‘I Learned A Lot From My Father’s Lawyer’

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

On next week’s Vox Tablet podcast, staff writer Marc Tracy discusses the upcoming NFL season with former football writer Ray Gustini (now at The Atlantic Wire). Specifically, they figure out how many of the NFL’s 32 franchises have Jewish owners, and then decide the all-important question: Who will be Tablet Magazine’s official team for the 2010 season, which starts in under two weeks?

Below: Tracy parses the Jewishness (or lack thereof) of Jim Irsay, the owner of Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts.

Related: The Colts’ Jewish Roots [Ynet]

Expert Argues For Accepting Nuclear Iran

Riedel has close ties to Obama administration


Your weekend reading assignment is this essay by Bruce Riedel, an intelligence, security, and foreign affairs expert who though officially in the world of think tanks has close to ties to the Obama administration (he has been a crucial player in its Afghanistan strategy). “The United States needs to send a clear red light to Israel,” Riedel writes. “There is no option but to actively discourage an Israeli attack.”

His argument is premised on the notion that, between the unattractiveness of a military attack on Iran and the general inevitability of the Islamic Republic’s becoming a nuclear power, we ought to accept this and go about increasing Israel’s own nuclear deterrence by arming it with more sophisticated weapons and placing it under our nuclear umbrella.

Writes Riedel:

The era of Israel’s monopoly on nuclear weapons in the Middle East is probably coming to an end. Israel will still have a larger arsenal than any of its neighbors, including Iran, for years if not decades. It will face threats of terror and conventional attack, but it already faces those. With American help it can enhance its deterrence capabilities considerably. It has no reason to lose its self-confidence. But to avoid the potential for all-out war not only between Israel and Iran but also between the United States and the Islamic Republic, Washington needs to act now. Only by enhancing Israel’s nuclear capability will America be able to strongly and credibly deter an Israeli attack on Tehran’s facilities.

Because such an attack, Riedel adds, “is a disaster in the making”: For Israel, which would face a combination of direct Iranian retaliation and indirect retaliation via proxies Hezbollah and Hamas; and for America, which would see an uptick in Shia insurgency in Iraq and the need for vastly more troops to pacify a suddenly restive western Afghanistan.

You should truly read the whole article. Below, a quick cheat sheet for whether or not you should agree with Riedel. (more…)

Obama Sees Approval Rating Drop

61 percent of Jews are still onboard

President Obama, vacationing on the Vineyard.6(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

One probably shouldn’t make too, too much of the new Gallup poll on President Obama’s approval rating among various religious groups (which is being most widely touted because it shows that the religious group in which he enjoys the highest support is Muslims). Jews have gone from supporting him 77 percent between January and June of 2009; to 66 percent between July and December 2009; to, now, 61 percent between January 2010 and June 2010.

That is a very real drop, to be sure. But it is also one entirely in keeping with how everyone else feels: The “All Americans” approval rating has gone from 63 percent to 53 percent to, now, 48 percent, according to Gallup. “President Obama’s job approval ratings have fallen significantly between his first six months in office and this year so far, and his ratings among major religious groups have fallen in rough lock step,” the poll finds. Which is to say: I think it is entirely too easy to say that he is facing a much steeper drop in support among Jews than he is among other groups (and it’s downright dumb to say that Israel is to blame). If there is one bone to throw to those who think Obama has significantly damaged his standing among American Jews, more than he has other groups, it is to argue that his numbers among them were once so high that their drop must reflect something more than just the broader trend. Ultimatately, though, to borrow from a past syllogism: Americans approve of the president less than they once did; Jews are Americans; therefore, Jews approve of the president less than they once did.

Muslims Give Obama Highest Job Approval; Mormons, Lowest [Gallup]
Earlier: Obama and the Jews

Today on Tablet

A new year in New Orleans, Horowitz v. Luban, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, it’s five years after Katrina, and Rodger Kamenetz is celebrating Rosh Hashanah in New Orleans. Prompted by Daniel Luban’s essay on Islamophobia last week, David Horowitz and Luban debate the Ground Zero Islamic center. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz says that chosenness is what you make of it. The Scroll hopes to make a good Friday of it, for starters.

A Yidisher Pop

Pies in their faces


This week’s installment is about male regression and female transgression. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop

טײַגער װוּדס האָט לעצטנס פֿאַרלאָרן אַ שפּיל און איצט אַ װײַב. שװער צו זאָגן וואָס איז וויכטיקער פֿאַר אים.

Transliteration: Tayger Vuds hot letstns farlorn a shpil un itst a vayb. Shver tsu zogn vos iz vikhtiker far im.

Meaning: Tiger Woods recently lost a game and now a wife. Hard to say which is more important to him.


