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Jews for Jesus Founder Dies

And speaks from beyond the grave!

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Jews for Jesus founder Moishe Rosen.(Jews for Jesus)

Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, died Tuesday (via Failed Messiah). He was 78.

And whoa! He has left one of those “If you’re reading this, then I am dead” messages on the Jews for Jesus Website!

“I hope I can count on you to show love and respect for the Jewish people,” he writes, “but Jewishness never saved anybody. Judaism never saved anybody no matter how sincere. Romans 10:9 & 10 make it clear that we must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy way. Within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism.”

He also writes a bunch of inside-baseball stuff regarding the movement. And also: “I don’t suppose that I will be writing you any new material, but there are a few articles in the works that might still come through.” Can’t wait!

Born into an Orthodox family in Kansas City, Rosen and his Jewish-born wife converted to Christianity, and he was ordained a Baptist minister. In 1973, he founded Jews for Jesus, which today is the most prominent sect of the Hebrew Christian movement. As its name suggests, adherents believe Jesus was the Messiah but also consider themselves Jewish.

“Mr. Rosen said he modeled his evangelical efforts on Vietnam War protests he saw while living in the San Francisco area,” the Washington Post reports.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum goes the famous phrase: Speak no ill of the dead. Today, what say we leave it at that, hrmm?

Moishe Rosen, 78; Founded Evangelistic Group Jews for Jesus [WP]

Today on Tablet

The nose makes the man, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing ed(d)itor Eddy Portnoy briefs us on the pseudoscience of nasalogy, which is what it sounds like. Prompted by a new book, Benjamin Pogrund re-examines Israel’s alliance with apartheid-era South Africa. In this week’s haftorah, which depicts Samson’s origins, Liel Leibovitz sees a parable about how to become (and how to avoid becoming) blind and powerless. And The Scroll is back after two days of cheesecake.

Obama and the Jews Break Bread

President reassures legislators on Israel, Iran

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Obama yesterday.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Tuesday afternoon, after The Scroll was already off celebrating Shavuot, President Obama met with 37 Jewish senators and congressmen at the Old Executive Office Building to reassure him of his unequivocal for support for Israel’s security. (All of the over 40 Jewish legislators were invited; notably absent was Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), the Minority Whip and sole Republican.) “One part group hug and one part gripe session,” is how Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) described it.

And apparently it went fairly well. According to various reports, Obama was most popular on the questions of Iran and Syria, and a bit less so when it came to the ongoing proximity talks with the Palestinians. “I walked through a minefield in the Middle East and I stepped on the land mines,” Obama reportedly said. “I got some toes blown off.” (The White House stated that the event was “a wide ranging and productive exchange about their shared commitment to peace and security in Israel and the Middle East.”)

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) were Obama’s toughest customers. They accused him of putting disproportionate pressure on Israel in the proximity talks and of considering proposing his own plan. He nixed this, saying, “I cannot impose a settlement. Israel is a sovereign nation and the notion that I would or could do that is simply wrong.” In fact—somewhat surprisingly—he said that the issue even of West Bank settlements is best left for final-status talks, rather than the current indirect peace talks.

The 90-minute meeting’s most heated exchange reportedly came when Lieberman asserted Obama’s main regional goal appeared to be engaging Arab countries. Obama denied this.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who was quite critical of the administration during the darkest days of the recent imbroglio over settlements, reportedly praised Obama’s stances on Iran’s nuclear program and the allegations that Syria was transporting missiles into Lebanon. He even said that Israel should be more vocal in its praise here. (It helped that the meeting was held the same day the United States submitted its China-supported sanctions draft.)

One attendee told Laura Rozen that his boss “came away feeling like [Obama] is genuinely committed to accomplishing a lasting [Israeli-Palestinian peace] agreement, and that he feels it strongly.” Maybe nothing, however, could accomplish quite what an Obama visit to Israel woul: Such a trip was suggested, and Rep. Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey) said he was sure Obama would follow through. Preferably not on a week during which Tablet is off half the time.

