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]

Sundown: Shanah Tova Edition

Sending you off with extra material


Special longer-than-usual Sundown today, due to the half-day and the fact that we will be off tomorrow and Friday. Here’s wishing you and yours a sweet 5771!

Old Jews Telling Jokes … the Rosh Hashanah-themed e-cards! This is easily the best way to wish someone a happy new year. [OJTJ]

• Hussein Ibish asks why we should include Hamas in peace talks when the group has made clear, through its violent attacks last week, that it does not want peace. [NOW Lebanon]

• Elliott Abrams advises peace processors to shoot for a “framework agreement” rather than a comprehensive, final one. [WP]

• Shmuel Rosner writes that when it comes to the peace process, impatience is the great enemy. [FP]

• If you needed another “Hey no matter what happens with the peace process, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is building a real Palestinian state in the West Bank” essay, well then here’s one. [WP]

• All about the diverse artists at the newly revamped Israel Museum. [NYT]

• Impossibly charming profile of 100-year-old novelist Hans Keilson (whose books Adam Kirsch raved over). [NYT]

• Was a lampshade in post-Katrina New Orleans really made from Buchenwald’s human remains? [NYMag]

• Andrew Ferguson has a few words to say on the subject of Peter Beinart. [Commentary]

• The last Jews of … Burma! [Moment]

• Jules Feiffer and Norton Juster—the (Jewish) geniuses behind The Phantom Tollboth—have teamed up again, 40 years later. (Though this time, they don’t live in the same Brooklyn Heights duplex.) [NPR]

• Former Jewcy editor (and Friend of Tablet Magazine) Lilit Marcus has a new book out, Save the Assistants! Buy it! [Amazon]

Where Are You Spending Your Holiday?

We’ve got the lowdown on D.C., anyway


Tablet Magazine (and The Scroll) will not be publishing new content on Thursday and Friday in observance of Rosh Hashanah. (Though it’s worth mentioning that we’re not turning the whole Website off, so if you happen to find yourself needing a recipe for an extra dish or something … .) Many of our staffers, of course, will be in services, as no doubt will many of our readers. Where will you be? Here, I’ll start:

My family actually hasn’t decided if we are going to go to where we normally go, our longtime congregation of Adas Israel in Washington, D.C., or if we are going to mix it up this year and head downtown to services at what used to be Adas, the historic synagogue at Sixth and I. Via email, I’ve learned that all three historic former synagogues in D.C.’s Chinatown will be hosting 6,000 Jews come these High Holidays.

So that’s me. It might be a nice thing to use the comments to tell people where you’ll be spending your Rosh Hashanah—and, maybe, where they can spend theirs. Let’s do some crowd-sourcing, people!

Threats Veiled

For hasidim traveling to Uman, lycra’s all the rage

Hasidim on their way to Uman.(Haaretz/Lior Mizrachi)

When he died more than 200 years ago, Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav asked his followers to visit his grave in the Ukrainian village of Uman each year on Rosh Hashanah. A less typical but no less dedicated follower, Rodger Kamenetz—the author of Burnt Books, the upcoming Nextbook Press book about Rabbi Nachman and Franz Kafka—made the trip (check out this animated account of his journey). While Kamenetz didn’t have to worry about such things as in-flight entertainment or scantily dressed women carousing through the airport, for some ultra-Orthodox travelers, these are critical issues, threatening the sanctity of the pilgrimage.

To make sure the righteous travelers catch no glimpse of the iniquitous world outside, a new group of entrepreneurial Bratslav hasidim devised a solution: A dark piece of cloth placed over the face. The ideal fabric, they wrote, was the stretchy and flexible lycra, and the ideal colors black, blue, or brown. The entrepreneurs promoted the veiled look in colorful pamphlets distributed throughout the haredi Israeli town of Bnei Brak, which featured the slogan, “Smiling all the way to Uman.” Wearing a thick sheet of fabric to cover one’s face, they added, may look strange, but “provides a bountiful reward” to those who do it.

By the end of the holiday, more than 14,000 of the late rabbi’s followers will have left Israel for Uman on nearly 100 flights. No word on how many of them will have worn lycra veils, but as you can see from the photograph, the number will be greater than zero.

