The Great Gruber

New film follows life of seen-it-all journo

Ruth Gruber.(NYT)

A new film, Ahead of Time, is a documentary biography of 98-year-old journalist Ruth Gruber. In addition to praising the movie, the New York Times profiled Gruber, reporting that she “has spent her professional life listening—to world leaders, displaced persons, dubious politicians and, once, when she was on the fellowship that led to her doctorate, Hitler.” Says Gruber, “My mother became slightly hysterical. She thought Hitler was going to shoot me. But I needed to understand what was going on there.”

And guess what! Gruber was a guest on Tablet Magazine predecessor’s podcast more than three years ago. She has some mighty fine stories to tell.

To see if there is a screening of Ahead of Time near you (hint: It helps if you live in New York or L.A.), check here.

Recounting the Past of a Witness to History [NYT]
Related: Lady Intrepid []

Marquis to Pitch on Kol Nidre

‘Your team expects you’ says Jewish National

Jason Marquis earlier this year.(Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)

I will be saying this to myself every year until the day I die: One shouldn’t go to work on Yom Kippur, because during one Yom Kippur Sandy Koufax refused to pitch in Game 1 of the World Series. The cool thing about this Jewish mothers’ tale is that it is actually true (Koufax’s Los Angeles Dodger teammate Don Drysdale started instead, lost the game, and told his manager afterward, “I bet right now you wish I was Jewish, too”).

The basement-dwelling 2010 Washington Nationals are no 1965 Dodgers, and Nats pitcher Jason Marquis, who is Jewish, is certainly no Koufax. But Marquis is slated to start Friday night—Kol Nidre—at the Philadelphia Phillies, and (via Kaplan’s Korner) he plans on doing so (in fact, he has in past years, too). “Your team expects you to do your job and not let your teammates down, and that’s the approach I take,” he said.

Now, look. That is not an invalid response. And for every Koufax, there is also slugger Hank Greenberg, who in 1934 played on Rosh Hashanah while his Detroit Tigers were in a tight pennant race, only to sit out Yom Kippur once a World Series spot was all but secured. Moreover, I don’t think the importance (or lack of importance) of a big game should make a difference: If you feel you shouldn’t play on Yom Kippur, then that should include the World Series; if you feel you should, that should include a meaningless September regular season outing. And Marquis didn’t ask to be made a role model (which, given his 6.60 ERA this season, is maybe a good thing!).

But: Dude. Ask your manager to move your start. C’mon. How are Jewish 8-year-old Nats fans—poor schmucks—going to learn to observe the Highest of the Holidays?

Meanwhile, check Kaplan’s Korner for updates on Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Braun, and the rest.

Marquis Plans To Make Start on Kol Nidre [Miami Herald]
Earlier: Huge Yankees-Sox Game Set for Kol Nidre

Brewing Jews

Tea Party goes all philo-Semitic

Two out of three ain’t bad!(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of Tea Partiers have launched a new outreach effort targeting minorities called DiverseTea (presumably the second “e” is not silent). While they have their eye on several groups, the chief one, apparently, is the Jews. “I think that there is a more open debate to be had (in the Jewish community), but there is no genius behind that,” said one activist. “I had to start somewhere.” He added, “A lot of Jews are traditionally Democratic and traditionally liberal. But there is definitely a contingent of conservative Jews out there, and it’s underrepresented. I think there should be a lot more conservative Jews than there are.”

Do we think this is going to work? For a start, DiverseTea—which I would assume is pomegranate-flavored—will have to work on the fact that Jews hate Sarah Palin. Right?

Tea Party Outreach Courts Jews [Politico]
Earlier: Why We Hate Her

Today on Tablet

Kosher is as kosher does, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, David P. Goldman explains how he came to understand the basis for kashrut. Daniella Cheslow profiles the West Bank man who one day decided to translate Maimonides into Arabic. Books critic Adam Kirsch argues that it is worth it to learn the full, deep history of Eastern European Jewish life in the decades before World War I. It’s the month of Tishrei; here is the themed crossword puzzle. It’s Tuesday; here is The Scroll.


