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Wieseltier on Park51

The best thing you will read, the last thing you should

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A rally near the proposed site last month. Woolworth Building in the background.(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Though wishing probably won’t make it so, contributing editor Leon Wieseltier’s brief essay in The New Republic on the Park51 controversy really should be the final word on the subject—both because there have been way, way too many words already and because (and I say this as one who has read most of those words, since it’s my job) this is the finest treatment of the subject you will find.

Incidentally, J.J. Goldberg thinks he has found a secret battle royale between Wieseltier and TNR editor Martin Peretz. I think he has found two people who write for the same venue saying somewhat different things on a common topic. But you be the judge, I guess: As long as you read Wieseltier’s piece, one part of which is excerpted after the jump. (And if it is behind a subscription wall, you can maybe cough cough cough find it elsewhere.) (more…)

Giants Trade for Jewish QB

Rosenfels to play for New York squad

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Sage Rosenfels on his former team.(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In the Vox Tablet podcast I hosted, Ray Gustini and I made it clear that while we were selecting the Washington Redskins as Tablet Magazine’s official team (and that honorable mention goes to the New England Patriots), it was clear that if the Minnesota Vikings—whose owner, Zygi Wilf, is the German-born son of two Polish Holocaust survivors—did not face yet another year of Brett Favre as their starter and an idiotic head coach, Brad Childress, who insists on thinking of second-stringer Tarvaris Jackson as something resembling a professional QB, then the Vikings would be our obvious choice due to the presence on the team of (nominally) Jewish quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

Well, folks, huge news this weekend, as one team’s trash is another team’s treasure—or at least, back-up QB. The New York Giants, faced with the prospect of the abysmal and injured Jim Sorgi or no-name (if very interestingly-named) Rhett Bomar backing up their starter, Eli Manning, traded for Rosenfels. So, ladies and gentlement, please welcome him to the Tristate Area. (Meanwhile, Vikings Coach Brad Childress continues to defend Jackson as Favre’s back-up, despite Rosenfels’s stellar preseason play. Enjoy your 8-and-8 season, coach.)

So what does this mean? Recall further that the Giants are 50 percent-owned by Jewish movie producer Steve Tisch, and they of course play for the most Jewish city in the world. I think Tablet Magazine has a new official team. Just know that I will recuse myself from blogging about them after they play the Redskins, and that you’re all going to regret this when their aging offensive and defensive lines succumb to injuries and they go 6-10.

With Backup Quarterback a Question Mark, Giants Trade for Rosenfels [NYT]
Related: Kosher Pigskin [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

A High Holidays of inclusion, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, our High Holiday coverage hits its stride (Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown tomorrow): Editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse introduces our coverage with a call for inclusion; Rabbi James Ponet explains how he evolved to feeling comfortable officiating at interfaith weddings, such as the Clinton-Mezvinsky nuptials he presided over this summer; parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall gleans parenting lessons from the Jewish new year; and Rabbi Avi Shafran, of Agudath Israel, argues that some Jews think of the ultra-Orthodox as a distasteful ‘other’ rather than a fully legitimate part of the Jewish community. Plus, consult our Rosh Hashanah FAQ if you have any questions, and consult Josh Lambert’s compilation of forthcoming books of interest if you need any reading suggestions. And if you’re still not satisfied, there’s always The Scroll.

The Two Mahmouds Snipe Over Direct Talks

Why Iran fears the peace process

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President Ahmadinejad addresses the rally Friday.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

The new round of Israeli-Palestinian direct peace talks between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas are “death,” said one other leader last Friday. “Who does Abbas represent? Who gave him the mandate to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians? What will they talk about—Palestine? Who has the right to surrender parts of Palestine to the enemy?” Leaving aside the substance of the argument, more notable is who made it: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at the annual “Quds Day” rally—a massive pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli gathering. (To be sure, the Iranian president also offered the usual charming exhortations to prepare for the “final and decisive battle” against Israel.)

Abbas did not take this lying down. “He who does not represent the Iranian people, suppresses the Iranian people, and took power by fraud, has no right to talk about Palestine, its chairman or his representatives.”

