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Today on Tablet

Viva Shelley Berkley, and more

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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

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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

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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.

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

• 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?

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(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…)

How Not To Remember Rabin

On the 15th anniversary of PM’s assassination

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Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.(Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

The most reviled politician in Israel this week—a fine distinction, that—was a young, intelligent, and accomplished member of Knesset for the Labor Party, Einat Wilf. Speaking on the eve of the 15th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination, Wilf made the following controversial assertion: By idolizing Rabin as a martyr, she argued, the Labor Party—his party—was focusing on the despair that followed the slain leader’s assassination rather than on the hope his brief tenure engendered. Therefore, Wilf suggested, it was high time to take down Rabin’s gold-framed portrait from the party’s Knesset meeting room, as well as cancel the rally held each year in the Tel Aviv square where Rabin was shot. The condemnations were quick, and they came from all directions. On left and right, Israel’s political class negated Wilf’s proposal as heretical; take down the portrait, pundits argued, cancel the rally, and two or three generations down the line, Rabin’s legacy will be forgotten. (more…)

The Re-Opening of a Chinese Synagogue

Your Vox Tablet preview

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(Eric Molinsky)

After being shuttered for over half a century (with a few exceptions), the monumental Ohel Rachel Synagogue in Shanghai was finally permitted to open its doors for Shabbat services during China’s world’s fair. It took some doing, as Chabad Rabbi Shalom Greenberg, who heads the Shanghai Jewish Center, can attest:

Now, following six months and nearly 70 million visitors, the Expo is entering its final week, after which Shanghai will return to normal. But what will happen to Ohel Rachel? Find out Monday on Vox Tablet.

My Magazine, Right or Left

Does Tablet Magazine have a bias?

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A couple months ago, Philip Weiss, of the left-wing, semi-eponymous Mondoweiss, accused Tablet Magazine of being “mobbed up with neocons.” Earlier this week, JonathanTobin, of the unabashedly neoconservative Commentary, said that Tablet Magazine’s “editorial choices skew heavily toward liberal pieties.”

Well, they can’t both be right!

Blank Tablet: Distorted Defense of Boycott Discredits Publication [Commentary Online]
What Did You Do in the Loyalty Oath War? [The Scroll]
‘Tablet’ Is Mobbed Up With Neocons [Mondoweiss]
Related: Imaginative Assault [Tablet Magazine]
All in the Family [Nextbook.com]

Grover the Jew

Get ready for a new ‘Shalom Sesame’

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(Shalom Sesame and shalomsesame.org)

The road to Shalom Sesame has been rocky. The first Israeli version of Sesame Street ran in 1983. Who can forget the joint, 1998 Israeli-Palestinian Rechov Sumsum/Shara’a Simsim, which was designed to preach coexistence? Behind the scenes, the production devolved into heated arguments over the depictions of kaffiyehs and kippot, Palestinian and Israeli flags. According to Khalil Abu Arafeh, the head writer for the Palestinian show, “the issue of hummus and falafel was very heated,” since both sides considered these items “theirs.” Ultimately, the show split into two separate productions. And the American-Israeli co-production of Shalom Sumsum (recorded in 1986 and 1990) had a much smoother ride. It featured pretty music from Yitzhak Perlman and a guest appearance by Sarah Jessica Parker; it has sold more than a million copies on video and DVD.

Now there is a new version, a 12-part series already on sale (there will be launch parties at various JCCs on December 5). (more…)

Today on Tablet

The funniest Yiddish primer you’ll ever read, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Rick Meyerowitz digs up Golden Age National Lampoon‘s deployment of Yiddish in the service of funny. Liel Leibovitz’s Torah column compares an attack against Arabs in East Jerusalem with Abraham’s visit to Sodom. The Scroll was in Sodom one time in ’82 or ’830, doesn’t remember much more.

‘The Peace Process’

Your weekly dose of Israelispeak

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(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use language: Behind the literal meaning of the Hebrew words, 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.

For English speakers, the term “political process” denotes just about anything involving governmental decision-making. But the Hebrew equivalent of the term—“tahalich medini” (or, to use the definite article, “hatahalich hamedini”)—is a euphemism for a specific political process: The peace process.

