Sundown: Rocket Hits Ashkelon

Plus Staten Island Jew-listing, and more

Ashkelon police handle a rocket’s remains today.(David Buimovitch/AFP/Getty Images)

• A rocket from Gaza hit Ashkelon—the first in more than a year—causing damage and panic, though no casualties. [NYT]

• Staten Island’s Democratic congressman fired his communications director for leaking a list of his midterm opponent’s Jewish donors under the title, “Grimm Jewish Money Q2” (“Grimm” is the opponent’s unfortunate last name). [Politico]

• A tour of Ariel Sharon Park, a remarkable, state-of-the-art waste-management facility in Tel Aviv. [Slate]

• Tablet Magazine contributor Benny Morris discusses what is open (and what isn’t) in the Israeli archives. [Chronicle of Higher Ed.]

• Renowned NBA blogger Bethlehem Shoals (née Nathaniel Friedman) plumbs Amar’e Stoudemire’s purportedly Jewish background, and finds murky evidence both ways, and nothing dispositive. [Fanhouse]

• The FBI had been keeping a file on Howard Zinn for six decades. [FBI]

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) brings it.

By the way, given who officiated his wedding, I think it’s safe to say that Weiner will be in Rhinebeck this weekend congratulating the happy couple. We weren’t invited, but we wish them mazel tov anyway.

Apply for a Free Jewish Journalism Class

I took it; it’s great


If you’re between the ages of 22 and 35, live in the New York City area, and are interested in writing about the Jewish world, you should consider applying to a free seminar that New York Times columnist and Columbia University Journalism School Professor Sam Freedman will be teaching this fall. It will be Sam’s third year running the Writers’ Seminar on the Jewish People, and I can say from personal experience that it is a fantastic resource. (Full disclosure: The seminar is sponsored by the Avi Chai Foundation, a relative of the Keren Keshet Foundation, which founded Nextbook—Tablet Magazine’s parent organization—in 2003.)

First there’s Sam himself, who teaches (and models) a combination of reportorial skills and deep background knowledge of subject matter in a way that I think would have inspired me even had my beat been technology or theater or anything, rather than Jews. He provides feedback on student work that, frankly, would ordinarily cost you upwards of $50,000 a year. The students in my class ranged from talented freelancers just out of college to tenure-track Jewish studies professors, which meant highly engaged discussion during class—and a cohort of folks helping each other get their stories published, to this day.

My favorite thing about the class, though, was that I got to read, discuss, hear from, and meet about a dozen of our foremost experts on Jewish history and Jewish life: The same scholars and writers one often needs to call when writing, say, a Tablet Magazine article, would show up as guest lecturers.

All of this gets done in only four or five all-day meetings over the course of a school year—which I found to be a reasonable time commitment even as a full-time reporter.

Application guidelines and more information about the seminar are here. Enjoy.

Mainstreaming Hate, Take Two

The response to Lee Smith’s follow-up


Lee Smith’s column this week has received only 102 comments (I say only because last week’s column is up to 257). Unlike last week’s column, which quite a few people on the Internet had something to say about, there were relatively few reactions; of the principals mentioned, only Andrew Sullivan responded (“Smith is a Likudnik crank”). Why the smaller response? For one thing, this week’s column was in part a defense and clarification of last week’s, so it was by definition less provocative. For another, this week’s column was, in my opinion anyway, more careful than last week’s, specifically in the way that it handled the link between bloggers and their commenters.

(Okay, I’ll lay my cards down: I did not like Lee’s column last week; I thought it sloppily seemed to blame bloggers for their commenters, which is a fallacy. This week’s column, however, argues more persuasively and with more nuance that certain bloggers are sounding dog-whistles to certain commenters, and while I do not agree with every word of it, I urge folks of all political stripes to give it a full read, because that argument deserves to be grappled with. Also, while I am generally inclined to give the benefit of the doubt, I do think Stephen Walt* needs to respond to one charge Smith made: Namely, what the hell is he doing linking to this?) (more…)

‘Housewives to the Entire Kibbutz’

Your Vox Tablet preview

(Eric Molinsky)

On Monday’s Vox Tablet podcast, Sara Ivry talks to filmmaker Toby Perl Freilich about her documentary-in-progress, which examines the 100-year evolution of the kibbutz movement. Through interviews with several generations of kibbutzniks, Perl Freilich digs around for the truth under all the myths. In some cases, the institution comes off looking pretty good; less so, according to one kibbutznik born-and-raised, when it came to the role of women, who were supposed to have been liberated from oppressive gender roles.