The Jewish State joins Twitter


Oh look, it’s the best sentence you’ll read all day: “Israel has acquired the user name @israel on Twitter, the microblogging Internet service, from the Spanish owner of a pornographic Web site.”

It seems the previous owner, one Israel Meléndez of Miami, found himself bombarded by anti-Semitic spam every time he posted something, and so decided to sell to Israel, which wants to use it to buttress its public image.

All systems are go, so check it out! It’s SFW, now.

After Negotiations, Israel Emerges on Twitter [NYT]

Daybreak: Searching for a Deal on Settlements

Plus which side will fold first, and more in the news

In Egypt earlier today.(Thaer Ganaim /PPO via Getty Images)

• In Egypt for the second round of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks, Secretary of State Clinton said she thought a deal could be reached to extend the West Bank settlement freeze in some fashion and keep the talks going. [NYT]

• But if Prime Minister Netanyahu makes too grand a gesture, he risks his fragile and right-wing coalition. [LAT]

• The chief U.N. nuclear inspector strongly condemned Iran’s treatment of on-the-ground investigators, setting up further conflict. [WSJ]

• Aluf Benn convincingly paints the talks at their current point as a poker game. A pretty high-stakes one, certainly. [Haaretz]

• Nearly all Arab states have failed to fulfill their donor requirements to the Palestinian Authority. [JPost]

• Roger Cohen basically echoes the point (not the headline) of the Time cover story: Peace would be great, but in the meantime, live your ife. [NYT]

Sundown: Deportation Shame

Plus keepsake kippot, and more

From the 1963 Gollin wedding.(NYT)

• Israel’s former U.N. ambassador protested the planned deportation of 400 children, saying it is “cruel” and a propaganda victory for Israel’s enemies. [Ynet]

• Will Rahm run? He’s not sure! [LAT]

• Who saved the electric car? Maybe the Israeli company Better Place. [Pajamas Media]

• Margarita Korol reports on how secular Jews observe the High Holidays. [Jewcy]

• Old yarmulkes! [NYT]

• Contributing editor Rachel Shukert chats about her new book. [Book Bench]

Israeli Beach Babes. (Oh and I’ve chosen like the SFW-est.)

Jewish Funders Network CEO Steps Down

Charendoff has served for nine years

Mark Charendoff.(Jewish Communal Service Association)

According to a letter distributed last week to members of the Jewish Funders Network—a 20-year-old organization devoted to helping private philanthropies invest in Jewish causes—the group’s head, Mark Charendoff, will be stepping down at the end of the year. As it happens, Charendoff just wrote an op-ed for The Jewish Week arguing for term limits in Jewish communal institutions, the main thrust being that anyone gets burned out if they stay in one place too long. How long is too long? About eight to ten years, he said.

Well, it’s been nine years since Charendoff was hired away from the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies—where he helped establish the Birthright Israel program—to help professionalize the JFN, which had grown in an ad hoc fashion as more and more wealthy Jews decided they wanted to bypass established avenues of communal giving in favor of setting up their own foundations and programs. And, given that Charendoff is still not quite 50, it’s perfectly reasonable to imagine that he’d have designs on shaking up one of the big, established community organizations—though, according to JFN chair Murray Galinson, Charendoff hasn’t yet figured out just what his next move will be. (Messages left for Charendoff and Galinson were not immediately returned.)

Meantime, the JFN has until December 31 to find a replacement; there will be no shortage of candidates.

Jewish Funders Network President to Step Down [The Fundermentalist]
Related: The Case for Term Limits in Jewish Life [Jewish Week]

Why Jews Are Not For Jesus

Rabbi Telushkin answers your questions

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.(Random House)

As we approach Yom Kippur, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin—author of the Nextbook Press’s Hillel: If Not Now, When?—answers questions submitted by Tablet Magazine readers.

I am a conservative Christian. I’ve come to realize that I do not know why the Jews do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. I sincerely would like to understand. I’m quite sure that there is no simple answer to this, but if you could point me in the right direction that would get me started.

