Wrestling, But Not With the Lord

This week on ‘America’s Next Top Model’

Esther last night.(The CW)

What do you do if you’re in the middle of a catfight between modeltestants Lexie and Kacey, who’ve been feuding since the first episode of the season? If you’re Liz, who had just informed us that she had been living in a homeless shelter when she was pregnant with her daughter, you get all up in Kacey’s grill, forcing The CW’s bleeper to work overtime. And if you’re Esther Petrack, the modern Orthodox modeltestant, you sit on the bed and patiently raise your hand until you’re called on. Which you’re not.

Oh Esther, you’re not in Maimonides anymore.

In last week’s recap, I wrote that I admired Esther for staying out of petty model wannabe fights, and this hand-raising incident endeared her to me even more. She seems younger than her cohorts, though they all fall into the same 18-21 age range. She laughs easily and goofily at the things she says and does, which includes a stumble during this week’s runway task, yet she quickly recovers and gives a sheepish smile.

The others don’t find the catwalk challenge any easier, since this week, the runway is moving. They are clad in Hervé Leroux dresses and incredibly high heels and sent down a conveyor belt. Each model is followed by a male counterpart, who gets to wear flat, rubber-soled shoes. Unlike the “Fallen Angel” shoot where the guys’ presence made sense—they had a part in the narrative and the girls interacted with them—their participation in this runway show seems to serve no purpose other than to demonstrate that it is easier to walk on a conveyor belt in sneakers than it is in heels. Ah, so that’s why I never see women jogging in their Christian Louboutin heels at the gym! (more…)

They’re Young, and They Don’t Make It Up

And several of them write for us


Excuse the auto-horn-tooting: In response to the New Yorker’s ’20 Under 40’ fiction writers list the New Haven Review has noted 20 nonfiction writers under 40 (well, mostly) who are worth watching—and several have Tablet Magazine connections!

• Contributing editor Joshua Cohen, author of the novel Witz, writes a column on translated works; see ‘em all here.

Keith Gessen was a Vox Tablet guest (and is an FOTM to boot).

• Contributing editor Gideon Lewis-Kraus has penned several essays, including a profile of Wilhelm Reich titled, “Master of the Orgasm.”

• Contributing editor Mark Oppenheimer is also an editor at the New Haven Review. He has written extensively on Holocaust revisionism for us.

• If forced, to pick my favorite piece by contributing editor David Samuels, it would be this.

Samantha M. Shapiro profiled Miriam Lowenbraun, of the Association for Jewish Outreach Professionals.

List-members without Tablet Magazine connections: Please get in touch! (Jason Fagone, I’m looking at you.)

20 Non-fiction Writers Under 40 [New Haven Review]
Earlier: Five Jews Land on ‘New Yorker’ Authors List

How Many Shofars Does It Take …

… to make the walls come tumbling down?

Jean Fouquet’s The Taking of Jericho.(Wikipedia)

Could the walls of Jericho have been destroyed by the force of seven shofars blowing (along with thousands of people shouting), as the Book of Joshua has it? This absurdly entertaining podcast takes that question as literally as possible, discussing Bronze Age walls; how many decibels toppling them would require (at least 177); what 10 talented shofar-blowers playing together sound like (this is the advantage of the podcast form!); how many shofar-blowers could create 177 decibels (407,380, at a minimum); at what decibel-level air essentially turns to plasma (160) … look, it can’t be done.

And then the expert explaining all of this, David Lubman, manages to come up with an insanely plausible explanation for how the story came about (which I refuse to spoil), thereby reminding us that engineers are the cleverest folks around. And the most realistic: “But of course,” Lubman adds, “if it was a miracle, all bets were off.”

The Walls of Jericho [Radiolab]

Today on Tablet

Fighting information warfare, Auslander vs. Jews, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, we wrap up our Web Wars! series with Philip M. Taylor’s primer on information warfare and Amy Zalman’s look at Israel’s clumsiness at utilizing it. Columnist Shalom Auslander supports Jews who hate Jews. Music columnist Alexander Gelfand celebrates the long (and long-known) history of Jewish-black collaboration. On more grandiose days, The Scroll thinks of itself as deploying information warfare on behalf of Tablet Magazine.

