt. But I think what we’ve seen at the elite level, where there has been a move away from him, is not necessarily fully reflected in mass public opinion at this point. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Literally following your dreams, ‘Bonanza,’ and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Shalom Auslander considers the promise—and peril— of taking your artistic cues from your dreams. Ruth Ellen Gruber traces how the late creator of Bonanza was inspired by his own immigrant history to make a TV Western. The Scroll always follows its dreams.

Israel, A Liberal’s Paradise

On pot and gays, the left rules

Gili Shem Tov (R) and her dancing partner rehearse.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Are you a liberal upset over Tuesday’s results? Then have we got a country for you!

Starting next week, non-Jewish or -affiliated same-sex couples will be able to enter into civil unions. The bill’s sponsor wants to extend the law to all Israelis, including Jews; incredibly, the sponsor is none other than Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem, notorious for sponsoring the heinous conversion bill. Even a blind squirrel catches an occasional nut, eh?

On top of that, an Israeli Health Ministry committee has made a new recommendation concerning medicinal marijuana. Not that it should be legalized—it already is legalized, natch—but that the country’s universal health care should pay for it.

And on the social front, two Israeli women became the first same-sex duo to compete together in a version of Dancing With The Stars. The “star” in this case was sportscaster Gili Shem Tov, a sportscaster who did the cha-cha. Shem Tov, a lesbian, said “it felt natural.” (Oh, and to answer your next question: They take turns leading.)

Knesset Committee Paves Way for Civil Unions [JTA]
Government May Cover Cost of Medicinal Marijuana [Haaretz]
Israel: New Step for Dance Contest [NYT]

Daybreak: Turning the Peace Machine Back On

Plus Iran called out on meddling, and more in the news

President Abbas yesterday.(Adam Jan/AFP/Getty Images)

• With the midterms over, efforts have begun to restart peace talks. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat is in Washington; Prime Minister Netanyahu heads to New Orleans, for the Jewish Federations General Assembly, and then to New York. [Laura Rozen]

• Former President Clinton marks the anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s death with a call for peace. [NYT]

• Israeli killed a Gaza militant planning an attack in the Sinai Peninsula. [LAT]

• In an Arabic-language paper, President Abbas blamed Iran for trying to sabotage peace, and said he may request an imposed American draft plan. [Haaretz]

• Opposition Kadima members and Netanyahu went at it in debate. [JPost]

• Lebanon’s reputation as a beacon of free speech has been threatened by various Internet restrictions. [NYT]

Sundown: Rubio Heads to the Holy Land

Plus half-observance, and more


• Marco Rubio, you’ve just won Florida’s open Senate seat and made yourself arguably the most prominent active Tea Party politician. What are you going to do now? “I’m going to Israel!” [Ynet/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A new, years-in-the-making report argues that the German Foreign Ministry—generally thought of as among the less complicit government departments—helped ferry ex-Nazis out of the country or employ them during and after World War II. [The Independent]

• Israel will cease to cooperate with UNESCO until the U.N. group reverses its decision removing the Cave of the Patriarchs from the list of Israeli national sites. [JPost]

• “Half-shabbos”: The kids are all about it these days. [Bloghead]

• If you’re in New York City tonight, Professor Jonathan Sarna is giving a talk about Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews—which just so happens to be the subject of his forthcoming Nextbook Press book. [NYPL]

• An Orthodox man explains how he drew away from his prior beliefs about homosexuality as he related to his lesbian daughter. [NJ Jewish Standard via JustASC]

They’ve gone and made a movie about a famous British joke about one “Mrs. Cohen.” The joke, which you’ll catch in the course of the trailer, isn’t bad:

Three of Four Openly Gay Reps. Are Jews

Plus Schumer won’t be leader, Feingold won’t be president

Rep.-elect David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island).(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

In an report that AIPAC was pleased with yesterday’s results (it helps when, as an Israeli Embassy spokesperson accurately put it, “Support for Israel at the Congress is strong and bipartisan”), Haaretz notes that Rep.-elect David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) “becomes the fourth openly gay member of Congress—and third Jewish gay member of Congress.” It’s true! The four openly gay congresspersons (there are no openly gay senators) will be Cicilline (currently the mayor of Providence); Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts); Jared Polis (D-Colorado); and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin). Baldwin is the only Gentile (and only lesbian) among them.

In other midterm wrap-up news, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) put a quick death to talk of a challenge to re-elected Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada)’s leadership position; on a conference call, third-ranked Schumer and second-ranked Sen. Dick Durbin (Illinois) literally answered simultaneously, “Absolutely!” when asked if Reid would remain Majority Leader. And defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), known for being a maverick of the left (he was famously the only senator to vote against the Patriot Act in 2001), put an equally quick death to talk that he would consider a primary challenge to President Obama. Well, nearly as quick: A spokesperson said, “I would chalk up any Beltway chatter about Russ running against President Obama as simply Washington getting wee-wee’d up on the first day of a new election cycle that is two years away.” If the wee-wee’ing continues, we will keep you posted.

