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$200M Scam Involves $6M in Judaica

Must be some pretty expensive candleholders

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(Gallery Judaica)

Prosecutors in New Jersey have charged a 35-year-old Orthodox man, Eliyahu Weinstein, with targeting fellow Jews as far afield as California and Israel in a $200 million real-estate investment scam. Weinstein’s lawyers claim the charges are just sour grapes from disgruntled former partners, but the New Jersey Star-Ledger reports that Weinstein may have had dealings with Solomon Dwek, the son of a prominent Syrian-Jewish family who last year turned state’s witness after pleading guilty to his own scam and informed on the Syrian community’s chief rabbi and more than two dozen elected officials in New Jersey.

But, whatever: Ponzi scheme, schmonzi scheme. The thing that caught our attention was this detail, from the U.S. Attorney’s office press release: “Weinstein used some of his victims’ investments to amass a substantial collection of art, jewelry and Judaica.” How substantial, you ask? Well, the IRS and FBI agents who swept into Weinstein’s peach two-story house in Lakewood, a heavily Orthodox suburb, seized $6.2 million worth of manuscripts and antique Judaica. Let’s see: That’s, like, enough for 38,750 of these Nambe hannukiahs, or 4,538 of these sterling silver washing cups (with tax). But perhaps Weinstein’s taste ran to loftier items, like this German gilt hanukkiah, cast in 1750, which Sotheby’s sold last year for $542,000, or these bound discourses on the Jewish religion, circa 1867, priced at a very reasonable $20-30,000.

Also seized? $7.2 million worth of clocks. Go figure.

Lakewood NJ Real Estate Developer Eliyahu Weinstein Arrested [Asbury Park Press]
Real Estate Scam Targeted Orthodox Jews, According to Prosecutors [WSJ]
Related: Crisis of Faith [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

The Jewish Dutchman, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Mica Wertheim, a Dutch comedian about to do English-language stand-up, explains why he’s here and what makes Jews funny. Liel Leibovitz thinks our educational system would be better if there were a little more haftorah mentality in it. The Scroll is very appreciative of your reading it on an August Friday, and will duly reward you.

A Yidisher Pop

Bristol Palin, Paula Abdul, and a lesson in Yiddish

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This week’s installment is about modal verbs and model behavior, saying your name and keeping your word. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop


עס האָט זיך אויסגעלאָזט אַז קאַראָלייַן זשוּליאַני האָט זיך ניט אויסגעלערנט איר טאַטנס “תורה”

Transliteration: Es hot zikh oysegelozt az Karolayn Djuliani hot zikh nit oysgelernt ir tatns “toyre”

Meaning: It turns out that the daughter hasn’t really internalized the father’s “Torah”


(more…)

Daybreak: Hint That Direct Talks Are Nigh

Plus Bloomberg’s strong, personal stand, and more in the news

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Michael Bloomberg before speaking last Friday.(Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

• A leaked letter from the European Union’s chief diplomat hints that Palestinian President Abbas may agree to direct talks next week. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• The U.N. flotilla probe, which answers to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, kicked off yesterday. [JPost]

• Uri Brodsky, the only man so far arrested in connection with the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, will appear in German court, to which he was extradited from Poland. [AP/JPost]

• Why is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg taking so strong and vocal a stance in favor of the Ground Zero Islamic center? The reasons sure aren’t political: It polls terribly, even in New York. [NYT]

• BREAKING: August Fridays are really slow hard-news days.

Sundown: Kosher Pot

Plus more on the Lebanon aid question, and more

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(Wikipedia)

• A rabbi and his wife want to set up the first legal medical-marijuana dispensary in Washington, D.C. He believes in pot in part for religious reasons. [Washington City Paper]

• President Obama is facing a tough decision: Accede to the withdrawal of military aid from Lebanon, or don’t? (Tablet Magazine’s Lee Smith asked much the same question yesterday.) [WP]

• Does Obama have to worry more about Jews on the right abandoning him over Israel … or Jews on the left abandoning him over his political compromises? [Political Insider]

• Turns out David Yerushalmi, an Orthodox Jew who wants to criminalize being Muslim in the United States, also hates … Jews. Sounds like quite a character! [Talk to Action]

• How heart-warming: Young Israelis and Palestinians laboring side-by-side as yet more annoying Washington, D.C., summer interns. [WP]

• Israel is stocking up on gasoline for 2011. Hmm. [Negev Rock City]

Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran?

Others react to Goldberg’s report

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Since contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg’s blockbuster Atlantic report on the prospect of Israel (or, to a lesser degree of likelihood, America) bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities dropped yesterday morning, people have had opinions on it. Lots of them! Let’s look at some.

