Lapsed Orthodox Singer Plays One In Her Show

Coming to the Fringe Festival

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

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

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.

Related: ADL Letter to ‘Newsweek’ []
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


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.’


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

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


• 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’


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!

Lebanon Doesn’t Need Our Steenkin’ Weapons

As border heats up, rebuke of U.S. funding block

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.(Louai Beshara/AFP/Getty Images)

Today, Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith explored the future of U.S. military aid to Lebanon, in light of last week’s border skirmish—provoked by the Lebanese Armed Forces—and now two prominent congresspersons’ blocking of a planned $100 million. Lebanon’s first response to this block was to call it “unwarranted,” but pretty soon—and particularly after Iran pledged to compensate for the funding shortfall (which the United States in turn blasted)—Lebanon changed its tune: The country’s defense minister said it would reject U.S. military aid if it came on the condition that it could not be used against Israel (the sniper rifle responsible for the death last week of an Israeli reserves officer was almost certainly bought with American money).

Think it’s bad? Things may get even crazier when the United Nations issues its indictments for the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Syria was generally thought to be behind it, with Hezbollah’s aid; of course, they are now cozier with the Lebanese leadership, including the current prime minister, Saad Hariri—Rafik’s son. As they say, Developing … .

Lebanon: We’ll Reject U.S. Military Aid if Weapons Can’t Be Used Against Israel [Haaretz]
Lebanon Crisis Feared As Indictments Near in Assassination of Rafiq Hariri [WP]
Cinders of Lebanon [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: What Happened in Lebanon

Despite Victory, Islamic Center Still Opposed

Cordoba Initiative faulted for poor P.R. planning

45-47 Park Place, which Park51 is planning to occupy.(Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The New York Times reports that the fierce opposition to Park51, the Islamic center to be built two blocks from Ground Zero, can be pinned on a “combination of arguable naïveté, public-relations missteps and a national political climate in which perhaps no preparation could have headed off controversy.” The organizers, it adds, “did little to engage with likely opponents. More strikingly, they did not seek the advice of established Muslim organizations experienced in volatile post-9/11 passions and politics.”

Given the context, the pitch of opposition is a bit bizarre. The imam behind the Initiative first tried to buy a space for his mosque on 23rd Street in 1999; he had been preaching sermons of “sweet spirituality” at a Sufi mosque 12 blocks north of Ground Zero until last year; he graduated from Columbia (go Lions!); he broached his plans at a Ramadan break-fast at Gracie Mansion last year.

Yet the controversy does not just come from political movements who find their strongest bases outside the five boroughs. A new Marist poll of registered New York City voters found that 34 percent approve of the building while the majority—53 percent—oppose it (the remainder are “unsure”). In fact, only 38 percent of Democrats support it, and only 49 percent of liberals do: Love them, love them, love them, they are liberals.

The other numbers you want? Out of the pool of registered New York City voters, only 20 percent of Jews approve of the center, while 71 percent oppose it.

Still, check the scoreboard. Park51 has the support of the city’s mayor, the borough’s president, and the local community board. Assuming it raises the funds it needs (which is something of an if), the center will be built.

For Mosque Sponsors, Early Missteps Fueled Storm [NYT]
Earlier: How To Build a $100 Million Islamic Center

Disraeli: The Musical!

The prime minister with a song in his heart

Benjamin Disraeli.(Wikipedia)

In Jonathan Tolins’s new play Secrets of the Trade, which opened last night off-Broadway, an ambitious Jewish teenager from Long Island tries to break into theater by convincing an acclaimed playwright/director to become his personal mentor. It’s a flawed but earnest look at suburban Jewish families (a well-worn stage subject) and gay men’s tradition of mentoring younger gay men (a far more novel subject). Tolins’s script is frequently funny and sometimes insightful, and the cast is sharp as knives—particularly teenage lead Noah Robbins, who holds his own opposite the always compelling Tony-winner John Glover.

But most intriguing to The Scroll is a reference that comes early in the play. The young protagonist (Robbins) is writing a letter to his hero, the theater legend (Glover), hoping to secure a meeting:

“I read in the paper that you’re going to mount your musical Disraeli this summer in London … I did the show at my high school. I played Ben (in the original keys) and designed the sets … I was also the one who persuaded Mrs. Leach to do it when everyone else wanted to do Bye Bye Birdie.”

We don’t know of any actual musical about Benjamin Disraeli; nor do we know if the Disraeli of the maybe-nonexistent musical or the Disraeli of real life answered to “Ben.” But anyone interested in musicalizing the life of England’s first Jewish prime minister might want to check out the Nextbook Press biography by Tablet Magazine books critic Adam Kirsch.

