The Tailor David Grossman

Israeli novelist accepts his lot

David Grossman.(Wikipedia)

We learn in George Packer’s profile of David Grossman that the first novel to have a real impact on him was Sholom Aleichem’s Motl, Peysi the Cantor’s Son (actually, Grossman once cited it in an essay he published in Tablet Magazine’s predecessor, One sees Grossman as quite similar to the Motl we know from Fiddler on the Roof: Relatively simple, bordering on earnest; desirous of little beyond living a quiet family life; an actor in history only when history intrudes upon him.

Grossman was born an Israeli because his grandmother presciently fled to Palestine from Poland in the ‘30s; grew up a fairly uncritical Zionist, becoming left-wing only after meeting and falling in love with the woman who became his wife, Michal; and turned increasingly sharp in his critiques of “the situation”—the post-1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories—through first-hand experience, first as a soldier in Lebanon in the early ‘80s, then as a reporter. The family man’s family was disrupted by history during the Lebanon war of 2006, when his middle son, Uri, a soldier, was killed fewer than two days before the cease-fire. (more…)

Daybreak: Beating the Iranian Drum

Plus this politicized flight tonight, and more in the news

A West Bank settlement, from above.(Rina Castelnuovo/NYT)

• In Washington, Defense Minister Barak continued to sound warnings and threats concerning Iran, even as U.S. officials countered with continued talk of sanctions and engagement. [Haaretz]

• U.S. diplomats worry that the direct peace talks will disband over the construction freeze controversy. [Haaretz]

• Most of the 300,000 Jewish settlers would like the freeze to end so that their towns can continue to grow. [WSJ]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu had nice things to say about so many different folk. [Laura Rozen]

• An intelligence expert concludes in a new study that renewed conflict with Lebanon will cover much larger ground, perhaps expand into Syria, and maybe draw Iran explicitly in. [Haaretz]

• Left-wing Israeli group Peace Now took politicians and journalists—including, apparently, one from the Times—on a plane ride over the West Bank to show them settlement growth. [NYT]

Sundown: Freeze-for-Pollard Swap

Plus killing in the name of land, and more

Jonathan Pollard.(Wikipedia)

• Might Prime Minister Netanyahu agree to a partial extension of the construction freeze in exchange for the U.S. release of convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard? [Laura Rozen]

• A Palestinian Authority court confirmed that it is criminal for Palestinians to sell land to Jews or Jewish companies. Oh, yeah, and the penalty is death. Wait, what? [Haaretz]

• Rahm will (probably) run. [Politico]

• Ray Takeyh argues that President Ahmadinejad is in fact delusional, and the only real solution to the Iranian problem is the eventual takeover by the forces behind the Green Movement. [WP]

• Gentiles love mezuzahs! Can’t get enough of ‘em. [NYT]

• So Jewish pitcher Jason Marquis decided to pitch on Yom Kippur. The result? He was yanked after getting only one out in the first inning, having given up six earned runs. As a Nationals fan: Thanks a lot, Jason. [Kaplan’s Korner]

Perhaps you recognize the particular Old Jew who is Telling this Joke?

My Kingdom for a Purse

Handbags and milestones

Purse from the author’s bat mitzvah.(Beverly Newhouse)

Last week, Lucette Lagnado—Wall Street Journal reporter and, as I’ve said before, brilliant memoirist—filed a terrific report on famed designer Judith Leiber’s plans to buy back her own handbags for a museum she’s building in the Hamptons. In true Lagnado style, the piece was one part news and two parts zeitgeist-y illumination—in this case, a window into the surprisingly meaningful implications of a fashion item beloved by women of a certain age, socioeconomic class, and maybe even ethnicity:

Lori Shabtai, a New York commercial real estate executive, says she bought her first Leiber as a bride-to-be 29 years ago, and since then, her ritual is purchasing at least one Judith Leiber a year. She associates each with a special occasion: her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, where she carried a beige snakeskin; a black clutch with large crystals was for a big date.