As in the recent Hebrew headline “Interior Minister: Palestinians Incapable of Moving Political Process Forward,” tahalich medini generally refers to the intermittent attempts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though it can also refer to talks with other Arab neighbors, like Syria. While the dictionary definition of medini is “political,” in practice it often means diplomacy or international relations, which helps explain why tahalich medini has come to refer to the peace process. (more…)

Daybreak: After Freeze, Building Begins

Plus Corrie driver testifies, and more in the news

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Palestinian workers building Jewish settlements outside Hebron.(Tara Todras-Whitehill/Associated Press/NYT)

• The freeze is off, and the new settlement units are going up by the hundreds. [NYT]

• The bulldozer driver who allegedly hit and killed pro-Palestinian American activist Rachel Corrie in 2003 testified that he did not see her until after she was dead. [LAT]

• President Shimon Peres linked the U.S. interest in preventing Iran from going nuclear to a successful Israeli-Palestinian peace process. [Haaretz]

• Yossi Alpher has a valuable column on how everyone screwed up the peace process this time around. [JPost]

• Egypt is allowing the Gaza embargo to be broken by 140 vans driven by Viva Palestina activists. [NYT]

• The reportedly ailing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will likely nonetheless “seek” another six-term term. [AP/NYT]

Sundown: NYT Continues Its Jacobson Revival

Plus Pollack on Iran, Luban on J Street, and more

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(Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Times got around to reviewing The Finkler Question. It’s very Jewish, but don’t worry! “It is by no means too myopic to be enjoyed by the wider world.” Phew. [NYT]

• Ahmad Tibi, the top-ranking Arab Knesset member, argues against the loyalty oath. [IHT]

• Kenneth Pollack says the best strategy for preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is an even harsher and still steadily increasing sanctions regime. [National Interest]

• Tablet Magazine contributor Daniel Luban responds to Walter Russell Mead’s J Street essay. [Lobelog]

• Rodger Kamenetz on Burnt Books. [The Jewish Star]

• The Anti-Defamation League’s Annual Leadership Award went to Rupert Murdoch, whose notable public services include putting a good chunk of the likely Republican presidential candidates on payroll. [ADL]

So Maureen Tucker is a Tea Partier? Best be on the safe side and listen to excellent Velvet Underground covers.

Esther Is Ready for Her Close-Up

This week on ‘America’s Next Top Model’

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Esther Petrack.(The CW)

All it took was the departure of the catty Kacey and a visit to the Grammy Museum for our Model/ern Orthodox contestant to get the screen time she deserves. First, Ann asks Esther to say something in Hebrew, because she has never heard the Semitic tongue spoken. After Esther obliges her fellow models in a brief bit of Heeb speak, we finally get a glimpse into how she’s more than just Jewish talk.

Earlier this week, Marina Petrack, Esther’s mother announced that her daughter never said she would forsake her Jewish practice in the first episode—that the editing merely made it seem so. She even noted that her daughter had toveled (ritually immersed) a pot in the Pacific Ocean and kept kosher while filming the show. Though we never got to see that act, in this episode we do get to watch Esther explain the myriad rules to her housemates, a ritual which should be as familiar to the Modern Orthodox set as keeping separate dishes for meat and milk. (more…)

The Non-Issue of Settlements

Cohen: The conflict concerns sovereignty and security

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Roger Cohen published a fabulous op-ed today. It’s extremely useful because Cohen is what you’d call, for lack of a better term, a liberal on matters Israeli-Palestinian, and yet he makes a point that I think a lot of liberals are having trouble with due to their commitments and values (and it’s a point I tried to make yesterday), which is that, even if you believe the settlements are unethical, illiberal, Israel’s Original Sin, and all that, there is no persuasive case that, as of right now, they are even close to the main obstacle to peace—which means that the Obama administration’s unrelenting focus on them has been extremely ill-advised. Argues Cohen:

No U.S. president should invest his personal capital by inaugurating direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders when those talks are set to abort weeks later over an issue—Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank—that’s long been sitting there like a big truck on the road. (more…)

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