We know Ahmadinejad is against Israel. But beyond the pure ideology behind the talks (the fact that talking to Israel acknowledges its existence and, implicitly, legitimacy), why is Ahmadinejad so down on them? Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, backing up Abbas’s line, hit the nail on the head: “The Iranians have been taking this aggressive line against the Palestinian Authority all along,” he said over the weekend, “and they have been supporting Hamas, the opponent of the Palestinian Authority.” (more…)

Daybreak: Report Says Iran Still Stonewalling

Plus Israel and Russia ink historic deal, and more in the news

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An Iranian reactor at Bushehr.(IIPA via Getty Images)

• Official nuclear inspectors report Iran still does not cooperate with them, meaning the latest sanctions, thought to bite more than previous ones, have not yet altered its behavior. The country has enriched over 6,000 pounds of uranium, enough for two bombs. [NYT]

• Mideast leaders expressed hope concerning what will follow last week’s direct peace talks. (Except for Avigdor Lieberman.) [NYT]

• A detailed look into who is funding both sides of the Park51 debate. [Politico]

• Palestinian Authority security forces face their toughest challenge yet—you can expect a continued uptick in West Bank violence as direct talks proceed apace. [LAT]

• Israel and Russia signed their first military deal, pledging cooperation in fighting nuclear proliferation and terrorism and leaving the door open to Russia’s buying further Israeli-made drones. (Defense Minister Barak had also sought to prevent missile sales to Syria.) [LAT]

• An interview with a Reform rabbi who has taken the lead in trying to force Israeli courts to grant greater accomodations to Progressive Jews. [LAT]

Sundown: That Was the Week That Was

Plus anti-anti-Semitism at Yale, and more

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(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

• “Netanyahu cannot offer the ‘Clinton parameters’ of a decade ago, and Abbas cannot accept less. It’s that simple. Tragic, but simple.” And six more direct talks takeaways. [Laura Rozen]

• Do we really need that second day of Rosh Hashanah? [JTA]

• President Obama, as seen through the eyes of President Ahmadinejad’s supporters. (Eerily similar to President Obama as seen through the eyes of Tea Partiers.) [Guardian]

• The PLO Envoy complained that Yale’s recent conference on anti-Semitism was “racist propaganda.” [JTA]

• Our condolences go out to parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall on the loss of her grandmother. [Marjorie Ingall]

• Tel Aviv has been nominated for Sexiest Place on Earth for gay travelers. It is going up against Toronto (really?), Barcelona, Vegas (really??), and Rio. [Ynet]

Three-day weekend. How does it feel?

Kahane’s Kosher Triumph

And a reminder to read our story on his death

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Apropos Peter Lance’s investigation into the prosecution of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s killers, Tablet Magazine contributor David E. Y. Sarna writes in,

When Kahane was incarcerated, the Bureau of Prisons refused him kosher food. He sued, and the case came before Judge Jack Weinstein. The issue was whether kosher was an essential part of Judaism. Judge Weinstein, in his decision, quoted from my late father’s Understanding Genesis that following Jacob’s battle with the Angel, from that day forth Jews do not eat from the sciatic nerve, and that this was the origin of the laws of Kashrut, a fundamental tenet of the Jewish faith.

Ever since that decision the BOP has been required to provide kosher food for all Jewish inmates who request it.

Interesting fact. Also, it gives me an excuse to point out that Lance’s article is truly must-read, establishing as it does that the ultra-nationalist Kahane’s 1990 murder in Manhattan was not some small provincial story, but rather an absolute hinge moment in the United States’s war with al-Qaida; and that, in fact, you can trace the success of several al-Qaida operations, including 9/11, to the mishandling of the prosecution of Kahane’s killers. It’s a long piece, but you have a three-day weekend coming up, so print the damn thing out and give it a read.