Bibi Floats Oath Quid for Freeze Quo

Fixation on settlements forces right-wing victory

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman last month.(Michal Cizek/AFP/Getty Images)

You didn’t have to be a particularly talented tea-leaf reader to wonder whether Prime Minister Netanyahu’s capitulation to the right-wing nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu’s loyalty oath bill was intended to give him room to push through a two-month extension of the settlement freeze, which the Palestinian Authority has demanded as a condition for continued peace talks. One ought never forget that the first thing Bibi thinks of upon waking is how to hold together his hodgepodge coalition, and here was a post-coffee Eureka! moment: By allowing the hard-line bill preferred by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s party, Bibi gains political capital to extend the freeze, thereby pacifying Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Labor Party as well as the Americans, who have offered Israel much (perhaps too much?) to keep the talks going. (The move is also payback for Netanyahu’s killing of the infamous Rotem Bill, Yisrael Beiteinu’s conversion law.)

And lo! No more than a couple hours passed before an anonymous Labor minister told Haaretz, “I hope that Netanyahu’s support is a payoff to Lieberman, so that the prime minister will be able to extend the freeze without breaking apart his coalition.” Concisely put.

The loyalty oath bill, likely to become law Sunday, would require all those assuming Israeli citizenship to swear allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state”—a thumb directly in the eyes of the 20 percent of the Israeli population that is Arab. If you are in favor of extending the construction freeze in order to keep talks going, you must reckon with the fact that this oath is what you are paying at the register. (more…)

Daybreak: Hezbollah Is Ready

Plus ‘N.J. Standard’ in the bright lights, and more in the news

A Hezbollah scout troop (seriously) marches last month.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

• Four years after the latest Lebanon War, Hezbollah has re-assumed an aggressive military posture in the south. [NYT]

• The United States is taking heat for offering so much so early in the process as enticement for the Israelis to re-freeze construction and keep the talks going. [NYT/LAT]

• Elie Wiesel backed a multifaith center instead of the Islamic one near Ground Zero, to which to Obama adviser David Axelrod replied, “That sounds like a wonderful idea.” [Politico]

• The New Jersey Jewish Standard same-sex engagement announcement controversy gets the Times treatment. [NYT]

• A Boston-area American Jew has been charged with low-level espionage; it seems likely that the country he was allegedly attempting to spy for was Israel. [JPost]

• Next summer, the Israel Chamber Orchestra will play an historic gig in Bayreuth, Germany, hometown of the great and famously anti-Semitic (and Hitler-inspiring) composer Richard Wagner. [NYT]

Sundown: Right-Wing Loyalty Oath Advances

Plus Hollywood Jews, and more

(TV By The Numbers)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu caved, allowing Yisrael Beiteinu’s bill to require all Israelis to swear loyalty to a “Jewish and democratic state” to progress closer to law. [Haaretz]

• Do Jews, in fact, control the media? Not really! (They do, however, control Hollywood.) [Slate]

• Hamas has vowed to directly attack senior Palestinian Authority members. [Haaretz]

• Deborah Lipstadt, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming The Eichmann Trial, says a new film shows why censorship of Holocaust denial, which she generally opposes, may continue to make sense in Germany. [Guardian]

• Vice President Biden will headline the Jewish Federations’ General Assembly next month in New Orleans. [JTA]

• Why the mere existence of an Iranian nuclear bomb poses an existential threat to Israel. [Commentary]

The latest leg of Bob Dylan’s Neverending Tour is taking him through Tablet Magazine’s hometown of New York. Here’s a song about marriage.

Bob Dylan – Isis (Live) 1975
Uploaded by moriganne. – Watch more music videos, in HD!

The MLB Playoffs Kick Off

Who is Tablet Magazine’s official team?

Tampa Bay second baseman Gabe Kapler this summer.(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

They got underway today with the first game of the Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers series. Which means it’s time to figure out: Who is Tablet Magazine’s official team? Let’s do this one by one, shall we?

