So Much For Our Team

Fortunately, our replacement is even better

Ian Kinsler goes yard last night.(Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

One door closes, and an even better one opens. The Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers series featured both the first and final game of the divisional round, and in the end—in a roller coaster ride in which the home team went 0-5—the Texas Rangers pulled out a 5-1 win last night to advance to the American League Championship series, where they will face the New York Yankees, who defeated the Minnesota Twins in three. (As the seemingly unstoppable Philadelphia Phillies did the Cincinnati Reds; it took the San Francisco Giants four games to dispatch the Atlanta Braves.) So the door is closed on Tablet Magazine’s official playoff team, which was (controversially) the Rays.

But the door is opened on the Rangers and their second baseman, Ian Kinsler, who is now the only Jewish player left in the playoffs (for what it’s worth, he is also the only man named Ian ever to play every day in the big leagues). And it is not like he is some guy who is on the roster: He has played sensationally. Look at his five-game stats! Three home runs (including the game-icing one last night), 6 RBI, a .444 average, and .944 slugging (and a 1.444 OPS for the sabermetrically inclined). Ron Kaplan notes that he was involved in more than 50 percent of his team’s runs. Divisional series don’t have MVPs, but if they did, Kinsler would have a strong case. (more…)

Today on Tablet

The Judeophilic Nobel laureate, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Ilan Stevens celebrates Nobel-winning novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who has proved a dovish critic of Israel but an unequivocal philo-Semite. Mideast columnist Lee Smith pushes back against the outcry over Israel’s proposed loyalty oath for new citizens, which is soon likely to become law. The Scroll is still basking in Howard Jacobson’s Man Booker triumph.

Howard Jacobson Pulls Off Booker Upset

Novelist defeats favorites McCarthy, Carey

Howard Jacobson, victorious, last night.(Stuart Wilson/Getty Images)

“I’m not the English Philip Roth, I’m the Jewish Jane Austen,” novelist Howard Jacobson told us a few days ago. Last night, Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize for his The Finkler Question. This was a substantial upset: Jacobson had been the betting man’s biggest underdog, at 8:1 odds, and that was before this past weekend, when Ladbrokes actually stopped taking bets due to the suspiciously high amount of money that came in for the odds-on favorite, Tom McCarthy’s C. This was also, according to the Guardian’s arts correspondent, “the first unashamedly comic novel” to win the prestigious, 42-year-old prize, which is annually awarded to the best English-language novel published in the British commonwealth. In addition to McCarthy, the other longlisted authors were Peter Carey (a two-time winner), Emma Donoghue, Damon Galgut, and Andrea Levy. The previous Jewish Man Booker winner appears to be Anita Brookner, who won for Hotel du Lac in 1984.

Jacobson, who had been longlisted twice before, accepted the award in London “to unusually loud and sustained applause,” reported The New York Times. He told the crowd: “I’m speechless. Fortunately I prepared one earlier. It’s dated 1983. That’s how long the wait’s been.” The head of the five-judge panel, Sir Andrew Motion, insisted that the long-time-coming quality of Jacobson’s win “never came into our minds.” He added, “Having said that, there is a particular pleasure in seeing somebody who is that good finally getting his just desserts.”

Want to read more about Jacobson? You’ve come to the right place! We published an interview with him on Monday. We published, for the first time in the United States, Jacobson’s sensational 1999 profile of American ping-pong champion Marty Reisman. And our books critic Adam Kirsch reviewed The Finkler Question last week. We also hosted him on a podcast nearly three years ago, even before he was a bigwig Man Booker shortlist-er.

Still not had enough? Check out this essay he published last Saturday on the definitional necessity for novels to be funny. And to give you an example of the Jacobsonian wit, please find (below the jump) an exchange that did not make it into the final cut of our interview, in which the novelist recalls which prominent American magazine chose not to publish his Reisman profile, and how he got revenge. (more…)

Daybreak: Abbas Embattled

Plus A’jad arrives in Lebanon, and more in the news

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

• The waffling of peace talks have led President Abbas to face a growing rebellion from within his own Fatah party. [WSJ]

• President Ahmadinejad was greeted in Iran by cheering crowds. [WSJ]

• The U.S. State Department responded to yesterday’s peace-talk developments—a proposed and rejected freeze in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state—with something that I’ll leave you to try to decipher. [Haaretz]

• How olive trees became symbols of the struggle between West Bank Palestinians and settlers. [NYT]

• New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino apologized for his anti-gay remarks in an ultra-Orthodox synagogue in Brooklyn Sunday. [NYT]

• Robert Tishman, a huge New York real estate mogul and philanthropist, died at 94. [NYT]

Sundown: Jacobson!!!