U.S. Midterms: AIPAC Lauds Re-Election of Pro-Israel Stalwarts [Haaretz]
Schumer Aide: Challenge Talk ‘Made Up’ [Ben Smith]
Feingold Won’t Challenge Obama in ’12 [Ben Smith]

J Street’s Silent Majority

Survey emphasizes ‘majority,’ results emphasize ‘silent’

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania), who narrowly lost his Senate race.(William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

BREAKING: Last night, a majority of American Jews voted for Democrats. Shocked? Of course not: Everyone (even those who hate it) knows that Jews are among the most steadfast Democratic partisans around. But, according to a national survey of Jewish voters released this morning by the left-leaning Israel lobby J Street (which I profiled last week), conducted by Democratic pollster Jim Gerstein (whom I have also profiled), far fewer Jews voted for various Democrats this year than voted for President Barack Obama in 2008—only 66 percent, to be precise, down from about 78 percent. Given the national outpouring of anti-incumbent (and anti-Democratic) feeling this year, this disparity is hardly surprising—and, given that only 21 percent of respondents indicated a favorable feeling toward the Republican Party, it is hardly indicative of a deep realignment in the American Jewish electorate. (Although 19 percent of polled American Jews looked favorably on the Tea Party, and 16 percent reported warm feelings towards Sarah Palin.)

So, how did J Street do? Well, all three of the Senate candidates it endorsed—all of whom went into Tuesday with the odds against them—lost, though Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania) ran a tighter race than expected. On the House side, where J Street endorsed 58 candidates (all Democrats), 11 lost, all in races projected to be tight. (more…)

Tel Aviv Finally Plays Like a Champion

Draws Schalke 0-0, disqualifying from elimination stages

From the match (Hapoel in red).(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

The elementary school outside Tel Aviv I attended was situated on the fault line between two dramatically divergent neighborhoods. To the south lay Herzliya Pituach, the affluent seaside community home to many of Israel’s wealthiest families. To the north was Nof Yam, a modest neighborhood built by the sons and daughters of the labor movement, a spacious but unassuming colony of small houses and sensible backyards. Walking around the school yard, you would’ve been hard pressed to tell which child came from which side of the socioeconomic divide; Israel in the 1980s still clung to whatever remained of its egalitarian dreams. One way to know for sure, however, was to observe each child’s attitude to his or her favorite soccer team.

The kids from Nof Yam, true to their ideological roots, tended to root for Hapoel Tel Aviv, the red-shirted flagship team of the historical left-wing labor movement. The kids from Pituach went for Maccabi Tel Aviv, the first football club in pre-state Palestine and the poster boys for professional, moneyed sports. The kids from Nof Yam would say things like “winning isn’t everything” and “fair play is great play.” The kids from Pituach would say things like “winning is the only thing” and “by any means necessary.” (more…)

Jews Who Booze

Match a drink to a novelist

Bring out the vodka!(Wikipedia)

HTMLGIANT comes up with various cocktails to match particular novelists—Franzen’s Blurry Gin n’ Tonic involves gin, tonic, a lime twist, and the removal of your glasses; Sartre’s Absent Absinthe entails a half-empty absinthe glass, a sugar cube, and leaving the table, never to return. Here are some more concoctions:

• The Shteyngart Shandy: Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout and lemon seltzah (thanks to Bambi Shlomovich on that one).

• HTMLGIANT provides the recipe for Roth’s Gin n’ Jews (gin, orange juice, and grapefruit juice), but executive editor Jesse Oxfeld notes that his cocktail would contain liver, crushed.

• Here are Dan Klein’s “Instructions” for the Guri-tonic War: Gin, tonic and penny served in a balloon. Understand you hold a drink.

• And Dan’s Dreyfus Affair: Equal parts Champagne, Bordeux, Chartreuse, Jewish parents. Shake drink while accusing it of treachery. Let sit locked in cabinet for a decade. Unlock and serve with an olive.

• The Icy Bashevis Singer has cold slivovitz and pickled beets.

• The Eggnog Ferber is imbibed on Hanukkah, not Christmas.

• The Jonathan Saffron Foer is a Sephardic spirit, a sangria featuring Spanish wine and enticing spices.

You know what the comments are for!

Bennet Wins Senate Seat in Close Contest

Does this make him the 12th Jewish senator?

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado).(Matt McClain/Getty Images)

The Denver Post has called the Colorado Senate race for incumbent Michael Bennet (D), and moreover seems to imply that a recount will not be in the offing: One would be required were the margin less than one-half of one percent, or 3900 votes; but, as of writing, Bennet leads by 7000 with 30,000 votes remaining in Boulder County, which covers the state university and was won 72-26 by President Obama. So Bennet is the 52nd Democratic senator and the 12th Jewish one in the 112th Congress.

… Or does he? (more…)

Today on Tablet

Re-pronouncing them husband and wife, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Boris Fishman reflects on officiating at his parents’ wedding-vow renewal. Contributing editor Joshua Cohen praises the legendary Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s new translation of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. The Scroll would remind you that, no matter what you thought of last night’s results, this too shall pass.

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