• The National League East-winning Philadelphia Phillies are the favorite, not at winning our endorsement but at winning, y’know, the World Series (among other things, they had the most wins this season, 97, although the Rays’ 96 are more impressive given their division). The champions two years ago and runner’s-up last year have essentially the same decent lineup, and, in Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, claim three of the top ten pitchers in the league—pitching being how you win in the postseason. Philadelphia is America’s fourth-largest Jewish population center (by volume), and the Phillies’ general manager, Ruben Amaro, Jr., is the son of a Cuban-American ballplayer and of a local Jewish girl. He is a member of the Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. (more…)

‘Standard’ Publisher Clarifies Same-Sex Stance

Reports of financial threats from Orthodox community

(Jewish Daily Report)

The publisher of the New Jersey Jewish Standard has clarified the paper’s position on its prior apology for running a same-sex engagement announcement and vow not to do so again. “We did not expect the heated response we got, and—in truth—we believe now that we may have acted too quickly in issuing the follow-up statement, responding only to one segment of the community,” wrote James Janoff. “We are now having meetings with local rabbis and community leaders.” No word from editor Rebecca Boroson, who signed the editorial that alluded to “the deep sensitivities within the traditional/Orthodox community.” One report, which we can’t substantiate, has it that she was forced to back it against her will.

Meanwhile, Internet comments—which obviously we also can’t substantiate—have blamed financial pressures or even threats for being behind this. “It is my understanding that the Jewish Standard was basically being blackmailed,” a commenter on our site said. “The RCBC, the Orthodox Rabbinate threatened to take away the hechsher, the certificate of kashrut, from any restaurant that continued to advertise in the Jewish Standard if they did not announce that they would never publish another gay wedding announcement.” Andrew Silow-Carroll found something similar elsewhere.

Other commenters have reported that the Standard’s Website is not publishing certain comments; another Tablet Magazine commenter guesses that this is due to computer glitch, not human censoring.

We’ll update you as more information arrives. The story likely won’t go away: Silow-Carroll hears that the paper of record itself is preparing something.

Publisher’s Note on the Wedding Announcement Controversy [Facebook]
NJ Jewish Paper Threatened by Orthodox Thugs [Jewish Daily Report]
Earlier: All The Happy Couples

One Chicagoan Thinks Rahm Can Be Mayor

Nana begs to differ with Tablet Magazine article

Rahm Emanuel last week.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Rachel Shtair’s provocative article today argues that, due to its legendary ethnic segregation, Midwestern values, latent anti-Semitism, and several other things, Chicago simply will not elect a Jewish mayor—not Rahm Emanuel or any other. In response, Jewcy editor Jason Diamond—an American, Chicago born—decided to consult an expert. In this case, his 85-year-old grandmother, a lifelong Chicagoan (well, until she moved to Boca). Highlights:

• “You know your Grandpa was very popular. They named the locker room at the Winston Towers pool after him, and Lenny Spector was always saying ‘Bernie could be Mayor of Chicago! Everybody loves him.’”

• “Oh, Rahm isn’t THAT Jewish. Your cousin Michael is too Jewish. You should call Michael more, you could be more Jewish like him. You know he has a nice business and his wife is so beautiful. Every time he comes to visit me, he is so handsome that even if the restaurant is full, the girls fall over themselves to give us a table.”

• “It’s Chicago. All your neighbors are like you. It’s because of this Daley’s father [the late Mayor Richard J. Daley]. He did such a good job of segregating the entire city. Jews used to live in different places, but then we all moved uptown. Do you remember seeing people that weren’t Jews in our neighborhood?”

• “Are you sure your girlfriend didn’t write this?”

Out of the Loop [Tablet Magazine]
Talking to My 80-Something Year Old Chicago Nana About Rahm Emanuel [Jewcy]

Rabbi OKs Spy Sex

No word on whether it’s really, really hot


Today in Rabbis Say the Darndest Things, Ari Schvat ruled that female Mossad agents may engage in “honey-pot sex”—I had never heard the phrase before either—as part of their missions. Which is to say, they can sleep with men as part of their espionage. Among other things, Schvat cited Biblical precedent: Esther slept with the Persian king to save the Jews (though weren’t they married anyway?), and apparently Yael slept with the enemy of her husband in order to tire him out so that his head could be more easily chopped off (Book of Judges, yo).

If said Mossad agent is married, Schvat said, then it would be ideal for her to be divorced and then remarried following a job well done. “Naturally, a job of that sort could be given to a woman who in any event is licentious in her ways,” he added. Er, yes, naturally.

No word on whether men are allowed to sleep with women for the same reason. I think we can guess, however, that the injunction against a man sleeping with another man would still apply, even if it was for the good of the Jewish state.