Plus some other stories not nearly as exciting

Howard Jacobson.(Jewish Chronicle)

• MASSIVE UPSET! HOWARD JACOBSON WINS THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE! WAHOO! For links to all our Jacobson stuff, see here. More tomorrow. [Guardian]

• In a new American Jewish Committee survey showing slipping Jewish approval for President Obama, Ben Smith sees … slipping overall approval for President Obama. [Ben Smith]

• A new Palestinian Authority textbook, Learning the Historical Narrative of the Other, presents both sides’ narratives of Israel’s creation. Israel’s education minister has banned it. [JTA]

• The son of Israel’s head Sephardic rabbi said every Israeli should go Sephardic, even Ashkenazim. I smell a conflict of interest!! [Ynet]

• The Jewish comedy nerd: A history. [Jewcy]

• Holocaust-denial obfuscation at the New York Times. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

Distant observers of Israeli politics may have noticed the disproportionate care the society takes for its soldiers, including already-dead ones, as opposed to its civilians. It’s a sensitive issue, but that does not mean it’s not seriously misguided. The below video, which is about Gilad Schalit, is intended as satire, and while it’s a bit one-sided, I think it still makes an important point.

Carla Cohen, of Politics & Prose, Dies

A pillar of Washington, D.C., intellectual life

Carla Cohen.(WP)

Carla Cohen, the co-founder of the one-of-a-kind bookstore Politics & Prose, died yesterday at 74 from a rare bile-duct cancer. The superb Washington Post obituary paints her as the heart to co-founder Barbara Meade’s head (it also briefly details her life, which began in a six-child Jewish family in Baltimore). My favorite anecdote is when Cohen—politically left, to be sure, but open to thoughtful debate—nixes a coveted bookstore reading by Matt Drudge. “It’s not a question of left or right, conservative or liberal. It’s a question of sleaze versus careful, thoughtful reporting,” she said at the time. “I think he’s a rumormonger and a troublemaker, and I think he’s more interested in self-promotion than in journalism.”

Andrew Silow-Carroll, who got to know Cohen and her husband, David (who survives her, as do her 100-year-old mother and two children), while editing Washington Jewish Week, has further reminiscence. He notes that the two were to be awarded the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award from Jews United for Justice this month; David used to work at Americans for Peace Now.

And Michael Schaffer, the editor of Washington City Paper, observes of whoever ends up buying Politics & Prose (which may be a group that includes Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg), “the largest chunk of their investment in the store will not come because its inventory is that large or its Connecticut Avenue storefront is that appealing. It’ll involve buying access to the network of loyal customers Cohen and Meade painstakingly developed.”

As a fiercely proud member of that network, I’ll let my earlier words speak for themselves.

Carla Cohen Dies; Co-founder of D.C. Bookstore Politics & Prose [WP]
Carla Cohen, Washington Bookseller [JustASC]
Carla Cohen R.I.P. [City Paper]
Earlier: Reflections on a Book Paradise

Building Hillels To Entice

Colleges aspire to being Jew Us

The Lehigh University Hillel.(Lehigh Hillel.)

Sue Fishkoff files a great story in JTA on the “nearly 25 percent of Jewish college students in North America [who] attend schools with small Jewish student bodies and limited Jewish resources”—and on the colleges (in particular small liberal-arts colleges) that are actively trying to recruit them. Whether it is constructing new Hillel centers, recruiting at Schechters, or providing kosher dining options, many small, rural schools are taking advantage of the ever-increasing selectivity of the more prominent and generally more urban institutions that tend the 100,000 annual college-bound Jewish high school graduates tend to favor.

Writes Fishkoff:

Admissions officers and deans at these schools rarely say they are actively recruiting Jewish students; instead they say they are looking to “increase diversity.” But off the record, many admit that Jewish students bring certain assets, from leadership skills and good academic records, while they are on campus to a propensity for donating to the school once they graduate.

“We’re recruiting more on the East and West coasts, looking for students in private schools, and the Jewish day school students are very compatible with Bradley [University, in Peoria, Illinois].”

The article put me in mind of the famous 2002 AP story on Vanderbilt University’s gambit of recruiting Jews in an effort to raise mean SAT scores. The (small) Vandy backlash always struck me as misguided, and Fishkoff’s piece is a nice corrective to whatever of it remains. Jews ought to be (and most no doubt are) proud of their general tendency toward academic accomplishment and their desirability to colleges across the country.