Daybreak: What They’re Trying To Say

Plus the ‘quiet freeze,’ and more in the news

What is Bibi really saying?(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

• A great explanation of what’s really going on with these seemingly bound-to-fail direct talks. [Politico]

• And the best bit of optimism you’ll read concerning them, courtesy former U.N. Ambassador Martin Indyk. [NYT]

• Expect to see a “quiet freeze”: The construction moratorium would be permitted to expire in September, on schedule, but Bibi and Defense Minister Barak will not sign building permits. [Haaretz]

• Israel is asking Russia to halt its sale of anti-shipping missiles to Syria. [Haaretz]

• Mohamed ElBaradei, the onetime head of the U.N. nuclear inspectors, has teemed up in his native Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood in a signature drive to try to effect constitutional change. [WSJ]

• Martin Earnest Dannenberg, a Jewish U.S. counterintelligence special agent during World War II who discovered (along with a Jewish Army translator) an original copy of the Nuremberg Laws in a small German town, died at 94. [LAT]

Sundown: Ross Looks To Thaw Things

Plus Stern remains ‘Frozen,’ and more

Ross (L) earlier this month with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.(Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv via Getty Images)

• Dennis Ross, President Obama’s National Security Council Mideast point-man, is in Israel trying to solve the settlement freeze conundrum in advance of next week’s planned talks. (Bonus! Shmuel Rosner agrees with everyone else and says the talks won’t produce anything any time soon.) [Laura Rozen]

• Start-up nation’s entrepreneurial track record is not nearly as good once the start-up phase is completed. [WSJ]

• Egypt has begun building its first nuclear power plant, pretty much exactly as Mideast columnist Lee Smith foresaw. [AP/JPost]

• The strongly pro-Israel American group Z Street sued the IRS, alleging it was denied tax-exempt status out of political motivations. [Laura Rozen]

• Steve Stern, author of The Frozen Rabbi (first serialized in these virtual pages), talks about his novel. [The Jewish Star]

• There’s a new, Bizarro Version of the Walt/Mearsheimer book called The Arab Lobby coming out. [Dave Weigel]

I’m aware this is a Jewish magazine (yes I got that memo), but in the spirit of ecumenicism, here is Lyle Lovett and his Large Band singing “Church.”

A Schmutz for a Sanders

Commemorating great name-changes


All in all, it is probably a positive sign that immigrants to America no longer feel the need or desire to change their surnames to more “American” (re: Anglo, or at least intelligible-to-English) variants. At the same time, one can’t help but feel that something is being lost, particularly in the Jewish community. To that end, I polled a few Tablet Magazine staffers to find out their original last names from way, way back. Don’t forget to leave yours in the comments!

Fishbeyn –> Matthew Fishbane, deputy politics editor

Hoffmann –> Allison Hoffman, senior writer

Urich* –> Wayne Hoffman, deputy editor of Nextbook Press

Ivry –> Sara Ivry (ivrit, anyone?), senior editor

Mueller –> Abigail Miller, assistant art director/Webmaster

Neuhaus –> Alana Newhouse, editor-in-chief

Oxfeld –> Jesse Oxfeld, executive editor (okay so not everyone had name-changes)

Schmutz (!) –> Gabe Sanders, deputy editor

Smallwood –> Len Small, art director/Webmaster

Zubrine/Rosenfeld** –> Julie Subrin, audio producer

Tracovutski –> Marc Tracy, staff writer

* “Apparently some other family in Russia named Hoffman had visas to emigrate, and their visas came in before my family’s (Urich) did. But when their visa came up, one of the Hoffman children was ill and they’d have been turned away from the boat. They told the Urichs that they could use the Hoffman visa—all they had to do was switch family names. Simple. We’ve been Hoffman ever since.”

**There is apparently much controversy on the subject!

New Life in U.S. No Longer Means New Name [NYT]

Israel and the Youngs

New report rebuts claims of generational seachange

Young Jewish Americans in Israel on a Birthright-Taglit tour.(Birthright Israel)

Theodore Sasson and Leonard Saxe, who wrote about American Jewish attitudes toward Israel for Tablet Magazine, published an updated study that finds much the same thing at their previous ones: That where younger American Jews are found to feel less of an affinity for Israel, it is—contra Peter Beinart’s big essay—not because they are a new generation with new attitudes, but because they are, simply, younger: “Stages of the lifecycle rather than generational turnover” are to blame.

Other key findings:

• 52 percent believe U.S. support for Israel is “about right”; 39 percent believe it is too weak; nine percent believe it is too strong. I’m surprised that final number isn’t higher, especially since …

• President Obama’s approval/disapproval rating concerning his handling of the special relationship is 25-37; Prime Minister Netanyahu’s is 25-31. (more…)

‘Heeb’ Goes Online-Only

Join the club!


As was first rumored nearly nine months ago, Heeb, the irreverent (you have to use that adjective) Jewish magazine, announced that it is going online-only. (The cover of its final issue depicted a post-apocalyptic landscape: Prophesy, anyone?) Rumor had had it that the magazine was spending lots of money, and that it continued to do so even after the recession hit.

“We believe that in a world in which Jewish periodicals outdo themselves in attempting to highlight just how endangered Jews are,” writes editor and publisher Joshua Neuman, “there should be one Jewish media outlet that actually makes its readers smile. So whether online, or in print, we like to think that we can all still have a little fun—and don’t worry, Ahmadinejad will still be waiting when we’re done.”