“Judith Leiber has been through all of that with us,” says Ms. Shabtai.

To highlight the generational gap, Lagnado also quoted a 26-year-old fashion writer named Jessica Misener musing snarkily about the silliness of Leiber’s trademark bags, which have manifested as peacocks, tomatoes, Fabergé eggs, Socks the White House cat, and more. But Leiber also offered other, less organically-inspired creations—simple animal-skin bags, in muted colors, topped with delicately jeweled clasps and spare chains. (more…)

The Sukkos Mob Does Its Thing

What thing, you ask?

Scene from The Sukkos Mob’s 2009 show, Awesome is Over.(Laura Ayers)

If it’s Sukkot, then it’s time for The Sukkos Mob, a radical performance/artistic company. This year, Tablet Magazine is co-sponsoring their production, Don’t Let The Sheep Get In Your Eyes, “an intimate science fiction story knit together with authentic sheepswool and music,” directed by Jenny Romaine. Among the spectacle artists is our very own assistant art director Abigail Miller. This promises to be an experience. What kind of experience? That’s for you to find out.

Showtimes and locations after the jump. (more…)

Three Up, Three Down

How our teams fared yesterday

Here is where you should have put in Sage.(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Tablet Magazine’s three NFL teams went undefeated in Week 1 and, yesterday, winless in Week 2. Yet not all wins are created equal, and yesterday’s defeats of the New England Patriots, the New York Giants, and the Washington Redskins actually told us three different things about each squad. (Oh, and a quick plug: Watch tonight to see rookie Jewish safety Taylor Mays and his San Francisco 49ers take on the defending champion New Orleans Saints.)

Bob Kraft’s Pats told us, in a 28-14 loss to the New York Jets at the New Meadowlands, that, despite a few exemplary plays—Randy Moss’s truly awesome one-handed touchdown catch comes to mind—a combination of old veterans and young up-and-comers does not equal some happy medium, but rather kind of a mess. The offense basically shut down after the first half; quarterback Tom Brady threw two interceptions, which might be de rigeur for non-2009 Brett Favre, but is a lot for him. Much more importantly, though, the Pats’ hodgepodge defense was unable to stop what should be a pretty mediocre Jets offense from scoring four touchdowns, three from Mark Sanchez—which is two to three more touchdown passes any decent defense should allow Sanchez to have. Many people thought the AFC East would be a stacked division; more likely, the Pats, the Jets, and (also significant Jewish squad) the Miami Dolphins will all be hovered around 10-6 at season’s close, and may not even be able to find a wild card berth, as they typically do. (more…)

N.Y. Dems Highlight GOPer’s Comments

Candidate made Hitler analogy

The scene outside City Hall this morning.(The author)

Last week, Carl Paladino, a wealthy Buffalo real estate developer, rode the Tea Party wave to become New York’s Republican gubernatorial candidate against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, son of former governor Mario. This morning, a handful of local Jewish Democrats joined rabbis from Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox community on the steps of City Hall to denounce comments Paladino had made about Sheldon Silver. “If I could ever describe a person who would fit the bill of an anti-Christ or a Hitler,” said Paladino of the Orthodox Jewish New York Assembly Speaker, who still lives on the Lower East Side, “this guy is it.” At a public forum in Niagara Falls, Paladino added that Silver is “probably the most corrupt and incompetent human being to ever serve in state government in the state of New York.”

What’s the catch? Paladino made these statements in October of 2009. They resurfaced in August, toward the end of his primary race against Rick Lazio. All of which makes this morning’s press conference look, well, a little hysterical. In fact, the event perfectly encapsulated the current schizophrenia of the ultra-Orthodox electorate, which famously tends Republican in national elections over concerns about Israel and swings Democratic in local elections to protect public benefits and perks, which, in New York at least, are the purview of Silver, Hikind, and a handful of other powerful Democrats, who would have more sway with a Cuomo administration as serious budget cuts get underway next year. In other words: You might hate Obama, but if you abandon your local Democrats, you can kiss your food stamps and zoning exemptions goodbye. (more…)

Too Good To Be True?