U.S. Colleges With Few Jews Building Facilities To Draw More [JTA]
Related: Vanderbilt U. Woos Jewish Students [AP/BeliefNet]

The Rabbi Who Influenced Paladino’s Speech

Brooklyn’s Yehuda Levin wants an ‘Orthodox Tea Party’

Rabbi Levin (L) and Carl Paladino (front).(NYT)

Yesterday on The Today Show, Republican New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino implied that some of his more gay-bashing prepared remarks Sunday were written in consultation with unnamed Orthodox Jewish leaders, who, he added, “went too far.” The cryptic pseudo-blaming makes more sense now that we know about Yehuda Levin, an Orthodox (though not Hasidic) right-wing Brooklyn rabbi who several months ago offered to help Paladino navigate Brooklyn’s religious Jewish communities. Paladino worried about winning these votes after calling Sheldon Silver “an Antichrist and a Hitler.” But Levin agreed with Paladino’s diagnosis of the (Orthodox Jewish) Assembly Speaker and he wished to lend his aid. Levin avers that while he did not pen Sunday’s controversial speech, “I did have some input into it—and I stand ready to defend the content of it.”

Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael R. Caputo, saw the relationship with Levin as a way for Paladino to break into Democratic rival Andrew Cuomo’s Hasidic support, since Paladino’s positions on abortion and gay marriage jibe with most Hasids’. The problem, as the New York Times’s Nick Confessore explains, is that most ultra-Orthodox rabbis “preach traditional values in shul but are highly pragmatic when it comes to picking politicians to endorse, backing winners and those most likely to deliver resources to their communities”—which, in this case, would lead them (and has led them) to endorse Cuomo. (more…)

The Gallivanting Spatula

Words Jews use


Not long ago, Tablet editor Alana Newhouse asked Jeffrey Goldberg, of The Atlantic, when he would be able to travel to New York from Washington to finish a Tablet Magazine project. He hemmed and hawed; she sighed.

“Well, whenever you’re finished gallivanting around Washington, come up here so we can finish,” she said, wearily.

“ ‘Gallivanting’?” Goldberg asked. “Who says ‘gallivanting’?”

“Jews,” Newhouse responded.

“Only Jews?” Goldberg asked.

“Only Jews,” Newhouse said.

“Like ‘appetizing’ as a noun?” Goldberg said.

“Yes,” Newhouse said. “And ‘mauve.’ Or ‘sideboard.’ ”

“And ‘drapery,’ ” Goldberg added.

“We could make a list,” Newhouse said. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Roth day, Beck-ian scholarship, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews Philip Roth’s new novel, Nemesis, while contributing editor Eryn Loeb uses the occasion as an excuse to devour Roth’s ouevre, which she had previously ignroed. Michelle Goldberg exposes Glenn Beck’s favorite “historian,” David Barton. Please consider giving Man Booker Prize-nominated Howard Jacobson’s ping-pong profile, which we have published for the first time stateside, a read: It’s long, but absolutely fantastic. Which doesn’t mean you should skip The Scroll!

Jews in the Senior Chamber

Rating the candidates’ chances

Sens. Ron Wyden (L) and Chuck Schumer (R).(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Democratic politicians are bracing for big losses three weeks from today. According to election-predicting honcho Nate Silver (to whom many apologies), eight senators are likely to turnover their seats. According to The Scroll, three are Members of the Tribe: Russ Feingold, Michael Bennet, and Arlen Specter—who in fact did lose his seat in the primary.

Barbara Boxer’s chances have improved; she is likely to hold her California seat. Meanwhile, Chuck Schumer and Ron Wyden seem favorites to keep theirs. On the other hand, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will likely gain a seat, while challengers Lee Fisher, Rodney Glassman, and Paul Hodes are too far behind to recover. There are 14 Jewish senators; next year, there could be eight, 17, or something in between.

Jewish candidate: Richard Blumenthal (D).
Opponent: Linda McMahon (R).
Who’s going to win? In the bag for Blumenthal.
Main issue: The Blumenthal campaign, with a few dangerous bumps, has successfully kept the race a contest between two biographies, rather than a debate over national issues. Both candidates are familiar faces to voters by now: Blumenthal because he’s been attorney general since 1990, McMahon because she pretend-kicked a guy in the nuts on television (presumably harming herself in key demographics). Anyway, there just aren’t enough undecided voters left to swing this one.
Fun fact: If/when Blumenthal wins, Connecticut will be the third state to have two Jewish senators. California (if Boxer holds on, which she likely will) and Wisconsin (if Feingold holds on, which he likely won’t) would be the other two. (more…)

Daybreak: What’s He Really Up To?

