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‘These Jews Wailing Away With Their Songs’

Your Vox Tablet preview

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(Eric Molinsky)

This week on Vox Tablet, host Sara Ivry talks to history professor James Loeffler about the place of music in the lives of Russian Jews, and of Jews in Russian music, at the turn of the last century. Long story short, Jews figured prominently, and music brought together not only Russian Jews and Christians, but also cosmopolitan Jews and their less well-heeled brethren, as evidenced by this anecdote about the composer Anton Rubinstein:

Is There A New Understanding on Iran?

The U.S. and Israel hash it out through articles

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A satellite image of construction near Qom, Iran.(NYT)

Today, the Times reported that the United States has persuaded Israel that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons for at least one year; that there will be ample warning before the “breakout” actually occurs; and, therefore, there is no need to consider a military strike as early as the beginning of 2011, as Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg had reported in a story last week. “We think that they have roughly a year dash time,” says Obama’s top nuclear adviser. “A year is a very long period of time.” The article argues that Israeli officials have genuinely bought these claims, at least to an extent, thereby lowering the chances of an attack within the next year.

In addition to reassuring Israelis on both the general time-frame and the advance warning Israel will receive—officials believe, for example, that it would take weeks, perhaps months, for Iran to go nuclear even after (publicly) kicking international inspectors out—the administration is arguing that sanctions and sabotage are working well. (Indeed, a great subplot to the article is the between-the-lines implication that we are basically sabotaging the shit out of Iran—“The public explanation by American officials is that the centrifuges are inefficient and subject to regular breakdowns,” the Times hints. Remember that forestalling the program through covert sabotage is probably the ideal outcome here.)

Goldberg notes that the Times story basically confirms his reporting. What may have changed in the intervening week or so is that “The top leaders of Israel are increasingly convinced that Obama means what he says when he says he is ‘determined’ to stop Iran’s nuclear program.” (Which makes sense: A key argument Goldberg offers is that, even if you don’t think Obama cares all that much about Israel or Iran specifically, he is a massive believer in nonproliferation, and the first rule of nonproliferation is: No new members of the club.) (more…)

The Things A Guy’ll Do To Get Elected

Photo of the day

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New York State Senator Kevin S. Parker in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. “Although it was the first time the Senator was introduced to this tradition,” reports Ditmas Park Blog, “the senator took the hollowed horn of the ram and with no rehearsal was able to blow consecutive blasts as a pro. Those gathered were surprised and amazed at the Senator’s talent.”

Poll Finds Jews Trending GOP

Though vast majority are still Democrats

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President Obama yesterday, on his way to the Vineyard.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

I argued yesterday that, as the midterm elections approach, the Israel issue is not seen as being broadly resonant. However, there is no reason it wouldn’t remain resonant within the Jewish community. In fact, the big new Pew poll—the same one that reported that 18 percent of Americans incorrectly believe President Obama is Muslim—found that 33 percent of American Jews identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, which is way up from 26 percent in 2006 and way, way up from 20 percent in 2008 (the year roughly 22 percent of Jews voted for Republican candidate John McCain).

Is this the beginning of a trend? Is it significant even to the midterm elections? Ron Kampeas is skeptical. Though Pew polled over 3000 people, only 60 identified as Jewish, and, according to Kampeas, “mainstream pollsters regard numbers below 250 respondents as unreliable.” On the other hand, that 60 figure represents two percent of the overall sample, closely reflecting Jews’ proportion of the population. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Keret and son, Hebrew priestesses, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Etgar Keret discusses the Ten Commandments with his four-year-old on a hot Tel Aviv day. Jeremy Gillick profiles Kohenet, a woman-based movement seeking to assert its stake in the feminine divinity and earthier roots of Judaism. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz finds that shame works best when it’s self-induced. The Scroll whole-heartedly agrees.

A Yidisher Pop

Tila Tequila, George Clooney, and a lesson in Yiddish

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This week’s installment is about common usages and uncommon behavior. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop

טילאַ טעקילאַ איז אַ פֿייַער פֿלאַם, זינגען זינגט זי ניט, אוּן אַלס אַקטריסע גייט איר ניט. אָבער וואַרפֿן אויף איר שמוּץ אוּן פֿאַרבלוּטיקן איר פנים קוּמט איר ניט!

Transliteration: Tila tekila iz a fayer flam, zingn zingt zi nit, un als aktrise geyt ir nit. Ober varfn af ir shmuts un farblutikn ir ponim kumt ir nit!