From Judaism’s perspective, Jesus did not fulfill the messianic prophecies and therefore is not regarded as the Messiah. The best-known of the prophecies concerning the messianic days is that “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4). Since world peace must accompany the Messiah, and world peace (or, for the past 2,000 years, anything remotely approaching it) has not come, clearly the Messiah has not come either. In addition, Jewish tradition teaches that the Messiah will enable the Jews to lead a peaceful and independent existence in Israel. This, too, was not achieved by Jesus. One of the greatest rabbis of the Talmudic era, Akiva, believed that the second-century Jewish warrior Bar Kochva was the Messiah, and that he would fulfill in particular the messianic mission of restoring Jewish sovereignty. But when Bar Kochva’s revolt against the Romans failed, Akiva recognized that he could not have been the Messiah (even though he was still regarded as an essentially righteous person).

Though it has been apparent for almost 2,000 years that the messianic days of peace have not arrived, Christians still assume that Jesus was the Messiah. How do they explain this? By arguing that there will be a Second Coming, during which Jesus will return to Earth, and fulfill the messianic functions originally expected of him. For Jews, however, this argument is unconvincing, since the idea of a Second Coming is nowhere found in the Hebrew Bible (what Christians refer to as the Old Testament). This idea seems to have been unknown to Jesus as well, since the New Testament cites him as telling his followers that some of them will still be alive when all the messianic prophecies will be fulfilled (see Mark 9:1 and 13:30). I would guess that the idea of a second coming was formulated by later Christians to explain Jesus’ failure to fulfill the messianic prophecies. In short, from Judaism’s perspective, to call someone who does not bring about the messianic era the Messiah does not make sense.

Check The Scoreboard!

How our teams fared yesterday

FedEx Field last night.(The author)

We’ll get to last night’s completely and totally and amazing insane Washington Redskins game—which your faithful blogger was fortunate enough to attend—in a second. First, a quick look at how our other teams fared. (Who is Tablet Magazine’s official team? So much ire has been thrown my way over various selections, and non-selections, that I’ve decided we will be watching and rooting for three teams closely over the season: The New England Patriots, the New York Giants, and the Skins. By playoff time, we’ll have one team, which is how we’ve tended to operate anyway.)

The point-spread for the Pats’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals started at Pats by 5.5: Given the built-in three points the home team traditionaly gets, oddsmakers felt the Pats would beat the Bengals by less than a field goal at a neutral location. Which sounded low to me, and must sound low to everyone else after the Pats’ 38-24 drubbing of last season’s AFC North winner. The story of the game was slot receiver Wes Welker, the NFL’s leading catcher, who returned for his first game merely six months after ACL surgery to lead the team with eight receptions for 64 yards. (Famed non-Jew Julian Edelman did not play; he has a foot injury.) The story of the post-game was (once-?)star receiver Randy Moss’s complaining about his contract negotiations. Basically you’re looking at another 11-5 or 12-4 AFC East winner who will lose in the playoffs’ first or second round. (more…)

Folkie Silber Dies at 84

Condemned Dylan for plugging in


Irwin Silber, the folk music impresario who founded and for a while edited the enormously influential Sing Out! magazine, died last week at 84.

Though Silber is credited with an integral role in the folk music revival of the ’50s and 60s—many classic folk songs, for example, including “This Land is Your Land,” were first published in his magazine—he did make one colossal error of judgment: He was among those voices most loudly chastising folk hero Bob Dylan when he decided to plug in his guitar and play rock music at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Like to think that Silber realized the error of his reaction. Anyway, and also because it’s Monday, here that is.

Irwin Silber, Champion of the Folk Music Revival, Dies at 84 [NYT]

Chávez Listens to The Boss

Castro’s philo-Semitism is contagious!