First Blood [Tablet Magazine]
Related: Understanding Genesis [Amazon]

Turkish Franchise Revs Up Flotilla Flick

No word on whether Busey is in this one

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Gary Busey in Valley of the Wolves: Iraq.(Available Images)

Coming soon to a theater near you (assuming you live in Turkey): Valley of the Wolves: Palestine, an action thriller about a Turkish spy sent to kill the Israeli commander who ordered the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, the boat on which nine armed pro-Palestinian activists were killed last Memorial Day weekend. It’s actually merely the latest installment in the Valley of the Wolves franchise, which has included a 24-like TV show as well as the 2006 blockbuster Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, at the time the most expensive Turkish movie ever made. It features a U.S. Special Forces leader, played by Billy Zane, who calls himself a “peacekeeper of God”; a fictional U.S. military massacre of Iraqi civilians; and a Jewish-American doctor who does a Mengele impersonation, shipping human hearts to London and Tel Aviv. (Did I mention this doctor is played by Gary Busey?!?!?!)

Tellingly, the one Turkish person whom the Times quotes as being against the franchise is a film critic: “It’s sacrificing cinema to politics,” complains Mehmet Acar. The debate over the role politics should (and shouldn’t) play in art is a fascinating one, but most of the worthwhile participants were Jews, so I doubt it will be of much interest. Anyway, if this new film (scheduled for an October release) is anything like the Iraq one, expect yet another thorn in the side of the tattered Israeli-Turkish relationship.

Turkish Action Film Depicts Israeli Raid [NYT]
Related: What Turks Are Watching [Slate]
Israel Bites The Bait [Tablet Magazine]

Jews Biking for the Environment

Or, how not to get lapped by this woman

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Don’t mess with the Messinger.(AJWS)

When New Yorkers think of Jews and bikes, they probably think we’re against them as a result of the Satmar Hasidim’s outrage over the cycling lanes in south Williamsburg. But over this coming weekend, 175 Jews will be traveling via Brooklyn’s favorite mode of transportation in order to raise money for Hazon, the largest Jewish environmentalist nonprofit in the United States. The annual New York Jewish Environmental Bike Ride, which is Hazon’s largest fundraiser, has already generated $230,000 in donations.

Having done the Ride last year, I can offer this year’s participants a little bit of advice. Namely: Train. I wish I had. I rode nearly 100 miles over two days, despite having spent just a few hours in the saddle over the prior 16 years. As a result, everyone pedaled faster than I did, including Ruth Messinger. Yes, the former Manhattan borough president (and current head of the American Jewish World Service) has been a longtime supporter of Hazon. Reader, I ate her dust.

Better Than Expected

Hope springs eternal, but could it be for real this time?

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Yesterday.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The direct talks in Washington, D.C., ended, and it is safe to say, without predicting what comes next, that they ended as well as anyone frankly had the right to hope (and much better than the pessimists would have guessed). This is not to say we will see peace in the Middle East in the next year, as the Obama administration wishes, or in the next five or ten. Still, consider:

• Prime Minister Netanyahu acknowledged the legitimacy of Palestinian claims to the land.

• President Abbas condemned the Hamas attacks on Jews in the West Bank (including one which killed four), while his Palestinian Authority, to much public consternation, made more than 250 arrests. A friend remarked that it was bizarrely, and pleasurably, meta to watch the two leaders speak of Hamas’s efforts to derail the talks as, well, just that, and to state explicitly that neither was going to permit that to happen.

• At one point yesterday, Netanyahu and Abbas sat in a room and talked, just the two of them.

• Abbas agreed to Netanyahu’s U.S.-backed proposal to meet every two weeks. The next get-together will be September 14-15 in the region; Secretary of State Clinton, who mediated yesterday’s talks, will attend.

And yet! (more…)

Today on Tablet

Defending Wiesenthal, not healing the world, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Ron Rosenbaum praises famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal, arguing that many of his so-called imperfections were necessary to the fulfillment of his mission. Marissa Brostoff examines David Horowitz’s philosophical attack on tikkun olam—that it is Jews’ responsibility to “heal the world”—in favor of “a kind of anti-humanist existentialism.” Next week’s Vox Tablet podcast comes early, as host Sara Ivry and Rabbi Andy Bachman introspectively stroll around Brooklyn’s Mount Carmel Cemetery. In this week’s haftorah, Liel Leibovitz finds that even God finds fatherhood difficult. The Scroll would like to see God trying eight posts a day five days a week.

