‘In A Small Café in a Big City’

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

There’s much to say about Monday’s Vox Tablet podcast, in which host Sara Ivry interviews singer-songwriter Clare Burson about her new album, Silver and Ash. The hauntingly beautiful song cycle culls the memories and memory lapses of Burson’s maternal grandmother, who departed Leipzig, Germany, on the morning of November 9, 1938, a few hours before the terror of Kristallnacht.

Memphis, Tennessee-born Burson is a classically trained violinist who has made detours into folk and bluegrass. You can learn more about her in the podcast, but for now, we’ll just leave you with a taste of her music:

Unsolved Murder in Dubai

Mossad’s expertise, utility has stymied probe

A Dubai camera captures two assassins following al-Mabhouh to his room.(WSJ)

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating investigative report into why, more than eight months and 30 suspects later, we still don’t know much about who or what cinematically assassinated Hamas weapons operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. “A string of apparent dead ends has frustrated international investigators,” it reports, “lengthening the odds that anyone will be caught or that definitive proof of Mossad involvement will emerge.” (As a reminder, most of the signs point to the Mossad, though there also seems a likely chance that the Israeli spy agency received aid and comfort from some Arab governments or figures.)

Part of the problem? “Despite an initial burst of tough talk from various governments, some international investigators are concerned that politics may be hampering cooperation from some governments that support Israel. … Two senior American officials acknowledge the case is unusually sensitive because of Washington’s close ties with Israel.” (more…)

Yeshiva Chic

Fall fashion may make observers of us all

Sweater by Reiss.(This Fall, Fashion Channels Yeshiva School Girls [The Man Repellent])

When I learned that the halachic justification for only wearing skirts was flimsy at best (suffice to say that the Biblical injunction against wearing men’s clothing has less weight in an era when pants are made for women), I continued to wear them at or below my knee, but I internally conceded that pants were infinitely more comfortable and easier to walk in. (I had been experimenting in private. Instead of trying drugs in college, I tried jeans. And sometimes, short-sleeve shirts.) Why? Because I wanted to be easily identified as an Orthodox Jewish woman. For me, this is no longer the case. But for others, fashion trends may (temporarily, anyway) blot out this basis for identification.

It is easy to spot an Orthodox man, modern or otherwise, by his yarmulke. But unmarried women don’t have one thing that clearly conveys themselves to others as religious. Instead, they must think holistically about their outfits: Long sleeves won’t do the trick if they’re paired with shorts or jeans; a long skirt with spaghetti straps means you could be just another hippie chick.

So for a couple of years after I stopped believing that I had to wear long skirts, I continued to do so. As a result, I enjoyed the knowing looks from other similarly clad women on the subway; being approached on the street to be asked where the nearest kosher restaurant was; and being greeted with a hearty “chag sameach.” These little nods, gestures, and words make you feel a little less anonymous in the largeness of New York. (more…)

Today on Tablet

We talk to Livni and talk about puppies, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni talks politics, Israeli-Diaspora relations, and more (but not Stuxnet) with contributing editor David Samuels. Theodore Ross relates that it took him writing a book, where his family moved when he was small, to turn his mom into a full-fledged Jewish mother. Lisa Traiger profiles Liz Lerman and her politically conscious choreography. In his weekly Torah column, Liel Leibovitz is confronted with the story of the Ark and recalls the “Noah Conundrum”: When he had one animal to save (a rescue puppy to adopt), he chose the cutest. The Scroll thinks all puppies are cute.

‘After the Holidays’

Your weekly dose of Israelispeak

(Len Small/Tablet Magazine)

Israelispeak is the way Israelis and the Israeli media use Hebrew. Behind the literal meaning of the Hebrew, there’s an additional web of suggestion, doublespeak, and cultural innuendo that too often gets lost in translation. Every Friday in The Scroll, our lexicon reveals what is really being said.

Now that shofar blasts are no longer reverberating in the air and sukkahs no longer sit on the balconies of the Holy Land, the long-awaited period of aharei hahagim (literally, “after the holidays”), when the nation’s month-long excuse for getting nothing done—other than shopping for chicken and pomegranates, of course—finally reaches its expiration date. This year, no less than others, aharei hahagim is a time for action. (more…)

Daybreak: Will They Stay or Will They Go?

Plus Russia grows a backbone on Iran, and more in the news

President Abbas earlier this week.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Arab League meeting today may produce angry rhetoric, but not, U.S. officials believe, an official endorsement for the Palestinian Authority to depart the peace talks. [NYT]

• Israeli officials, however, say they do expect Arab League backing for President Abbas’s decision. [JPost]

• Settlers seemed pleased, anyway. [JPost]

• Russia is refunding Iran’s down-payment for a sophisticated anti-aircraft system—further proof, says the U.S., that Russia is welcomely toughening up in its dealings with the Islamic Republic. [Laura Rozen]

• Guess who hasn’t been discovered? Really any of the over 30 suspected killers of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh [WSJ]

• A top Israeli energy tycoon discusses his rate battle with the Israeli government. [LAT]

Sundown: She’s Got the Power

Plus Hitler’s signature in the flesh, and more

Irene Rosenfeld.(Forbes)

• A Jewish woman—Irene Rosenfeld, the CEO of Kraft Foods—was named Forbes’s second-most powerful woman in the world. Higher than Hillary! [Forbes]

• Big feature from former restaurant critic Frank Bruni on a kosher restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, that caters both to Hasidim and yuppies alike. You’re going to end up reading it this weekend, so may as well read it tonight. [NYT Magazine]

• Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will visit China next week to convey that Iran sanctions are working and to emphasize the need to keep them up. [JPost]

• For the next week or so, the Nuremberg Laws will be on rare viewing at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. [AP/NYT]

• David Mamet, author of Nextbook Press’s The Wicked Son, on self-segregation. [Jewish Journal]

• Madoff is old news; the real target now is J. Ezra Merkin. [Forward]

While visiting my friend (who is doing fine) this morning at a New York City hospital with a Hebrew name, I saw this sign:

Haifa Comes to Newark

Exhibition game leads to blowout but respect

Jordan Farmar guarding a Haifa player.(Ron Kaplan/NJJN)

Ron Kaplan, proprietor of one of my favorite blogs, also has a real job wherein he edits and writes for the New Jersey Jewish News (which, no, isn’t that paper). This week, he combines his two vocations and files a dispatch from Sunday night’s exhibition contest in downtown Newark between the New Jersey Nets and Maccabi Haifa, whose owner, Jeffrey Rosen, lives in West Orange (and whom Kaplan, naturally, has profiled).

Here’s my favorite part:

Proud mom Stacy Harvey said more than 75 family and friends had come from New City, NY, and beyond to cheer on her son, Brett, one of the newest members of the Haifa team. Harvey, a point guard from Loyola University Maryland, was signed by Haifa out of a July tryout camp in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

It just so happens I was at the game too, which among other things meant I got to meet Ron, which was great. As for Haifa, they played how you would expect: Small, fast, scrappily, and much less well. Nets Coach Avery Johnson admitted at a press conference after the game that Haifa—whose starting center is 6’6”—gave the Nets (who, rusty, nonetheless won by 40 points) the most trouble when they went small, specifically at the power forward position. And he expressed admiration for their ability to run the court—something the Nets (including new Jewish point guard, Jordan Farmar) will have to do if they want to exit the NBA’s cellar.

Night of Firsts As Haifa Takes on the Nets [NJJN]
Related: Members of the Team [NJJN]

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!

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