Plus Paladino and his rabbi, and more in the news

Netanyahu on Sunday.(Gali Tibbon-Pool/Getty Images)

• The loyalty oath, the freeze offer … is Prime Minister Netanyahu trying to make peace, or shore up his right flank? [NYT]

• President Ahmadinejad arrives in Lebanon tomorrow even as officials there have tried to downplay the visit. [LAT]

• Excellent reporting on how New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino ended up talking to Brooklyn Hasidim in the first place. [NYT]

• Dubai police disclosed that two months ago someone who played “a key role in the killing” of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was arrested, though they won’t say for what, by whom, or what nationality he is. [Haaretz]

• Sanctions have taken a genuine toll even on Iran’s day-to-day economy. [WSJ]

• A committee-approved bill to require a national referendum for land cessions in the West Bank and the Golan still faces important opposition: From both Labor Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Likud Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin. [JPost]

Sundown: Bibi’s Deal Nixed

Plus Jon Stewart’s two sides, and more

Jon Stewart at the Emmys last year.(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu offered, and the Palestinian Authority rejected, a deal under which he would extend the settlement freeze in exchange for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. [WP]

Carl Paladino may be preparing to call his gubernatorial rival, Andrew Cuomo, anti-Semitic, on the grounds that he named Russell Simmons, who has hosted Louis Farrakhan, to an honorary position on his campaign. I once saw Russell Simmons at a restaurant—what does that make me? [Daily Intel]

• This is the best thing I have ever read about Jon Stewart. [Jewish Journal]

• Todd Gitlin and Nissim Calderon argue against an Israeli academic boycott. [Entanglements]

• A profile of Hewlett-Packard’s new Jewish, Hebrew-speaking CEO, Léo Apotheker. [Ynet]

• This has nothing to do with Jewishness, but boy oh boy should you read this article. [Guardian]

Today is National Coming Out Day. Here is probably the most famous, albeit quasi-fictional, coming out ever. Totally forgot Jeremy Piven was on this show!

True to Form

How our teams fared yesterday

Eli Manning hands off to Ahmad Bradshaw.(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

The Washington Redskins and the New York Giants are both 3-2, but their paths have been quite different. The Redskins have played in two of the NFL’s four overtime games this season, and two more of their games went down to the wire. By contrast, the smallest scoring margin of any Giants game, win or loss, this season was 13 points—nearly two touchdowns. Both teams won yesterday, and both did so in their respective typical fashions.

The Green Bay Packers came to D.C. as, one-quarter of the way through the season (say that ain’t so), the tentatively declared best team in the NFC, and through the first three quarters—after which the Packers held a 13-3 lead playing on the road against a good defense—that looked plausible. But the Skins, led by veteran Donovan McNabb at the top of his form, were able to come back, and, with the aid of a missed 53-yard Packers field goal (which isn’t exactly luck—53 yards is very long, especially outdoors!), tie the game at the end of regulation. The Skins held the Packers, who won the coin toss, and then drove down to give their kicker a 33-yarder, which he sank for the win. Final score of the Lombardi Bowl (these are the only two teams the great Vince Lombardi head-coached): 16-13. (more…)

JDate for Institutions

JData hopes to make community info broadly accessible


Like the similarly sounding JDate, JData busies itself with Jewish continuity. But rather than play virtual shadchan to young Jewish professionals in the hopes that they end up on the New York Times wedding page (and later have circumcised baby boys), JData, a project funded by the Jim Joseph Foundation and developed by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University, is trying to make the collection and analysis of data from Jewish day schools, supplementary programs (i.e., Hebrew schools), overnight and day camps, and campus Hillel houses more transparent and readily available to Jewish institutions, large and small (access to the database is free). They hope this will help both institutions and researchers better identify trends and allocate resources for the future.

The launch event, which was Friday at the Brandeis House on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, featured two of my favorite things: Punctuality and food. Instead of utilizing the survey model, JData allows organizations to upload their basic information—such as enrollment numbers and expenditures per pupil—and quickly receive reports answering specific questions. JData also allows an organization to compare its data to the rest of the community (though this information appears as an aggregate to protect privacy). (more…)

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