Court Compromises on Kosovo

Ruling likely won’t set precedent for Palestinian cause

Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci and Vice President Biden, yesterday.(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

In late 2008, the United Nations General Assembly voted to ask the International Court of Justice the following question: “Is the independence of Kosovo in accordance with international law?” Today, the ICJ answered: Yes, it is. This stamp of approval for the unilateral declaration of self-sovereignty by this one-time province of Serbia could have profound implications on other separatist/secessionist movements around the world—notably the Palestinians’.

… Or it may not.

Earlier this year, Milena Miletic laid out the possibilities in Tablet Magazine: “The first would be for the court to state that the declared independence of Kosovo violates international law,” Miletic explained. “The second would be for the court to rule in favor of Kosovo’s independence. …The third and most widely expected outcome is for the court to issue an opinion each party can interpret as it pleases, a result unlikely to increase international stability.”

The ICJ appears to have chosen Option 3. Writes the Times: “Legal experts emphasized that while the court had ruled that Kosovo’s declaration of independence was legal, it had scrupulously avoided saying that the state of Kosovo was legal under international law, a narrow and carefully calibrated compromise.”

What does this mean for the Palestinians? (more…)

Emergency Committee v. J Street

Penn. candidate is proxy battlefield for Israel groups


Earlier this week, when J Street cut an ad defending Rep. Joe Sestak, the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate candidate, it was implicitly picking a fight with the Emergency Committee for Israel, the brand-new Bill Kristol-founded outfit that announced itself in part with an attack on Sestak for his allegedly not-pro-Israel views.

(By the way, for a great take on Kristol’s committee-forming-mania, read Jonathan Chait.)

Now, the New York Times has smartly compared and contrasted the two groups’ pro- and anti-Sestak ads (which you can find after the jump).

The Emergency Committee attacked Sestak’s 2007 praise for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which has subsequently been accused of being a Hamas front. “The target audience,” says the Times, “is not really Jewish voters in Philadelphia and its suburbs—they tend to be a reliable Democratic constituency and an important source of campaign donations. Rather, the ad is aimed more at mobilizing the right and evangelicals in support of Mr. Sestak’s Republican opponent, former Representative Pat Toomey.”

J Street responded by depicting Sestak’s repeated insistences of support for the Jewish state. “It does not dwell on the finer points of the attack but goes big picture,” the Times notes, “casting Mr. Sestak as a defender of Israel. By featuring President Obama, the ad suggests that J Street, anyway, believes that the link will be a plus for Mr. Sestak in November, or at least for its cause.” (more…)

Collaborator Remembers Pekar

Seibel describes an unlikely optimist

Seibel’s drawing of her first meeting with Pekar.(Arts Beat)

Perhaps the final work in comic-book writer Harvey Pekar’s oeuvre that appeared while he was still alive—the last strip to be, if I may, published humously—was (as I noted) his collaboration with Tara Seibel in the Jewish Review of Books.

Today, Seibel opens up about her strip-writing partner: ““He could be sitting there worried,” she recalls, “all rumpled up over $500 and has it come in yet, versus having cancer. I was really surprised at how optimistic he was.”

Their final collaboration—and perhaps Pekar’s final piece of work—will be published in the catalog for “Graphic Details: Confessional Comics By Jewish Women,” an exhibition at San Francisco’s Cartoon Art Museum opening October 1.

Some Last Bits of Splendor with Harvey Pekar [Arts Beat]
Related: Gut Shabbes [JRB]
Spendor [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Harvey Pekar Dies

Today on Tablet

They’re young, they’re Jewish, they’re anti-Zionist, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marissa Brostoff reports on the predicament of young Jewish non- or anti-Zionists: Too left-wing for most Jewish groups, and too overtly Jewish—even religious—for the rest of the left. Toby Perl Freilich profiles an historian who has wandered outside the scholarly boundary that all but discounts survivor testimony in researching the Holocaust. And The Scroll hopes you enjoyed the Top Chef round-up, and will enjoy the rest of today’s stuff.

Of Tragedy and Testicles

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’


This week’s guest judge is Miami-based Michelle Bernstein, who, according to her Website, is “of Jewish and Latin descent” (much like Miami). But already we see that this guest judge is not like any other guest judge: “Michelle and I are both chefs in Miami and there’s a bit of a rivalry between the two of us,” says Andrea, one of the not-Jewish (but still perfectly likable!) cheftestants. “So I guess I’m probably not comfortable with her judging me.” Are you sure that’s the source of the rivalry? Are sure it’s not that you look exactly alike?

The Quickfire Challenge involves cooking with odd proteins. Testicles are funny! (And they look like lima beans, at least duck ones do.) The cheftestants draw knives to determine picking order, and the two Jewish cheftestants get to select, respectively, first and last. “This is an easy choice for me, I’ll take the foie gras,” says Alex Reznik. “This one’s right up my alley,” he adds. Alex, you see, has special access to the joys of foie gras, despite it being literally the favorite substance of literally every foodie ever. Still, give him credit for picking something that, though it probably isn’t in this particular instance, at least could potentially be kosher. Usually he goes straight for the trayf.