Obama Reassure Jewish Members on ‘Obama Plan’ [Ben Smith]
At WH Powwow, Jewish Dems Get a Chance To Vent to Obama [Laura Rozen]
Obama’s Meeting With the Congressional Tribe [Capital J]
Obama Meets With 37 Jewish Pols for a ‘Group Hug and Gripe’ Session [NY Daily News]
O: Israel My ‘Land Mine’ [NY Post]

Daybreak: Bold Palestinian Move

Plus Gingrich goes there, and more in the news

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Newt Gingrich in February.(Wikipedia)

• The Palestinians made a surprisingly generous land-concession offer in the proximity talks. Israel would rather be talking about a less controversial subject like water rights. [WSJ]

• Hezbollah is mobilizing to prepare for a large Israeli military drill beginning Sunday. [Haaretz]

• France and Germany’s foreign ministers both hit the Mideast this weekend to talk peace. [Ynet]

• Moshe Greenberg died at 81. An Israel Prize winner, he was one of the first Jews who critically taught the Bible in the American academy. [NYT]

• Newt Gingrich’s new book says President Obama’s policies are as “great a threat to America as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.” The AJC wants an apology. [American Jewish Committee]

• And while we were out for Shavuot, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) lost this year’s Democratic primary. So much for the party switch. [JTA]

Sundown: Peace, Love, and Understanding?

Plus Beinart is no ‘hater,’ and more

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Elvis Costello.(Wikipedia)

Tablet Magazine and The Scroll will be dark until Friday morning in observance of Shavuot. Have a good holiday!

• Elvis Costello canceled two planned concerts in Caesarea, Israel, out of “instinct and conscience” regarding the Palestinian issue. [Arts Beat]

• Tablet Magazine contributor David P. Goldman takes issue with Peter Beinart’s essay: “Zionism is in no danger. The entity that is in trouble is Jewish liberalism.” [First Things]

• Meanwhile, Beinart happily reports that no one has accused him of Israel- or self-hatred. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York) has introduced a House resolution demanding that Hamas release Gilad Shalit. [JTA]

• Jean-Luc Godard’s new film, which debuted yesterday at Cannes, has references to “Jews, Hollywood and the Holocaust.” Not clear if they are meant to be related to each other, or if they just seem that way because of the jump-cuts! [Arts Beat]

• Tonight, at The Strand in Manhattan, Jewcy hosts the first Yiderati reading series. It features, among others, Tablet contributing editor Rachel Shukert. Come one, come all! [Jewcy]

Iran Sanctions Draft Finalized

Will China approve?

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President Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

The nuclear swap deal that Turkey and Brazil extracted out of Iran seems good on its face, but the thinking is that, by taking the pressure off, it is actually likely to lessen the chance of meaningful sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Well, we’re about to find out if that’s true. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have agreed on a draft sanctions resolution, which they are now circulating.

For the record, Russia, which is also involved in the nuclear material swap deal, has long been surprisingly onboard with the prospect of further sanctions. It is China that has been the holdout, and it is the country to watch.

Breaking: Clinton: Iran Sanctions Draft To Go to Full U.N. Security Council Today [Laura Rozen]
U.S. Is Skeptical on Iranian Deal for Nuclear Fuel [NYT]

Today on Tablet

The still-Samaritans, cheesecake, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Benjamin Balint reports on the would-be Jews—the small community of Samaritans who have lived uninterruptedly on what is now the West Bank for thousands of years. Books critic Adam Kirsch deals with the legacy of Irène Némirovsky. Our special Shavuot-themed Vox Tablet podcast involves … cheesecake. Mmm, says The Scroll, cheesecake.

DAWN 2010 Celebrates Shavuot

At the mystical intersection of Judaism and science

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Novelist Gary Shteyngart and editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse at DAWN 2010.(All photos by Dan Coplan)

Moses among the penguins, rabbis beside the swamp! DAWN 2010, the late-night Shavuot arts festival that Tablet Magazine cosponsored (along with Reboot) Saturday night at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, was full of surprising juxtapositions of Jews and fauna. (For all photos, check our our Facebook album.)

One of the first of the evening’s dozens of events was the world’s second performance of Everything’s Coming Up Moses, which tells the story of the Exodus in under an hour—with inspiration from the music of Gypsy. The musical, premiered by Tablet Magazine in New York this Passover and written by contributing editor Rachel Shukert, was, naturally, performed in the African Hall beneath a taxidermied leopard that was hanging out in a tree overhead. (The very-much-alive penguins strutted at the other end of the hall.) (more…)

Daybreak: Did Iran Just Play Us?