This Year in Uman: Hasids Don ‘Veils’ En Route to Rabbi Nachman’s Tomb [Haaretz]
Related: Pilgrimage [Tablet Magazine]
Burnt Books [Nextbook Press]

Today on Tablet

Israel divided unites America, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, our High Holiday coverage continues. Historian Jonathan D. Sarna argues that the Rotem Bill controversy in Israel served to highlight interdenominational unity among American Jews. Novelist Darin Strauss discusses a memoir on a Yom Kippur-themed Vox Tablet podcast. Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming Hillel: If Not Now, When?, explains the great rabbi’s continued relevance. The Scroll is on a half-day schedule today, and wishes you a shana tova.

Eid Gives U.N. Jews Rosh Hashanah Off

When they work in Turtle Bay

The United Nations headquarters.(Wikipedia)

It was brought to our attention that United Nations employees in New York, that most Jewish of cities where the international organization is headquartered, will have the second day of Rosh Hashanah (Friday) off, but not the first (Thursday). Why? Because Friday happens also to be Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic celebration of the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which is one of the ten official holidays for U.N. employees in New York. I looked into the matter a little bit further—driven, to be perfectly honest, in part by the U.N.’s less-than-stellar record on Jewish issues in recent years. But turns out this is kosher.

U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq explained to me that, in each country, U.N. employees get ten paid holidays, with the ten days left up to the host countries (so in Russia, for example, they get Eastern Orthodox Christmas, or January 7, off). In New York, though, holidays have been decided by the votes of all member countries—in other words, of the General Assembly—and the ten holidays they have come up with are: New Year’s Day (January 1), President’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha (which commemorates Abraham’s refusal to sacrifice Ishmael—yes, to them it’s Ishmael, not Isaac), Thanksgiving, and Christmas (Western). No Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, though—and this in New York, where even the schools (though not the city) have the day off!

Honestly, though, while the small number of explicitly Jewish nations (one) in the General Assembly has at various times led to some pretty nasty things, this clear is not driven by animosity. Anyway, Jewish employees will get one day of Rosh Hashanah off to spend in observance, and, like most other Jews, can take the other one off themselves. Muslim employees (like Haq, as he noted to me) get Eid to observe. And Christian employees? They just get the day off. But we’re used to them catching the breaks.

Daybreak: A De Facto Freeze

Plus Rauf speaks up, and more in the news


• Palestinian President Abbas will reportedy continue peace talks after the settlement moratorium ends as long as there is no more actual building in contested areas. [Haaretz]

• Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf confirms that his Park51 Islamic center is meant for peaceful purposes and pledges it will get built. [NYT]

• President Obama told a group of American rabbis that he was “stunned” at how well the direct talks went and noted that Israel is “negotiating from a place of strength because the U.S. is absolutely committed to Israel’s security.” [Laura Rozen]

• Thomas Friedman proposes that the parties dust off the 2002 Saudi peace proposal (which, coincidentally, the Saudis initially revealed in a Friedman column!). [NYT]

• Interesting profile of an American (and, naturally, Jewish) psychologist from Georgetown whose Center for Mind-Body Medicine helps trauma victims in Gaza, among other global hotspots. [NYT]

• It turns out that “rape-by-deception” case, in which an Arab was accused of passing himself off as a Jew, is really more of a just plain rape case. [JTA]

Sundown: Our Man in Havana

Plus ground control to Mayor Rahm? and more

Goldberg. In Cuba. With Castro.(AP)

• Not even going to attempt to summarize contributing editor Jeff Goldberg’s report of meeting Fidel Castro in Cuba. Must-read. [Atlantic]

• Chicago Mayor Richard Daley surprisingly announced he won’t run for re-election. White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel, long rumored to be on his way out after the midterms, has said he would like the job someday. You do the math. [The Caucus]

• Credit where it’s due: The Anti-Defamation League initiated and is sponsoring the Interfaith Coalition on Mosques to provide support to Muslim communities facing local opposition to proposed mosques. [ADL]

• As 5771 dawns, Israel’s population grew to more than 7.6 million—nearly 5.8 million of which are Jews. [JTA]

• Where are the Great Rabbis of old? [Slate]

• Our very own Liel Leibovitz and Todd Gitlin—co-writers of the forthcoming The Chosen Peoples—argue that Israelis and Palestinians should seek to understand each other’s religious and historical investments in the land they share. [LAT]

An Obama shana tova.

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