Related: Benjamin Disraeli [Nextbook Press]
The Old ‘Coming Out’ Story Gets Twisted [Capital]

Bennet, Blumenthal Take Home Wins

Jewish Senate candidates look to November

Sen. Michael Bennet.(Bennet for Senate (which rhymes!))

Last night saw several primaries in the run-up to November’s midterm elections, including the resolution of the most heated Jew-vs.-Jew race this side of the Illinois Ninth’s Schakowsky-vs.-Pollak: In Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet fought off primary challenger Andrew Romanoff, who had received former President Clinton’s support. Bennet will face conservative Republican Ken Buck in the general.

The only other Jew involved in a notable primary yesterday was longtime Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. Running unopposed (and weathering minor scandal), he secured the Democratic nomination to succeed Sen. Chris Dodd; he will be opposed by Linda McMahon, the wife of professional wrestling impresario Vince McMahon.

If all Jewish candidates lose, there will be a paltry 11 Jewish senators, and Jews will be overrepresented in the upper legislative chamber by a staggeringly low 915 percent. If all Jewish candidates win, however, there will be lucky-number 18 Jewish senators. Despite the general political zeitgeist, which is blowing toward the GOP, three weeks ago Nate Silver had Colorado leaning for Bennet and Connecticut safe for Blumenthal.

Liberal Favorites Fall as Ga. Waits [Politico]
Earlier: Jew Versus Jew
Sherrod Turns Pawn in All-Jewish Race
Meet the Likely Next Jewish Senator
Midterm Jews

Today on Tablet

The sad state of Lebanon, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith bemoans the tragedy of Lebanon, which has come back under Syrian-Iranian hegemony after brief, hopeful flickers of self-sovereignty. A.J. Goldmann interviews the Israeli filmmaker behind A Film Unfinished, which cuts between ambiguous Nazi footage of the Warsaw Ghetto and contemporary interviews with survivors. The Scroll will strive for a minimum of further tragedy today.

‘Atlantic’ Reports Likelihood of Israeli Attack

Goldberg examines Iranian nuclear issue

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month.(Iranian President's Office via Getty Images)

In the September Atlantic’s cover story, Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg reports, “A consensus has emerged that there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike by next July.” Specifically, Prime Minister Netanyahu, who “does not place great faith in sanctions,” is allowing the West’s efforts at non-military curtailment of Iran’s program to last through December, under the assumption that Iran could achieve capability as early as March 2011.

Goldberg writes,

The Israelis will tell their American counterparts that they are taking this drastic step because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people. The Israelis will also state that they believe they have a reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years. They will tell their American colleagues that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.

There are several truckloads of reporting in the piece, and you should read the whole thing. (My favorite nugget: “[President George W.] Bush would sometimes mock those aides and commentators who advocated an attack on Iran, even referring to the conservative columnists Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol as ‘the bomber boys,’ according to two people I spoke with who overheard this.”) Goldberg explains that the consequences of an Israeli strike could be catastrophic for Israel, for the United States, and for the all-important U.S.-Israeli relationship. Netanyahu is aware of this, of course; if he goes ahead and launches the strike anyway, according to Goldberg, it will be because his father, Ben-Zion Netanyahu (profiled in Tablet Magazine by Jason Epstein), imbued his son with, in Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s words, “a deep sense of his role in Jewish history.” (more…)

Daybreak: Fog of Flotilla

Plus NYT to Abbas: Come to the table, and more

President Abbas a few days ago.(Abbas Momani/AFP/Getty Images)

• The conflicting testimony so far given to Israel’s Turkel Commission has made it difficult to assess blame for the flotilla fiasco. [WP]

• Iran pledged to make up the funding shortfall caused by U.S. congresspersons’ hold on $100 million in Lebanese military aid. Hey, it’s your money. [LAT]

• The New York Times editorializes in favor of direct talks, specifically prodding Palestinian President Abbas. [NYT]

• The IDF chief-of-staff insisted to Turkel et al that the commandos who boarded the Mavi Marmara and killed nine aboard used “proportionate and correct” force. [Haaretz]

• The U.S. State Department modified its earlier Israeli travel warning after Israel complained of unfair treatment. [AP/Ynet]

• The IDF is reexamining its rules of engagement vis-à-vis the Lebanese Armed Forces in light of last week’s skirmish; previously, the LAF had been seen as generally neutral. [JPost]

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