Salam Fayyad, the West’s favorite Palestinian

Secretary of State Clinton and Prime Minister Fayyad, last week.(Alex Brandon/AFP/Getty Images)

In all the praise for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad—from Thomas Friedman to Roger Cohen to even Israeli President Shimon Peres, who famously called him “the Palestinian Ben Gurion” (in a more measured take, contributing editor Michael Weiss was there first)—I had yet to see a single anecdote that fully captured how so many various Western bien pensant political observers had anointed Fayyad, the head of the West Bank cabinet who has emphasized state-building for its own sake and as a means of putting pressure on Israel to make peace, as their favorite Palestinian; as, really, their Palestinian best friend.

That is, not until I had read Tablet Magazine contributing editor Nathan Thrall’s indispensable new dispatch, in which we learn that when Fayyad, who holds an economics Ph.D. from the University of Texas, first met President George W. Bush in 2003 (he was then Yasser Arafat’s finance minister), the former Texas governor “greeted him with index and pinky fingers extended to display UT Austin’s ‘Hook ‘em Horns’ sign.”

Thrall’s article is most valuable, though, because its combination of first-person reporting and exhaustive collation makes the most persuasive case yet that, as an earlier study had hinted, Fayyad’s state-building, while not without its successes, is ultimately more of a chimera than its champions like to admit; is unsustainably dependent on authoritarianism; and is unpopular among a likely majority of West Bank Palestinians. (more…)

Today on Tablet

The Kremlin fights Jew-hating, Sukkot, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Alexander Zaitchik reports on World Without Nazism, which is sort of like a Russian (and Kremlin-approved) Anti-Defamation League; it could serve a real purpose, but has yet to take bold stands. On the Vox Tablet podcast, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin discusses Rabbi Hillel, the subject of his new Nextbook Press biography. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall explains why Sukkot (which begins at sundown on Wednesday) is a mother’s nightmare. Josh Lambert’s weekly round-up of forthcoming books of interest is back-to-school-themed. The Scroll is what’s-going-on-today-themed.

Guess Who’s Coming to Shul

A Monday morning blind item

Rhinebeck, New York, this summer.(Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

WHICH unconverted former First Daughter was spotted at morning Yom Kippur services with her new Jewish husband at New York University’s Bronfman Center? They stayed through the sermon at the Reform service.

Daybreak: A’jad Doesn’t Bless the Peacemakers

Plus Sinai a hotspot, and more in the news

The Iranian president last week in Tehran.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

• Visiting Damascus, President Ahmadinejad predicted that countries in the region would “disrupt” U.S.-sponsored peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. [WP]

• Egypt believes Hamas successfully smuggled rockets into Sinai and plans to launch them into southern Israel and Jordan. [Haaretz]

• Why Mideast peace might be Secretary of State Clinton’s to win or lose. [LAT]

• In a forthcoming tell-all, former Prime Minister Olmert is apparently going Nixon on Defense Minister Barak, whom he blames for ousting him from office. [Haaretz]

• Turkish President Abdullah Gul cancelled a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres in New York (both are here this week for the U.N. General Assembly), though his pow-wow with A’jad is still on. [Haaretz]

• The U.S. plans to continue to fund and cooperate with the Lebanese Armed Forces (against columnist Lee Smith’s recommendation). [JPost]

Sundown: Expanded Fasting Edition

Fayyad’s police, playing on Kol Nidre, and more

Ike Davis.(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Closing up shop early today to put on our finest suits and our worst sneakers. Use the comments to tell everyone where you’ll be. I’ll start: I’ll be at NYU’s Bronfman Center. Have an easy fast, everyone.