So, Heeb, welcome to the world of online-only Jewish journalism. We think you’ll enjoy it.

So Much for Controlling the Media [Heeb]
Earlier: Is ‘Heeb’ On Its Way Out?

Another Israeli Land Dispute

How to write a Mideast trend piece

Bedouins in Al Araqib.(Rina Castelnuovo for The New York Times)

Yesterday, it was How To Write a Yiddish Trend Piece. Today’s lesson? How To Write a Mideast Trend Piece.

Headline implying this can all mostly be chalked up to the narcissism of small differences: Check.

Opening anecdote involving peaceful practice of benign religious ritual: Check.

“Then the bulldozers arrived at dawn”: Check.

Justify article by noting that this small conflict is in fact microcosmic of the larger one: Check.

Note that yet at the same time this one conflict is unique and idiosyncratic (in this case, the Arabs in question are Israeli Bedouins, not Palestinians): Check.

Quote Israeli spokesperson to the effect that Israel is acting within the law: Check.

Quote esteemed left-wing Israeli professor begrudgingly agreeing but nonetheless disagreeing with Israeli policy: Check.

Buttress that with prominent left-wing Israeli novelist (in this case, Amos Oz): Check.

Close on Jews and Muslims protesting Israeli policy together: Check.

A Test of Wills Over a Patch of Desert [NYT]
Earlier: A Settled Schtick

Today on Tablet

Caucasian Jews, infertility memoirs, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Sarah Marcus profiles the Mountain Jews of the southern Caucases, particularly Azerbaijan, where they always manage a minyan. Holly Lebowitz Rossi considers a graphic novel by one woman and an online video by another, both dealing with their own infertility. Part 4 of Toby Perl Frelich’s documentary about the kibbutz movement drops today. The Scroll wonders just how many more places in the world can have random Jewish communities.


This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’


The episode opens with Ed inexplicably cross-dressing. Maybe this is a side to him we simply haven’t met yet? Or maybe he is acting out after New York Times restaurant critic Sam Sifton panned his TriBeCa restaurant, Plein Sud, yesterday? Ah, I’m just breaking balls, I know this was taped well before Ed was Sift-bombed. But still: “The cooking at Plein Sud reveals itself to be lacking in flavor, texture, temperature, or interest: Room-service fare that leads to increased loneliness, raiding of the minibar, sleepless hours staring at the television in blue light, thinking about home. … This is grim stuff.” Indeed!

Kelly says she is gunning for Amanda Baumgarten, our only remaining Jewish cheftestant, now that Alex “Creepball Weirdo” Reznik has left the building.

Oh, also, Angelo, generally Joe Cool, has been freaking out. “Angelo’s been really weird some times,” Amanda relates. “He talks to himself, and says mantras, like, ‘You’re gonna win,’ stuff like that,” but you can’t hear the rest, because Amanda is collapsing with laughter. The notion that any chef thinks he is going to win is understandably very, very funny to Amanda. (more…)

Daybreak: Talks Threatened Over Freeze

Plus U.N. vindicates Israel on tree, and more in the news

An Israeli bulldozer removes an Israeli tree.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Image)

• Palestinian negotiators told the United States that Israel must extend its construction freeze, and make it include East Jerusalem, for talks to continue. [Haaretz]

• Meanwhile, several allies of Prime Minister Netanyahu, including from his own Likud Party, have urged him not to extend the freeze—set to expire September 26—anywhere. [WSJ]

• The previous two points are part of why George F. Will sees no hope for anything to come out of this latest round of direct talks. [WP]

• A U.N. probe concluded that Israeli soldiers remained in Israeli territory during last month’s skirmish with Lebanese troops; the tree they were pruning, in other words, was theirs to prune. [JPost]

• The papers outlining the Nuremberg Laws were turned over to the U.S. National Archives. They had originally been spirited out of Germany by none other than General Patton. [AP/NYT]

• The Park51 debate has confirmed everyone else’s opinions of America, no matter what those opinions happen to be. [NYT]

Sundown: Blair Steps Up for Israel

Plus, they are women, hear them chant, and more

Quartet envoy Tony Blair yesterday (with Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni).(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

• Tony Blair, the envoy for the direct talks-sponsoring Quartet, blasted delegitimization of Israel and praised Israelis’ “openness, fairmindedness, and creativity.” [JPost]

• Rabbi Avraham Bronstein, of the Hampton Synagogue, has a nuanced take on the new, unavoidable relationship between Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists. [… VaAni B’Sof HaMizrach]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu will be roughing it to some extent when he arrives in Washington, D.C., next week: Foreign Ministry workers are on strike. [JPost]

• Meet the newly announced Six Points Fellows: Nine emerging Jewish artists to watch. [Jewcy]

• Why the Park51 affair is important, no matter whether it ever actually gets built. [Jonathan Chait]

• Advocacy group Women of the Wall collected photographs of women around the world reading from the Torah. [Sisterhood]

Colbert v. Goldberg, on Iran.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Jeffrey Goldberg
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

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