Amanda Baumgarten, picking last, is left with emu egg, presumably because the only people who like emus are designers of crossword puzzles, who tend to find those two concentrated vowels quite helpful. “I’ve never cooked with emu eggs before,” Amanda says. “I’m having a little pity party for myself in my head.” (more…)

Daybreak: Shot at Sunrise

Plus a polarizing ‘rape,’ and more in the news


• Israeli forces shot to death an unarmed Palestinian man on the edge of a West Bank settlement. [NYT]

• An Arab man was convicted of rape by deception and sentenced to 18 months in prison after having consensual sex with a Jewish Israeli woman while pretending he was Jewish. [Guardian]

• Israeli diplomats are working friendly diplomats to get them to persuade Lebanon and Syria to halt the latest Gaza-bound flotilla, which Lebanon appears to be behind and which is set to sail from Tripoli later this week. [Haaretz]

• Newt Gingrich, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, came out strongly against the planned Islamic center near Ground Zero. [AP/Google]

• In an op-ed, Alan Dershowitz accuses J Street of misrepresenting his Mideast positions by lumping him in with Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. [JTA]

• Mel Gibson’s latest verbal incident has turned off his European fans—which were the only ones he had left! [NYT]

Sundown: A More Spacious Museum

Plus Turkey’s new sailing coach, and more in the news


• The revamped Israel Museum in Jerusalem, opening Monday, has “far fewer objects on display, with twice the space to view them.” [NYT]

• Two Gazans were killed in Israeli shelling. [JTA]

• Rodger Kamenetz, author of Nextbook Press’s forthcoming Burnt Books, explores the current dispute over Kafka’s papers. [HuffPo]

• A Hasidic man who owns a Boro Park record store has meticulously restored the old recordings of the long-dead cantor Yossele Rosenblatt, a.k.a. “the Jewish Caruso.” [NYT]

• In the place of Journolist, the recently defunct left-leaning private listserv, is a new group called Cabalist. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Headline of the day: “Israeli Coaches Turkish National Sailing Team.” [Ynet]


Beach Boys – Wouldn't It Be Nice (1966)
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Come Celebrate Rachel Shukert With Us

Clear your schedule next Tuesday


Attention, readers within a hop, skip, and a jump—or even a train ride—of New York City: On Tuesday, July 27, Tablet Magazine is co-sponsoring a reading slash party for contributing editor Rachel Shukert’s new memoir, Everything Is Going to Be Great .

The evening will commence with a reading at McNally Jackson Books in SoHo at 7 pm, and will be followed by drinks at nearby bar Sweet & Vicious from 8 to 10.

Should be a fun night! Send your RSVPs to

Full invitation after the jump.


Charged Rabbi Faces New Accusations

Allegedly directed boys into a mikvah

Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt.(Boston Globe)

Three men had accused Orthodox Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt of molesting them in the 1970 at the Boston-area Maimonides School, where he taught sixth grade, and he now faces indecent sexual assault and battery charges (to which he has pleaded not guilty); he had been similarly accused (and pleaded no contest to charges) by students whom he taught in the Philadelphia area. In a new twist, though, court records show (via Heeb) that on another occasion, in the course of a field trip to Montreal, Levitt allegedly directed students to enter a mikvah, naked.

In light of the Lieb Tropper scandal, which involved the alleged trading of sexual favors for conversion, the mikvah angle is viscerally troubling.

Roadblocks to reporting cases of rabbinical sexual abuse, the article reports,

include traditional Jewish rules, adhered to in some pockets of the Orthodox world, such as a prohibition against “chillul Hashem,’’ bringing shame on God’s name, and against “mesirah,’’ informing on fellow believers to secular authorities. …

the use of chillul Hashem and mesirah as reasons to avoid reporting sexual abuse by rabbis “is a misapplication of those laws’’ [said Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University], an opinion underscored by the Rabbinical Council of America in a resolution approved at its convention earlier this year.

Sex-Abuse Case Against Rabbi Raises Larger Issues [Boston Globe]

Divestment Campaign Targets Settlements

Group petitions TIAA-CREF at board meeting


Bags in tow and running late after a flight from Detroit, Barbara Harvey moved briskly through midtown Manhattan toward TIAA-CREF’s pristine headquarters on Third Avenue. She was there to join other activists from Jewish Voice for Peace in calling on the financial services giant to divest from five companies—Caterpillar, Elbit, Motorola, Northrup Grumman, and Veolia (no slouches themselves)—that profit from Israeli occupation of the West Bank and military activity in the Gaza Strip.