Israeli Rabbi: Honey-Pot Sex Is Kosher for Female Mossad Agents [Haaretz]

Today on Tablet

Chicago and Rahm, the Semitic Fred Flintstone, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Rachel Shteir explains why Chicago won’t elect Rahm Emanuel or any other Jew its mayor. Liel Leibovitz traces the Jewish ancestry of none other than Fred Flintstone. We continue our Web Wars! series with Mideast columnist Lee Smith’s look at how Iran uses its proxy Hezbollah to transmit its message. Senior writer Allison Hoffman announces the emerging canonization of Israeli architect Moshe Safide. The Scroll cannot hope to keep pace with today’s slate of articles, though by the end of the day it will have told you whom to root for in baseball’s playoffs.

Talking About Islam, Mostly Past Each Other

Hitchens and Ramadan debate the ‘religion of peace’


There may not be two people less suited to addressing the resolution, “Islam is a religion of peace,” than intellectual Christopher Hitchens and Islamic scholar and professor Tariq Ramadan, who did endeavor to address it last night at 92nd Street Y. Hitchens has expounded on Ramadan in Tablet Magazine, noting his “strong sympathy for the jihadist preachings—and social and moral precepts—of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, purveyor of fatwas and self-described ‘Mufti of martyrdom operations.’” (You can find my thoughts on Ramadan in this review of Paul Berman’s recent book, The Flight of the Intellectuals.) But Hitch hates all religion. And Ramadan too often wears a blindfold when viewing his co-religionists. Consequentially, the night’s best moments came when the two played against type, or at least against their own arguments.

But first off: Hitch looked pretty good (I’ll post a photo when I get one). Diagnosed over the summer with esophogeal cancer that has spread to his lymph nodes, he filled out a well-tailored suit and seemed to stand, sit, and move with ease; the only noticeable oddity in his appearance (other than his 100 percent bald, light-reflecting pate) was a habit of moving his mouth and his tongue within it, as though chewing gum—cotton mouth is a common chemotherapy side effect.

I pity whoever has to debate Hitch: In any condition, on any subject, at any location, the man should be giving points. He is so witty, so comfortable, so good at all the little tricks of dryness and diction. He also works hard, or gives the appearance of it: For much of the introduction, by moderator Laurie Goodstein (the New York Times religion correspondent), he took extensive notes on several sheets of paper on a clipboard. While Ramadan spoke, he twirled his glasses round above his curled knee; at other times, he would put them on and look over them at the audience with a mischievous, knowing, faint smile, like an uncle who has let you have some of his beer without telling your father. (more…)

Daybreak: Sanctions Take Toll on Iran

Plus meet Congressman Grayson, and more in the news

Alan Grayson earlier this month.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

• President Ahmadinejad faces the emerging challenge of dealing with an economy further soured by successful sanctions. [WP]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu has another couple days to consider the U.S. plea to extend the construction freeze, as the Arab League meets Friday to debate President Abbas’s decision to withdraw from talks without an extension. [NYT]

• Speaking stateside, Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni slammed Netanyahu for waiting two years to engage the Palestinians. [Haaretz]

• A YouTube video of an Israeli soldier apparently dancing next to a blindfolded female Muslim prisoner has prompted a criminal inquiry. [NYT]

• What President Obama’s attempted Mideast dealmaking could net him. [NYT]

• Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida) has become one of the most outspoken critics, and therefore biggest targets, of the right. [NYT]

Sundown: Bibi Looks To Deal

Plus Dems defend J Street, and more

Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Ammar Awad-Pool/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu is seeking more from the United States in exchange for extending the freeze two months, including a pledge to veto unilateral Palestinian independence and acceptance of a long-term military presence in the Jordan Valley. [JTA]

• Top Jewish Democrats denied that J Street had anything to do with their meetings with Richard Goldstone last year. [JTA]

• Several West Bank rabbis presented 20 new Qurans to replace those damaged after yesterday’s mosque arson. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Speaking with Egyptian President Mubarak, President Clinton linked the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to motivating terrorism around the world. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Greed, Lawrence Schiffman, Raphael Golb, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. [GreedWatcher]

• On the Jewishness of Dr. Faye Miller, Don Draper’s latest paramour on Mad Men. [XX Factor]

Last night, Jon Stewart was magnanimous in his treatment of Rick Sanchez (who called to apologize).

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Hurty Sanchez
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Rally to Restore Sanity

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