The Next Owner of ‘Newsweek’ Will Be Jewish

A plea against one of the candidates

Say no to Drasner.(Horkulated)

The three bidders still in the mix, according to the New York Times, are audio equipment tycoon Sidney Harman; tastefully named hedge fund guy Marc Lasry; and Mort Zuckerman chum Fred Drasner. All three are Members of the Tribe. (Harman is thought to be the front-runner.)

Some words of wisdom for The Washington Post Company, the current owner of a wonderful magazine: Don’t sell to Drasner. In addition to helping publish Zuckerman’s New York Daily News, Drasner invested a minority stake in Daniel Snyder’s ownership of the Washington Redskins. The following decade has been one of fleeting mini-success that has served only to punctuate steady mediocrity, culminating in last season’s 4-12 catastrophe.

Now, granted, the Skins are back on the right track, with a new general manager, head coach, and quarterback, and are poised to go 10-6 and make the playoffs (mark me down!). But Drasner no longer owns any stake—Snyder bought him out—so he gets no credit for this. In fact, in case you didn’t notice, I have just decided to make him my scapegoat for my past ten years of mostly-misery.

So, Washington Post Company: Read your own paper, and make the wise decision.

Audio Tycoon’s Newsweek Bid Said To Be Favored [NYT]

ADL Comes Out Against Ground Zero Center

Anti-bigotry group sides with people it calls bigots

The ADL’s new bed-fellows.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. (Earlier this week, a community board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission allow the project to go through.) The release goes out of its way to grant Cordoba House’s organizers good intentions and to condemn the bigotry of some who oppose it. So what is the problem? “The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location,” the ADL argues, “is counterproductive to the healing process.”

It adds:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.

Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Except when it does the precise opposite.

Statement on Islamic Community Center Near Ground Zero [ADL]
Earlier: Ground Zero for a Fight

Today on Tablet

The prophets and Wikileaks, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz sees in this week’s haftorah, from Isaiah, a lesson that Wikileaks and its cheering section should take to heart: “That responsibility precedes redemption and that both involve hard work.” If you want to leak stuff to The Scroll, you know how to find it.

A Yidisher Pop

Chelsea Clinton’s wedding and a lesson in Yiddish


Missed our earlier installments? Click here for the “A Yidisher Pop” homepage.

Chelsea Clinton’s wedding is this weekend, and gossips the world over will be gawking at the famous guests. We at A Yidisher Pop are no different. This week’s installment, then, is dedicated to the Wedding of the Year; what, we wonder, might each of the event’s famous guests bring the young couple as a gift?

A Yidisher Pop

אָפּראַ זאָגט אַלע געלאַדענע חתונה געסט: “קוּקט אונטער אייַערע געזעסן… דער לעצטער מאָדעל אויטאָ!!!”

Transliteration: Opra zogt ale geladene khasene gest: “kukt unter ayere gezesn… der letster model oyto!!!”

Meaning: Oprah tells the wedding guests: “Look under your seats… It’s a brand new car!!!”


Daybreak: Neighbors Back Abbas on Talks

Plus the Jordan River is gross, and more in the news

A Christian pilgrim at the Jordan site.(Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Arab League, which had said it would back direct talks if Palestinian President Abbas did, now says it is not backing direct talks because Abbas isn’t. [WP]

• Yet! Western officials believe Abbas will reverse his position and agree to direct talks in the next month. [Ynet]

• Syrian President Bashar Assad visits Lebanon today, for the first time in five years, to meet with Lebanon’s and Saudia Arabia’s leaders. The summit seems connected to the impending international indictments for the assassination of a former Lebanese leader, for which Syria was credited. [WSJ]

• Not wanting to fall behind the Western Joneses, Australian imposed its own sanctions on Iran. [Jewish Journal]

• Charles Krauthammer notes (as I did) the increasing pressure Iran apparently feels itself under. [WP]

• The Jordan River spot where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus has become too polluted for use. [WP]

Sundown: Eyeless in the West Bank

Plus Saban v. Stone, Amar’e’s grandma, and more

Emily Henochowicz.(Village Voice)

• This profile of Emily Henochowicz, the American daughter of an Israeli who lost her eye at a West Bank protest, is difficult to read and a bit politically one-sided. Still, it’s well worth your time. [Village Voice]

• Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban is trying to get Oliver Stone’s forthcoming ten-part Howard Zinn adaptation off the air. [Jewish Journal]