• First off, if you haven’t yet, do consider reading two excellent book reviews we ran this week in the midst of the High Holiday hubbub: Columnist Lee Smith on a revelatory new memoir about Israeli prime ministers; and Itamar Rabinovitch on the Balfour Declaration.

• The West Bank is closed til Saturday night. [JTA]

• Martin Peretz apologies. [The Spine]

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Nathan Thrall reports on U.S. efforts to buttress Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s security services. [NYRB]

• After having his mom tell him to do what’s right, rookie New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis has decided to play tonight against the Atlanta Braves. [ESPN]

• Leslie Gelb points out that the “nothing bad can come from talking” trope actually isn’t true: Frequently, failed Mideast negotiations have been followed by increased bloodshed. [Daily Beast]

• Somebody wrote a poem about Hank Greenberg playing and then not playing in 1934. [Kaplan’s Korner]

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Michael Weiss says U.S. envoy George Mitchell’s preferred comparison of Hamas to the Irish Republican Army is facile. [Slate]

• J.J. Goldberg praises strange bedfellows. [Forward]

• And if you haven’t read enough about Paul Berman’s The Flight of the Intellectuals, here’s yet another take. [n1br]

‘A Unifying Force’

Your Vox Tablet preview


If you’re looking for common ground amidst all the tension among Jews of various denominations, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin says look no further. According to Telushkin, Hillel, the most prominent religious leader around roughly two millennia ago, is your man.

Telushkin is the author of Nextbook Press’s Hillel: If Not Now, When, and the guest on the next Vox Tablet podcast, coming to you on Monday. Here, he explains how Hillel seems to be the go-to guy for Jews of all stripes.

Unhealthy Bullying

This week on ‘America’s Next Top Model’

A few of the contestants last night.(The CW)

A day late and a dollar short. This is how it’s going to be in America’s Next Top Model recap world since I don’t own a television. (I dare you to say that without sounding pretentious.) I have to wait until the Interwebs grace me with a streaming or downloadable version of the week’s newest episode. So instead of Thursday, I’ll have this ready by Friday, just in time for all the Sabbaths Esther Petrack missed while shooting the show.

We start off in Venice Beach, California, where the girls are shown their house, a glass structure perched on the boardwalk, which results in much squealing. So much squealing. I know that it’s Cycle 15 and I should probably be used to it by now, but since it’s almost Yom Kippur and confession is good for the soul, I have one to make: Before last week, I had never seen an episode of the show. In fact, the only reason I downloaded the premiere was because a Rosh Hashanah dinner guest told me about the Modern Orthodox contestant, whom I then had to see for myself. Basically, I’m in it for the Jew. This is all new to me. I’m like a newly born babe exploring a very high-pitched, big-haired, catty world. (more…)

Shmuley and Christopher

A rabbi and an atheist walk into a room …

Christopher Hitchens last night(Terri Kayden)

It’s no secret that there are plenty of Jews who are atheists. (In fact, it’s the basis for a number of decent jokes.) It’s also no secret that if you’re the sort of atheist who likes the idea of participating in a set of deeply human rituals that have been celebrated continuously for thousands of years, it’s nice to be a Jew. Especially, as it happens, at this time of year: The confessions of the Ashamnu aren’t about admitting your failings to anyone but yourself, and it’s entirely possible to chant Avinu Malkenu, and mean it, without depending on some more or less Christianized notion of a bearded God sitting in judgment with a big registry book in front of h/Him.

And when it comes to death, neither God nor heaven (nor hell) is prerequisite to the principle that “from dust you come, and to dust you shall return.” Which is why it’s so puzzling that the celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach felt that last night, erev Erev Yom Kippur of all nights, would be a good time to debate Christopher Hitchens, devoted atheist and Tablet Magazine contributor, about whether there is an afterlife. After all, their three earlier match-ups went very poorly for the rabbi; Boteach even admitted recently that the best he could hope for was to get Hitchens to admit that organized, God-fearing religion might have some net benefit for humanity, even if the premise of a supreme being is just made-up hoo-ha. (more…)

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