Plus bad Blumenthal, good beer, and more in the news

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Richard Blumenthal.(Wikipedia)

• Why Iran’s agreed-to nuclear swap, likely to forestall sanctions, could in the long run be a bad thing. [LAT]

• Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal—a Scroll favorite—has been accused of repeatedly lying about his service in Vietnam. [NYT]

• Israel offered Syria the Golan in exchange for cutting ties with Iran and terrorist groups. And it refused. [JPost]

• President Obama will meet with Jewish Democratic lawmakers today, his first such event. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Noam Chomsky told Al Jazeera that his being barred from entering Israel is the sort of thing that “only happens in totalitarian states.” [Ynet]

• Roger Cohen enjoys a delicious West Bank microbrew. [NYT]

Sundown: Rahm in Jerusalem

Plus Woody speaks up for justice, and more in the news

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The Woodman at Cannes this weekend.(Valery Heche/AFP/Getty Images)

• Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel is heading to Israel this week, with his family, for his son’s bar mitzvah. Wait, Rahm Emanuel is Jewish? [Arutz Sheva]

L’affaire Chomsky has become something of a cause célèbre in Israel. Additional French phrase. [NYT]

• Who knew Ben Bernanke’s middle name was “Shalom”? [NYT]

• A former Justice Department Nazi hunter (no, really) is agitating to have Richard Goldstone investigated for visa ineligibility due to his tenure as an apartheid-era judge. [Jewish Indy]

• Woody Allen (again) spoke up for his friend Roman Polanski, on the grounds that he is “an artist and a nice person.” In fairness, most people are only one or the other. Woody Allen, for example. [HuffPo]

• A dispatch from the West Bank, where the Samaritans—good and otherwise—still celebrate Passover in their own, distinctive way. Yes, this includes sheep-slaughtering. [VQR]

Late-‘60s Hadassah Head Dies

Jacobson, American Zionist activist, was 97

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Charlotte Jacobson.(Hadassah)

Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, sent out a press release earlier today announcing the death of Charlotte Jacobson, who chaired the group during the Six Day War. Though 97, Jacobson’s death came as a surprise: As recently as two weeks ago, Jacobson was at a conference with Hadassah’s current president, Nancy Falchuk, and in good form. “Her mind was sharp as a tack—she was educated and updated on everything that was going on,” Falchuk told Tablet Magazine this afternoon.

Jacobson, who held Hadassah’s presidency from 1964 to 1968, also chaired the American section of the World Zionist Organization from 1971 to 1982 and in 1981 was the first woman elected president of the Jewish National Fund. Her first trip to Israel was in 1951; she wasted no time making herself known to the leadership of the fledgling Jewish state. On a trip in the late 1950s, she was part of a delegation that met with David Ben-Gurion. “He was laying out the problems he was facing, and most of us just listened—but Charlotte interrupted the prime minister to say, ‘I’m not so sure I agree with you,’ ” recalled Bernice Tannenbaum, another former Hadassah head who was with Jacobson on the trip. “It didn’t matter that it was the prime minister of Israel. She just asked her questions.”

Jacobson was born Charlotte Stone in 1914 in the Bronx, where she was raised in an Orthodox family. In a 1967 interview with Morris Kurtzer, she recalled that she and her two sisters had been known in their youth not as the Stones, but as “the three pebbles.”

Jacobson was active in the Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s, but within Hadassah she is famous for moving to reclaim the group’s hospital on Mount Scopus, in East Jerusalem, following the 1967 war. “She was a smart lady,” Falchuk said. “She knew that taking back the hospital put a claim on that part of Jerusalem.”

Beinart’s Backers

Those who applauded today’s essay

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Today seems to be the day that folks sympathetic to Peter Beinart’s big ol’ essay weighed in with their support. Nothing, so far, from The Weekly Standard, or from Beinart’s old boss Marty Peretz, who can be expected to disagree with it strenuously; nothing from AIPAC or the ADL, both of which are cast negatively in the piece. For them, we will have to wait.

• My vote for least-expected response of the day goes to the Orthodox Union. It calls Beinart a “thoughtful and wonderful writer,” thanks him for starting the conversation, and even decides to take his observation that the Orthodox community prioritizes its love for Israel over other commitments, such as liberalism, as “a kind of back-handed compliment.” Er, sorta. The OU does accuse the New York Review of Books of “pernicious anti-Israel hatred.” [Orthodox Union]

• Jeremy Ben-Ami called it “a powerful wake-up call.” [J Street]

• Spencer Ackerman believes that a corollary to Beinart’s essay is that pro-Israel groups will increasingly look to Christian evangelicals for support. [Attackerman]

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg says the essay is “analytically valid,” but that its placement in the NYRB is “semi-tragic.” He promises much more in the coming days. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Kevin Drum agrees with Beinart’s analysis of demographic trends. [Mother Jones]

• Joe Klein loved it! [Swampland]

• So did Andrew Sullivan! [Andrew Sullivanl]

• Ezra Klein pivots from the essay to argue that it is in Israel’s interests to make peace, as doing so will tamp down the hatred and lower the threats the country faces. [Ezra Klein]

Conservatives Talk About Conserving Judaism

JTS head lays out more ecumenical future

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The Jewish Theological Seminary.(Wikipedia)

In March, Arnold Eisen, the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary—which is the intellectual heart of Conservative Judaism—gave a blunt interview to Manfred Gerstenfeld of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in which he admitted that his movement suffers from what marketers might describe as a crisis of brand identity. “When I speak throughout the United States to Conservative Jews, many of them do not know what the movement’s message is,” he said. “Even some rabbis complain that they are not able to convey its essence to their congregants. Some seem not to know it themselves.”