On Monday, the CREF side of the company (the College Retirement Equity Fund) held its annual board meeting. It happened to fall on Tisha B’Av, which JVP used to lend its activism some gravitas, with the destruction of the Temples compared, in a lucid analogy, to the contemporary plight of the Palestinians. Around 8:30 in the morning, 10 members held a commemorative service across the street from the headquarters. They lit candles and read aloud, competing with the whirs and screeches of the midtown traffic.

Once a law professor, Harvey left academia to move “into the trenches” of activism as a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. But her pensions are still tied up with TIAA-CREF, which makes her a “participant”: A decided advantage on this day, when only participants who registered at least four days in advance were allowed inside the two-hour-long meeting (which was closed to press). Eight eligible JVP members planned to deliver 1,400 postcards the group had collected over the past month. These read: “Divest from the Israeli Occupation.” (more…)

Today on Tablet

The classical-music giant, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, David P. Goldman teaches you all about Israel’s superpower status in the classical musical world: In an article, and in a Vox Tablet podcast. Steve Friess profiles Team Mizrachi, four brothers known for their observance to Judaism and killer instinct at the poker table. Mideast columnist Lee Smith reports that several larger media companies have assimilated small pockets of anti-Israel blogging into their mainstream packages. And The Scroll will be around, just think of it not as a heavy wind but rather a light breeze coming off the Sound.

The Great Intern Search

Apply to work at Tablet Magazine


Tablet Magazine is, once again, looking for interns.

If you have experience in journalism and are familiar with the landscape of American Jewish life, we’d love to hear from you. We are hiring interns to work two or three days a week at our office in New York City. Interns will assist the editorial staff with research and administrative tasks, as well as contributing blog posts and full features, and will receive paid stipends. If you’re interested in applying for the upcoming fall term, which starts August 16, please send a résumé and three writing clips to our internship coordinator, Marissa Brostoff (, by Monday, August 2. We look forward to hearing from you.

Daybreak: Rotem Bill Delayed, Not Defeated

Plus Kagan passes, Shylock schemes, and more in the news

Al Pacino as Shylock.(NYT)

• Foes of the Israeli conversion bill forced it off the table until the Knesset’s winter session begins, in mid-October. [JPost]

• The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, 13-6, while establishing that her lack of candor at the hearing will likely be the main knock against her from here on out. [Politico]

• Fatah is expected to back Palestinian President Abbas in accepting direct peace talks only after certain border- and security-related conditions are met. [JPost]

• The death of a Palestinian West Bank farming village. [Haaretz]

• A new group called U.S. Boat to Gaza is fundraising for just such a thing, which would be named ‘Audacity of Hope,’ after President Obama’s second memoir. Professor Rashid Khalidi is a prominent backer. [WP]

• Maureen Dowd offers Shylock 101. [NYT]

Sundown: The Fall of the AJCongress

Plus Woody goes electric, and more

The Woodman in Paris earlier this month.(Flore Giraud/AFP/Getty Images)

• New reporting argues that the American Jewish Congress’s Madoff-related loss of funds was less the inherent cause of failure and more what exposed “longstanding weaknesses” at the nine-decade-old organization. [JTA]

• South Africa is sending its ambassador to Israel, whom it recalled in the aftermath of the flotilla raid, back to the Holy Land. [Haaretz]

• J Street cuts an ad defending Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania), a Senate candidate, implicitly picking a fight with Bill Kristol’s new outfit, the Emergency Committee for Israel. [Ben Smith]

• Berlin’s Jewish Museum received approval to buy the necessary land for a $13 million addition, also to be designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. [JTA]

• A Greek-born Israeli had a doctor treat him for the first time in 65 years after having a heart attack. Why had he avoided medical professionals? Because he had been one of Josef Mengele’s “patients” at Auschwitz. [Negev Rock City]

• Woody Allen is predictably curmudgeonly (at best) explaining why he recorded audio versions of his four humor books. [Arts Beat]

Seinfeld goes the thriller route.

My Favorite Things

How I learned to love Tisha B’av

Tisha B’Av 2009.(Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images)

I’ve never known much about the religious meaning of Tisha B’Av, which falls today—I’ve never fasted for it, and until Tablet Magazine published its FAQ about the holiday this week, didn’t know that not only the destruction of both Temples but an entire litany of disasters are said to have befallen the Jews on this day. But I remembered this morning that, in a macabre inside joke with myself, it says in my staff bio that Tisha B’Av is my favorite fast day. I want to explain why.

I was an extremely phobic young child—bees, fire, elevators, lawnmowers, forklifts. My most incapacitating fears, though, and the ones that took the longest to get over, involved dozens of books, videos, and songs, ones that, according to the logic of a symbolic universe I can no longer really explain, included elements of horror. So, for example, Volume 8 in the Sesame Street Library, with its two-page spread on Old King Cole and its introduction to the letter Q, may seem innocuous to the average reader, but its tale of Hansel and Gretel absolutely terrified me. (more…)

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