Meaning: Tila Tequila is a real firecracker. She can’t sing, she can’t act, but she doesn’t deserve her face muddied and bloodied!


(more…)

Daybreak: Direct Talks! September!

Plus Israel may have more time with Iran, and more in the news

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President Abbas and Prime Minister Netanyahu recently.(Menahem Kahana/Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Image)

• Direct talks! Washington, D.C.! Early September! Victory for President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton! [NYT]

• The United States has convinced Israel that it will take Iran longer—a year, minimum—before its nuclear weapons are operational, somewhat forestalling the possibility of Israeli military action in the near- to mid-future. [NYT]

• President Ahmadinejad reportedly said he was ready to restart fuel swap talks with the five permanent Security Council members (as opposed to Turkey and Brazil, with which he already struck a deal). [Haaretz]

• A new U.N. report says restricted land in Gaza has caused additional misery to a sizeable percentage of its residents. [NYT]

• Here’s the thing, though: The Islamic center almost certainly won’t actually be built. [Politico]

• Amar’e is apparently keeping kosher. [Page Six]

Sundown: Time’s Muslim Problem—And Ours?

Plus embarassing flotilla allegations, and more

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• The new Time cover package examines whether Islamophobia is rampant in America. [Time]

• The Obama administration has increased military cooperation with Israel: Just ask the Wall Street Journal and AIPAC. [Wonk Room]

• An IDF officer and soldier are being investigated for allegedly selling goods confiscated from the flotilla. [JTA]

• In opposing Park51, Newt Gingrich noted that Nazis would not be able to put up a sign near the Holocaust Memorial Museum. This happens to be completely false. [Slate]

• Robert S. Wistrich on Trotsky’s complex, and evolving, stance toward Zionism (which he never subscribed to), as compared to the reflexive and strong anti-Zionism of his heirs. [Forward]

• Do you want to read an interview with an 86-year-old old-time-y New York City Jewish press agent? Of course you do. [NYT]

Sorry the Top Chef round-up went up later than usual. Blame these guys.

No Runways on a Yom Tov

Fashion insiders face Koufax conundrum

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Designer Yigal Azrouel in June.(Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Whitney Museum of American Ar)

The earlyness of Rosh Hashanah 2010/5771 (three weeks from yesterday!) is wreaking havoc on New York City Fashion Week, whose early-September iteration—at which designers debut spring collections (confusing, I know)—is overlapping with the holiday. Various Jewish “industry insiders” are planning to sit out a couple days in observance of the yontiff (London’s Fashion Week will face a similar Yom Kippur problem). Even one of the designers, Israeli Yigal Azrouel, has had to reschedule a show. “Because New York is such a Jewish center, people have come to assume that things will get planned around Jewish holidays in a way that they wouldn’t be elsewhere,” said Izzy Grinspan, of fashion Website Racked.

I would make a joke, but I can’t improve on Andrew Silow-Carroll’s. “Wait,” he wrote, “I thought Rosh Hashanah WAS a fashion show.”

Kobe Cited as Potential Future Jew

You can bet on it (but don’t)

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Kobe Bryant after winning his fifth NBA Championship in June.(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Former Tablet Magazine intern (and Dallas native) Jordan Hirsch sends news that, in the wake of the Amar’e Stoudemire phenomenon, a bookmaking Website has fixed odds to the likelihoods of 10 NBA stars’ converting to Judaism.

Dallas Maverick Dirk Nowitzki is pegged at +550 (in other words, if you bet $100 on him, and the German power forward proceeded to take a dunk in the mikvah, you would get $550 and your money back). Of the 10 stars, the most likely are Kevin Durant (+350) and Kobe Bryant (+375), though particularly in Durant’s case I have no idea why; the least likely are Nowitzki, Chris Paul (+550), and Dwyane Wade (+600), which makes more sense—Nowitzki is German, Wade seems fully self-actualized, and Paul won’t do anything unless LeBron tells him to.

A few more notes:

• The total likelihood of one of these players’ converting to Judaism is 100 percent, which should tell you something: Don’t bet actual money on this.

• Amar’e Stoudemire, who technically isn’t Jewish, should clearly be the most likely, and, depending on the odds, the only one actually worth putting money on.

• Ron Artest, who technically is insane, would be the only other NBA player I would put money on here, under the theory that he is capable of absolutely anything.

• J.J. Redick is the NBA player least likely to convert, because (I reflexively assume) Dukies don’t like Jews.

• The (albeit just-retired) NBA player whom I would most like to join the Tribe? SHEEEEEEEED.