• Conservative by any other name? Arnold Eisen, the Jewish Theological Seminary’s chancellor, said the movement was “open” to changing its name, most likely to Masorti, or “traditional,” which is what it’s called in Israel. [Forward/JTA]

• Jason Diamond pens a moving (seriously!) tribute to his number-one childhood shiksa crush, who just so happens to be getting married this weekend. [Jewcy]

• Some detective work appears to show that, specifically, it is Amar’e Stoudemire’s maternal grandmother who is the Jewish one. Which, of course, would make him the Jewish one as well. [Just ASC]

• Speaking of which: He clarifies, “I think I might have some Hebrew Roots.” Oh, Amar’e, don’t let us down now. [@Amareisreal]

Iran Dangles Prospect of Talks

But it plays up Turkish deal, a no-go for the West


Turkey and Iran are moving ahead on the nuclear swap deal they cut in the spring, even as the United States and other Western powers seek to convince Iran, which they have since sanctioned at the U.N. Security Council, to take their deal.

To back up briefly: Recall that last October, the Western powers, led by the United States, offered Iran a deal under which the Islamic Republic would turn over its unenriched uranium to Russia and in return receive 20 percent enriched uranium. Iran turned it down. Then, in May, Turkey, Brazil, and Iran announced that they had reached the same deal, only with Turkey, not Russia, making the swap. This was an attempt to persuade Security Council holdouts, namely China, that sanctions weren’t necessary. It didn’t work—China and 12 other countries either voted for or abstained on the economic sanctions, which passed. The only countries that voted against them? Those would be Turkey and Brazil. (more…)

Peeping Tom

An old Jew tells a joke


This one is clever.

Midterm Jews

Will we shoot the moon and have 18 senators?

Democratic Connecticut Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Sometimes others write posts that you can build off of. And sometimes, they just write totally comprehensive articles that require no further commentary. Ron Kampeas at JTA has just done the latter. Behold! Yourguide to midterm Congressional races involving Jewish candidates. If the stars align, we could see 18 (yes, like chai) Jewish senators.

In Races for Congress, Some Jewish Incumbents at Risk [JTA]

Why Obama Wants Direct Talks Now

And why Bibi is in the catbird seat

Netanyahu and Obama in the Oval Office earlier this month.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Boy oh boy does the Obama administration want direct talks! Currently, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Abbas are engaged in fairly stagnant, U.S.-mediated “proximity talks.” Netanyahu has been lobbying for a move to direct talks for about a month now, and ever since visiting the White House a few weeks ago, the administration has slowly—and now all of a sudden quite forcefully—come around to his side. “A full court press [is] underway to see if we can move to direct negotiations,” confirmed a State Department spokesperson. The administration has asked Egypt to back them, and has privately warned Abbas that the future of a Palestinian state depends on his acceding to them. And, Politico’s Laura Rozen reports, even Secretary of State Clinton, who has a wedding to plan, had been “burning up the phone lines” to try to secure all-important Arab League backing.

Meanwhile, last week Netanyahu visited ailing Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and this week he stopped by Amman to chat with Jordanian King Abdullah II, with whom his relations had been frigid, in order to build up support for direct talks.

And, lo and behold, in a clear diplomatic victory for Bibi, the Arab League endorsed the talks yesterday. Which means the pressure is now on Abbas, who doesn’t want direct talks until the proximity talks deliver written assurances considering borders and security. Why does Netanyahu think direct talks are good for Israel and Abbas think they are bad for the Palestinians? And why does Obama think they are good for everybody? (more…)

More Sadsack Jews For Your Buck

Todd Solondz’s ‘Life During Wartime’

Allison Janney in ‘Life During Wartime.’(IMDB)

I saw the new Todd Solondz movie, Life During Wartime, almost a week ago, and I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it. The film follows Trish (Allison Janney), one of three beleaguered sisters that we first met in Solondz’s ultra-dark 1998 comedy Happiness, as she tries to move on a decade after her husband was thrown in prison for child molestation. Trish is preparing for her son Timmy’s bar mitzvah when hell breaks loose again: Timmy finds out that his dad is not dead, as he’s been told, but in jail; this revelation threatens the romance Trish has struck up with a plump nebbish named Harvey Weiner (who hails from Welcome to the Dollhouse, a different branch of Solondz’s Yoknapatawpha County). As other members of the family wander dazed through a plasticine Florida retirement community, Timmy must parse the moral differences between pedophilia and terrorism (a classmate told him they were more or less the same) and write his bar mitzvah speech—the subject of which, of course, is forgiveness. (more…)

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