Salita, on Home Turf, Wins Comeback

Brighton Beach brawl ends in decision for rabbi-in-training

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Franklin Gonzalez takes a punch from Dmitriy Salita.(All photos by Kate Abbey-Lambertz.)

Wednesday night, Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita (31-1-1, 16 KOs) pulled out a tough victory by decision against Franklin Gonzalez (13-6, 9 KOs) at Brighton Beach’s Oceana Hall. (You can watch the fight tonight on The Jewish Channel.) Nine months ago, the Ukrainian-born Orthodox rabbi-in training was trounced by Amir Khan in England. He later told Tablet Magazine that the extremely hostile crowd was to blame and received some friendly advice: Fight in Brooklyn next time.

The sold-out event, billed as “Redemption,” featured a very Brooklyn crowd, which waited through seven preliminary fights for the main bout. The audience, many wearing yarmulkes, some shouting in Spanish and English at the opening boxers, all agreed not only that Salita would win, but that he had to win. Where they differed was why. (more…)

Daybreak: Obama Takes Charge

Plus: Abbas’ reluctance, Palestinian dissent, and more in the news

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President Obama out front.(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

• This week’s generally successful direct talks perhaps above all represented the United States—and particularly President Obama—showing how powerful it remains. [Politico]

• Speaking of which, the United States is reportedly pressuring President Abbas not to leave the talks even should West Bank building start up when the freeze expires later this month. [Haaretz]

• Meanwhile, the problem with Hamas’ attacks (and pledged attacks), beyond them themselves, is that they represent broader division among the Palestinian people over the attractiveness of peace talks, including among Palestinian Authority leadership. [WSJ]

• Want your West Bank microcosm? It’s Hebron. [LAT]

• Influential columnist Ari Shavit asks whether we should be aiming for an interim deal rather than a comprehensive, final one. [Haaretz]

• Four Orthodox members of a Shomrim Patrol were shot last night in Boro Park; all survived. [NYT]

Sundown: Progress

Valley on Valley, Hitch on faith, and more

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Abbas and Netanyahu shake hands at the State Department.(Jason Reed-Pool/Getty Images)

• Today’s direct talks went well: President Abbas agreed to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s U.S.-backed proposal to meet every two weeks (starting on September 14 in the Mideast). I’ll have more on all this tomorrow. [Politico]

• The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research has already found upwards of 15,000 volumes in Chaim Grade’s old apartment. [Arts Beat]

Forward cartoonist Eli Valley discusses his life and work. [The Comics Journal]

• Christopher Hitchens further elaborates on the topic of praying (and not praying) for him. [VF]

• Reza Aslan and Bernard Avishai call on President Obama to do all in his power to prevent Israel from taking military action against Iran. [IHT]

• Buzz Bissinger asks: Who are the two Jewish pitchers who won the Cy Young Award? Peruse his whole feed to find the answer. [@buzzbissinger]

Pekar’s ‘Jewish Review’ Collaborator Made a Stir

Writer’s widow resented Seibel

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The late, great Harvey Pekar.(Wikipedia)

We learn much about the final days of comics writer Harvey Pekar (whom Vanessa Davis graphically eulogized in Tablet Magazine) from a New York Times feature. When he died in July, I noted that among Pekar’s final works published while he was still alive was his column, written by him and drawn by Tara Seibel, in the most recent Jewish Review of Books. In fact, Seibel, a 37-year-old artist based in Pekar’s Cleveland, plays a prominent role in the article, as Pekar’s wife, Joyce Brabner, apparently clashed with her and, even more, resented her and her husband’s relationship (which by all accounts did not cross any red lines).

The Times reports:

Ms. Seibel made no secret of her admiration for the pioneering comic work of Mr. Pekar, whom she described as “a 70-year-old hipster who loved listening to the Beastie Boys in the car.” In turn he provided her with stories that she illustrated for publications like Chicago Newcity, The Austin Chronicle and The Jewish Review of Books.

Ms. Seibel was also one of four artists whom Mr. Pekar invited to work on the Pekar Project, which starting in 2009 was an effort to translate his work and persona to the Internet. … (more…)

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