Website: Chance of Mavericks’ Dirk Novitzski Converting to Judaism Is 15% [Dallas Morning News]
Earlier: Amar’e Stoudemire’s Excellent Adventure

Israel Unmentioned in Sestak Profile

Even though race is a proxy war on the issue

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Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania).(NYT Magazine)

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania), who is running for Senate against former Rep. Pat Toomey, gets every candidate’s dream (or, potentially, nightmare): A full-on, 4750-word profile in the New York Times Magazine. He comes out looking good: A military veteran and tireless campaigner; a genuine guy with genuine blue-collar roots; a family man who takes his work seriously; an anti-establishment figure with fairly establishment views; a social progressive, a defense skeptic, and an economic liberal.

Here is what is not mentioned in the piece: Israel.

And here is why that is notable: The Emergency Committee for Israel—the group, co-founded last month by William Kristol, whose explicit mission is to put strongly pro-Israel candidates into Congress (and, eventually, the White House)—made Sestak (who, like Toomey, is Catholic) its first and biggest target, arguing that he is weak on Israel, in turn prompting an angry response from the candidate and a war with J Street, which has endorsed Sestak and can generally be thought of, politically, as the Emergency Committee’s mirror image. (more…)

The Rabbi Is In

Ask Joseph Telushkin your questions

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Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.(Random House)

In a moral quandary? Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming Hillel: If Not Now, When?, will help you find the answers just in time for the High Holidays. Send your questions to asktherabbi@tabletmag.com by August 28, and the rabbi will answer the most compelling submissions in Tablet Magazine before Yom Kippur.

Hillel: If Not Now, When? [Nextbook Press]



Blown Cover

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’

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Alex last night. Spoon!(All photos by the author)

Opening thoughts, as always, turn to Alex Reznik: specifically his alleged non-cooking in last week’s Restaurant Wars. “Alex did not put up a dish, I think his team carried him,” says Kevin. “Has he dodged some bullets? Yeah, absolutely, no doubt about it.” Call him Neo. But as Keanu Reeves’ character in The Matrix learned, the trick is not to dodge the bullets, but to not even need to do that. Will Alex realize that? Or will he just, you know, get shot? “I hope Alex either steps up or goes home,” Kevin adds. Me too. Ditto for Amanda Baumgarten, our other Jewish cheftestant. It’s time. It’s past time. Let’s go to the Quickfire Challenge.

The chefs walk in and see Wylie Dufresne along with boxes with question-marks, like those of an uncolorful Riddler. The challenge: Use what’s in the mystery boxes—they have identical ingredients—and incorporate also the ingredients that will arrive in subsequent mystery boxes. Winner gets $10,000. Angelo says he needs the money to help get his fiancée to New York from Russia, which among other things means working out “visa issues.” I am going to give Angelo a pass and not suggest that he has a mail-order bride. Wait, I think I just failed. Oh, well. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Anti-Semitism turned Islamophobia, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Daniel Luban compares the tenor, progenitors. and even content of an earlier age of American anti-Semitism to today and finds that it most manifests itself in slurs against not Jews but Muslims. Josh Tapper reports on the nearly 5,000 New York City-area Holocaust survivors characterized as “near poor,” and profiles one in particular. Contributing editor Eddy Portnoy reads Yiddish papers of 1906 and finds a mothers’ riot in the Lower East Side over tonsillectomies. Toby Perl Freilich offers part 3 of her documentary on the kibbutz movement. The Scroll apologizes that today’s Top Chef D.C. round-up isn’t up already, but rest assured, you’ll have your fix by noon.

Daybreak: Decreased Support Stateside

Plus Khamanei nixes talks with sanctions, and more in the news

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Ayatollah Ali Khamanei.(-/AFP/Getty Images)

• According to a new Israel Project poll, fewer Americans than over the past few years believe Israeli is committed to peace and that the United States should support Israel. [WP]

• Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf, the man behind the Cordoba Initiative, departs this week on his third-ever State Department-sponsored trip to spread a message of goodwill and tolerance to Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. [WP]

• Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said there will be no nuclear talks until sanctions are lifted and the military option taken off the table. [NYT]

• The U.S. criticized a $23.1 billion contract inked between Iran and a Swiss gas giant. [JPost]

• Park51 is probably not the perfect test case for religious tolerance or much else, because its developers are extremely disorganized, and highly unlikely to raise the stated goal of $100 million. [Politico]

• Amin al-Hindi, generally known to be a prime organizer of the attack on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich, 1972, and later the Palestinian intelligence chief and a Yasser Arafat aide, died at 70. [NYT]

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