Goldberg and Castro, chilling.(Atlantic)

By now, you’ve read contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s dispatches from Cuba, where he was hosted by Fidel Castro (and if you haven’t, my God, what are you waiting for?). While the whole thing is massively entertaining (a dolphin show? Che’s daughter?), the most newsworthy tidbit was El Jefe’s candid admission, “The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore.”

Now, Castro is backtracking. “In reality,” he explained, “my answer meant exactly the opposite of what both American journalists interpreted regarding the Cuban model. My idea, as the whole world knows, is that the capitalist system no longer works for the United States or the world.” So he was misquoted? “He does not invent phrases, he transfers them and interprets them,” Castro said of his interlocutor. So, no, he was not misquoted. Okay then.

(By the way, Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith published an attempted corrective of Goldberg’s dispatch, which is worth considering.)

Meanwhile, perhaps the greatest good to come out of Goldberg’s jaunt—in addition to just the story of it—is that Castro’s endorsement of the Jewish people led Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez to echo his self-styled mentor: “We respect and love the Jewish people,” he affirmed upon hearing Castro’s quote. Now maybe Chávez will stop cozying up to Iran and tacitly endorsing anti-Semitism at home, hmm?

Fidel Tries To Wiggle Out of One [Atlantic]
Related: When Jeffrey Met Fidel [Weekly Standard]
Earlier: Hugo Chávez’s Uses for Anti-Semitism

Today on Tablet

Atoning all over


Today in Tablet Magazine, Josh Lambert has a special edition of his weekly round-up of Jewish books, getting into the Yom Kippur spirit by highlighting works from the past year that he sinfully neglected to mention when they came out. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall praises the bestselling novel Mockingjay and notes that it reflects Yom Kippur’s values. Don’t know what we mean by all this Yom Kippur talk? Consult our FAQ. Don’t know what’s going on in the world today? Consult The Scroll.

God, According to Madonna

Wendy Shanker’s personal religion

Wendy Shanker(

On Erev Rosh Hashanah, about 50 people gathered in the Village apartment of writer Susan Shapiro (Overexposed; Speed Shrinking) to celebrate the publication of Wendy Shanker’s newest book, Are You My Guru? How Medicine, Meditation & Madonna Saved My Life. Shanker is probably best known for her first memoir, The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life, which described her struggles with her weight and her eventual acceptance of her size. But in this sequel, her newly beloved body strikes back: At 27, she is diagnosed with Wegener’s granulomatosis, a rare autoimmune disease that causes her body to attack her sinuses, lungs, and kidneys. Are You My Guru? narrates how Shanker clawed her way back to health with help from doctors, Eastern medicine, and her pop culture friends.

“Everything comes down to Buffy or Madonna,” she explained to me. “One of them said something smart about something. God speaks to you in the language you understand. Sometimes he speaks to me in Buffyverse and sometimes in Madonna language.” In fact, she used the singer’s songs’ names to title all of her chapters. (more…)

Daybreak: Bibi May Play Ball on Freeze

Plus big win for Turkey’s Erdogan

Netanyahu at his Cabinet meeting yesterday.(Tara Todras-Whitehill - Pool/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu hinted that he could continue to limit West Bank construction even after the moratorioum expires later this month, opening the door to a compromise with President Abbas that could keep the direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks going. [NYT]

• President Obama suggested that one means toward easing the construction question might be to begin the talks by establishing new borders. [WP]

• But the borders are complicated: The settlement of Ariel, 12 miles inside the West Bank, had long considered itself a “consensus” pick to remain in Israel proper; now it is not so sure. [NYT]

• If Netanyahu’s past actions make us take his current ones with a grain of salt, says columnist Jackson Diehl, we should be even more worried about Abbas’s present rhetoric. [WP]

• Turkey voted to pass constitutional referenda eliminating several secular safeguards. They were sponsored by Prime Minister Erdogan, who of late has catered to a religious constituency by vigorous pro-Palestinian rhetoric and action. [Haaretz]

• Donor aid, Israeli policy, and internal financial overhaul led to nine percent economic growth in the West Bank and 16 percent in Gaza during the first half of 2010. [WSJ]

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.