This morning, during commencement at JTS’s Upper Manhattan campus, I witnessed Eisen confirm that he is on a mission to reverse the prevailing view that the Conservative movement is on the wane. “This moment offers not only unprecedented challenge but unprecedented opportunity,” he said in his address. He pledged to position his school not just as a hub for people who identify as Conservatives, but for “the religious center.”

Who’s that, we wonder? Well, Eisen wasn’t quite clear about his definitions, but it apparently includes anyone in New York who’s interested in Judaism: Full-time students and part-time students “eager for Jewish learning and Jewish wisdom” will learn together at newly developed continuing education classes. And he was clear that JTS’s umbrella will now extend not just to Jews but to people of other faiths, particularly Christians and Muslims, whose clerics are going to be welcomed not just into public policy debates at JTS but into training in things like providing pastoral care.

These are general principles; what about specifics? Last week, Eisen outlined six core principles that will guide the school’s mission going forward. He elaborated, a bit, this morning on what that will mean: more interdisciplinary classes, more practical training for future clergy, and more continuing education, especially for professional staff at Jewish organizations. It will also mean more targeted focus on shaping how day schools and summer camps teach Jewish principles, and—you knew it was coming—“the revitalization of synagogue worship.” For more, I guess we’ll have to wait for the prospectus.

An interesting thing to note, especially in light of Peter Beinart’s powerful new essay about the future of American Zionism: Eisen was clear that he was speaking to American Jews, as Americans. Israel came up twice, once in a mention of the need for “creative thinking” about the Israel-Diaspora relationship (especially, we imagine, in light of the new conversion bill making its way through Israel’s Knesset), and once in explicit reference to the “inescapable tension between our focus on North American Jewry and significant involvement in the State and society of Israel.”

But to the new graduates, American Jews or otherwise, he said this: “You will no longer be enacting the hyphen in your identity by walking up and down Broadway” and exhorted them to go out into the wider world and do good.

Full speech after the jump. (more…)

Beinart Speaks to Tablet

Defends NYRB piece, which was originally for NYT Mag

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Peter Beinart.(Wikipedia)

As you know, Peter Beinart has penned a blockbuster essay in the New York Review of Books condemning the Israeli leadership for their illiberal treatment of the Palestinian question, and the American Jewish leadership for making Zionism unattractive by insisting on near-unquestioning support. I talked to Beinart (whose new book, The Icarus Syndrome, comes out June 1) today about why he wrote the article, why he published it where he did—it was originally supposed to run in the New York Times Magazine, but “there was a stylistic disagreement, not an ideological one”—and what he expects in response.

What prompted the essay? Why now, when you previously have not written much about Israel?
Having kids definitely played a role. I think it made me think about not just my Zionist identity, but what kind of Zionism was available to them. And the more I thought about that, the more I began to worry. I also think that we all operate at intellectual levels and emotional levels, and for me I just decided … There was this story in the New York Times about the Gaza War, about the house in Gaza where they found the children whose parents were dead. What you may find, if you do have kids one day, you are affected at an emotional level more strongly by certain things, in a way you may not be entirely prepared for. I think that’s a good thing, it’s primordial. I know people develop all kinds of shrewd and sophisticated and clever ways of explaining anything that happens, but when I read the story I just thought I was not in the mood to try in some clever way to explain it away. And the fact that I felt I was supposed to just sickened me a little bit.

That’s not to say there are never gonna be civilian casualties in war. But knowing the people who are running Israel now. … The amazing thing about Netanyahu’s book, which is a pretty long book, is there is not a single word of human empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians or Arabs. It was for me such a chilling book in its willingness to essentially. … there was something so inhuman about it, I felt. I just felt like that wasn’t something that I wanted to apologize for. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Poor Shavuot, the Ortho-politico, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff examines why Shavuot—which starts tomorrow!—never really became a thing in America the way Passover and the other usual suspects did. Senior Writer Allison Hoffman profiles Nachama Soloveichik, an Orthodox 29-year-old descendant of a prominent rabbinic family who is now the press secretary to conservative Catholic Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall tries to figure out when her kids’ secular identity should take precedence, and when their religious one should. The Scroll will try not to make the whole week about the Beinart essay. Honest.

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