• The central if somewhat implicit logic of the piece may be that a. Israel will likely bomb Iran; b. it would be better if the United States bombed Iran; therefore c. the United States should bomb Iran. [Ben Smith]

• Matt Duss says an Israeli strike won’t really accomplish all that much (and is therefore unlikely to be undertaken). [Wonk Room]

• Steve Clemons thinks Israel is primarily intent on making the world think it will likely strike Iran rather than actually doing it. [The Washington Note] (more…)

Alleged Israeli Serial Killer Arrested in Atlanta

‘Flint Slasher’ was headed for Tel Aviv

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Sketch of the killer.(Ma'ariv)

These last few years have been good to Israelis trying to make it in the States, from the first Israeli player in the NBA to the first Israeli model on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Today, we can most likely add another to this list of firsts: The first Israeli serial killer to do his deeds stateside.

Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents arrested Abd el Azam, an Arab Israeli citizen, as he was boarding a Tel-Aviv-bound Delta flight in Atlanta. He was later handed over to the FBI. El Azam is suspected of stabbing twenty victims in four states, killing at least five people and earning the moniker the Flint Slasher after the Michigan town where he reportedly began his violent spree.

Local authorities connected with the case suspect that the motive for the crimes was good ol’ fashioned racism—all of his victims were black or Hispanic. “I believe [the killer’s] motivation was pure hatred,” said Joseph Price, chief of police in Leesburg, Virginia.

Lapsed Orthodox Singer Plays One In Her Show

Coming to the Fringe Festival

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Stephanie Ehrlich.(NY Daily News)

Tomorrow, the New York International Fringe Festival launches its annual two-week multi-arts extravaganza, with more than 200 theater and dance companies from all over the world. As usual, there are plenty of Jewish-related highlights, including a Yiddish-language theatrical adaptation of I.L. Peretz’s A Gilgl Fun a Nigun, a musical comedy/tragedy about children’s television in Gaza, and a play about a friendship between two girls, one black, the other Jewish, in post-apartheid South Africa, written by the granddaughter of Mandela’s great defense attorney, Israel Maisels.

One offering that caught our eye (or, rather, ear) is Feed the Monster, Stephanie Ehrlich’s one-woman musical about an Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn who, in the 1960s, launches a career as a rock star with this funky hit:

Ehrlich is also a formerly Orthodox Jew from Brooklyn, though, according to her, the similarities stop there. We tracked her down to find out more about the play. (more…)

Top Sephardic Rabbi Slams Reform Jews

Israeli Amar says ‘liberals’ ‘terrorize’ true Jews

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Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar.(Wikipedia)

Israel’s controversial conversion bill may be languishing in parliamentary purgatory, but its advocates—those who support endowing the nation’s chief rabbinate with the power to decide who is a Jew—are far from mollified. In a letter sent earlier today to Israel’s rabbis on the occasion of the upcoming new year, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar attacked Reform Jews in unprecedented language, claiming that they are responsible for the crime of diluting Jewish spirituality and abandoning the ways of the Torah.

“Those who call themselves liberals and Reform, and their friends and supporters, they are responsible for this terrible crime,” Rabbi Amar wrote (my translation), “they support it openly and without shame. And now they dig their claws into the people who live in Zion, and they try to dictate to us a lifestyle, that Israel should be like all other nations, God forbid, and they terrorize us in various ways, and they formed legions of warriors inside the land of Israel whose sole purpose is to rip the Torah out of Israel and defile the religious courts and everything that’s holy … .”

Those who thought the controversy surrounding the Rotem Bill was undue are welcome to read the full text of Rabbi Amar below (the translation is mine). (more…)

ADL Complains Over Fake Foxman Twitter

And real Foxman chides Zakaria

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The @babefoxman feed icon.(@babefoxman)

Last week, I posited the First Law of Twitter Dynamics: “Any authentic celebrity Twitter feed produces an equal and opposite parody Twitter feed.” This week, @Foxmanides, the parody feed of Anti-Defamation League honcho Abraham Foxman, brings proof of the Second Law: Any Twitter feed parodying a subject with demonstrably poor P.R. skills will be complained about and forced to change.

Soon after an anonymous Twitterer (whose identity I was able to confirm) launched @AbeFoxman on July 30, after the organization opposed the Ground Zero Islamic center, the ADL filed a complaint, at which point Twitter gave its proprietor 48 hours to change the name; having changed it to @foxmanides (“because he likes to pontificate on behalf of the Jewish people as though he’s some sort of sage”), Twitter still insisted that the proprietor change the background wallpaper, which was the ADL’s logo, and its Web address, which was the ADL Website. (The ADL did not respond to a request for comment.)

So, as of now, @foxmanides’s name is (Not) Abe Foxman, and its Web address is a link to the Wikipedia article on Foxman’s decision, in 2007, to urge the U.S. government not to recognize the Armenian genocide. Additionally, a whole new Twitter feed, @babefoxman, has sprung up, like Venus from the waves, to mock this whole mess (“Waaaah! I can’t handle being made fun of on Twitter so I called my lawyers! Waaaaah!”).

As for Real Abe Foxman? He just published a letter to Fareed Zakaria, the columnist, editor, and television host who rebuked the organization. “In returning the ADL’s prestigious Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedom Prize,” Foxman wrote Zakaria, “you seem to be throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.” Dude: If you are referring to your own position as “bathwater,” maybe it’s time to change your mind.

@foxmanides
Related: ADL Letter to ‘Newsweek’ [Newsweek.com/ADL]
Build the Ground Zero Mosque [Newsweek]
Earlier: ADL Comes Out Against Ground Zero Center
‘Mazel Tov to A-Rod!’

Today on Tablet

The Israel Museum’s makeover, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, deputy news editor Matthew Fishbane reviews the recent “renewal” of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. We present a second part of Toby Perl Frelich’s documentary about the kibbutz movement. And The Scroll hopes you enjoyed this morning’s Top Chef D.C. round-up.

War Comes To Bethesda

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’

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There’s an old line about poker: If you sit down at the table, and within five minutes you can’t figure out who the patsy is, it’s you. This is brought to mind as Amanda Baumgarten wakes up to a new episode and says, “The best of the best are definitely in the competition. I’m starting to believe I can do it. I’m still here.” Q.E.D.? Or is Amanda the patsy?

The Quickfire Challenge is a cooking relay race: Two teams of four; each chef gets ten minutes to cook; other chefs must wear blindfolds until it is their turn. You have to figure out what the prior chef was going for. There is no more immunity on the table, but the winning team does get to split $10,000. (Which recalls Lorne Michaels’s famous offer to The Beatles: “If you want to give less to Ringo, that’s up to you—I’d rather not get involved.” Alex Reznik being the equivalent of Ringo, or maybe, at this point, of Pete Best.)

Ooh, money! Amanda is excited. “I’m broker than broke right now,” she explains. Crack alcohol clothes are expensive.

There are two captains who alternate in choosing their teams: Just like on the kickball field! And the last two picked are the two Jews: Just like on the kickball field!

“I could care less getting picked first or last,” says Alex. “Doesn’t really make a difference to me.” Good point Alex: It only makes a difference to your teammates. (more…)

Daybreak: Bibi Rejects ’67 Precondition

Plus victory of the mock-Nazi stork, and more

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The parody stork.(The Local)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected a Palestinian proposal to begin direct talks under the precondition that the future state will be based around the 1967 borders. [Haaretz]

• George Will briefly profiles Netanyahu, getting at the heart of the recent disconnect between Israel and America. [WP]

• After Hezbollah claimed it had proof that Israel was involved in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the U.N. probe is asking for the evidence. [NYT]

• Turkey is establishing its own flotilla probe, answerable to Prime Minister Erdogan. [Haaretz]

• New York Gov. David Paterson announced that the developers behind Park51, the Ground Zero Islamic center, were not interested in his offers to help them relocate. “I certainly respect that,” he said. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A win for the good guys: A cartoon stork that looks like (and is meant to mock) a similar-looking logo of a clothes company favored by neo-Nazis was found not to be injuring or disparaging the right-wing outfit (get it, outfit?). [NYT]

Sundown: Park51 As Third Rail

Plus Portnoy at the age of nine, and more

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• Why the White House has not weighed in the Cordoba Initiative: The pro-construction side polls horribly nationwide. [Ben Smith]

• Meanwhile, the Obama administration is sending the extremely radical imam behind the center on a diplomatic outreach tour of the Mideast … just like the Bush administration did. [American Prospect]

• An especially good Tony Judt obit. [NY Observer]

• A fourth-grader reads Portnoy’s Complaint. [The Millions]

• Steve Stern, author of The Frozen Rabbi, reveals and revels in his musical taste. [Paper Cuts]

• Tonight! Lower East Side Tenement Museum! Go see our very own Sara Ivry interview novelist Ghita Schwarz! [Tenement Museum]

‘Atlantic’ Iran Story Worried About The Jewish Problem

Goldberg practices a different sort of ‘linkage’

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A reader notes that contributing editor Jeff Goldberg’s cover story on Iran’s nuclear program has one, er, interesting hyperlink. Mentioning The Origins of the Inquisition in 15th-Century Spain, the landmark historical work by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s father, the site links to … this article on a site called the Institute for Historical Review, which calls itself “historical revisionist,” and, um, well, let’s say that the essay (which is about Netanyahu’s father’s magnum opus) is none too kind to “his passion and his bias,” what with his dedication to his son, Jonathan, who was slain during the raid at Entebbe.

In response to our query, Goldberg said, “I never voluntarily link to this or other neo-Nazi sites. I’ll try to get to the bottom of this.” Get on it!

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