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Today on Tablet

The ‘unofficial ambassador,’ Auslander’s voices, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Shalom Auslander lets us hear all the little voices that speak to him when he writes. Senior writer Allison Hoffman profiles Robert Wexler, the former congressman from Boca Raton who was an early Obama supporter and is now the “unofficial ambassador to the Jewish community.” Martin Kramer, Jacob Weisberg, and others weigh in on the Obama administration’s Mideast record, joining yesterday’s roundtable. Jenna Weissman Joselit considers a new book of engravings depicting 18th-century Jewish life in Europe. The Scroll can have its own roundtable, all by itself. So there.

Booze Jokes, Not Funny Anymore

This week on ‘Top Chef’

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Most of last week’s Top Chef D.C. post was me making fun of Amanda Baumgarten—one of this season’s two Jewish cheftestants—for serving middle-schoolers chicken in sherry jus. This week, it takes Amanda only to the opening Quickfire Challenge, a dessert competition, to start up with the alcohol again. “I decide to make an apple, rosemary, bourbon, and vanilla pie,” she says. But soon we will learn more about Amanda, and her apparent compulsion to serve booze gets a lot less funny. Just kidding! No, no I’m not.

The Quickfire guest judge is Johnny Iuzzini, a pastry chef who just so happens to be the host of the forthcoming Top Chef-esque Bravo series, Just Desserts. As Jack Donaghy would say, “Never badmouth synergy.”

Amanda’s apple pie is taking a turn for the savory. She is sauteeing her pommes like they’re pommes de terre. “I think that given that I’m not a pastry chef, I didn’t mess anything up too terribly,” she says as she presents her messy slice. “I think it’s kind of a cop-out to say you’re not a pastry chef,” Iuzzuni responds. “Like, my grandmother’s not a pastry chef, but she can make a pie.” And I’m not a professional asshole-detector, but I can still call you an asshole. How do you like them bourbon-soaked apples?

Meanwhile, Alex Reznik, the other Jewish chef, is making an almond crust with … something. (more…)

Daybreak: Turkish, Israeli Ministers Break Bread

Plus Abbas charms, Kristof fumes, and more in the news

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President Abbas earlier this week.(Thaer Ganaim/PPO/Getty Images)

• Turkey’s foreign minister and Israel’s industry minister—Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, of Ehud Barak’s Labor Party—secretly met in Zurich behind the back of Israel’s foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. Lieberman was perfectly okay with this. Not. [NYT]

• Tensions continue to rise in Silwan, the East Jerusalem neighborhood where 22 Palestinian homes are slated for demolition to make room for “a park that would flank a promenade of restaurants, art studios and shops.” [WP]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell confirmed in person that the easing of the Gaza blockade is already underway. [WP]

• Palestinian President Abbas has launched a “charm offensive” at the Israeli public, telling reporters he will enter direct talks once Israel clarifies its positions on borders and security. [JPost]

• In what will be the first senior contact in almost half a year, Palestinian Prime Minister Fayyad will soon meet with Israeli Defense Minister Barak. [NYT]

• “Our ally, Israel,” argues Nicholas Kristof from the West Bank, “is using American military support to maintain an occupation that is both oppressive and unjust.” [NYT]

Sundown: Hitchens To Have Chemo

Plus Cantor ups profile, ‘TAL’ takes last breath, and more

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Christopher Hitchens.(Flickr)

• “I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus,” reveals Tablet Magazine contributor Christopher Hitchens. There’s something poignant about his omission of the word “cancer.” Get well soon, Hitch. [VF Daily]

• As House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) readies a book tour, a colleague predicts, “He’ll be the first Jewish Republican something.” Please don’t hesitate to suggest various somethings in the comments. [Politico]

• Hamas scion turned Christian turned Israeli spy turned California resident Mosab Hassan Yousef was granted asylum in America. [JPost]

This American Life calls it quits after running out of vestiges of upper-middle-class American life to chronicle. Note the source, please. [The Onion]

• Eli Valley’s Stuart the Turtle flies to Israel. Chaos and anti-Semitism ensue. [Forward]

• Lower East Side Torah store Zelig Blumenthal appears to have closed. See some amazing pictures of this relic of another world. [The Lo-Down]

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) makes an awesome play at Nationals Park during the annual Congressional Baseball Game, landing him on SportsCenter.

Iran Chooses Apple

Intel, IBM, and Coca-Cola are too ‘Zionist’

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(Flickr)

As part of its “Palestinian support law,” Iran has outlawed products made by Intel, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, IBM, and other “Zionist companies,” by which the Islamic Republic means companies, mostly American, with a strong presence in Israel. Reached for comment, an Iranian citizen said, “They couldn’tve banned Pepsi instead?”

Iran Declares Boycott on Coca-Cola, Intel, and Zionists [Ynet]

She Got Mugged!

An old Jew tells a joke

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Charming.

Jew Versus Jew

Clinton nod revs up Colorado race

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(Wikipedia)

Colorado’s Democratic Senate primary took a turn for the heated yesterday when former President Bill Clinton endorsed Andrew Romanoff, a former state House speaker, over current Sen. Michael Bennet.

The main story is that Clinton, for all his friendliness with the Obama administration, is going against its strongly preferred candidate, Bennet. But The Scroll is interested because this race features two candidates who are both Jewish, albeit in subtly different ways.

Romanoff identifies as Jewish on his Facebook page. By contrast, Bennet—the brother of James Bennet, who is the current Atlantic editor and former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief—has a Christian father and says he was “raised with two different heritages.” His mother’s side, however, possesses that ultimate token of contemporary Jewish authenticity: His grandparents survived the Warsaw Ghetto.

A spokesperson for the National Jewish Democratic Council told me this morning that her group does not endorse candidates before general elections. (more…)

Edenic Camp Opens Upstate

First Jewish green summer solace

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Today marks the opening of the ambitiously named Eden Village Camp, in Putnam Valley, New York (about 50 miles north of the City, in Putnam County). Billing itself “The Green Dream of Jewish Summer Camp,” it says it is a “first-of-its-kind non-profit Jewish environmental overnight camp for 3rd –12th graders.”

According to an email blast, the camp benefited from a competitive $1.1 million Foundation for Jewish Camp and Jim Joseph Foundation grant; the site and a $1.6 million renovation from UJA-Federation of New York; Natan; and hundreds of individual donors.

Israel’s Top Diplomat

Lieberman is F.M., but Barak may as well be

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Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Secretary of State Clinton last week.(Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s a further wrinkle to the Israeli government’s already byzantine coalition politics: While Prime Minister Netanyahu needs Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu to shore up his right flank at home, abroad he needs to project a more moderate image; and so, reports the Forward’s Nathan Guttman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak—leader of the more moderate and venerable Labor Party, and a former prime minister—is Israel’s de facto top diplomat.

When Lieberman traveled stateside earlier this month, he stayed in New York, mostly buttering up the Russian Jewish community (as Allison Hoffman reported). Barak headed to Washington, D.C., and met with top officials.

Adds Guttman:

Washington’s warm embrace of Israel’s defense minister stands in stark contrast to the public display of chill that came out of the White House during Netanyahu’s last two visits, which were both scheduled in the evening, without photo-ops or press availabilities. Then, there is the almost nonexistent contact that administration officials have had with Lieberman, Israel’s actual foreign minister.

But it is not just U.S. difficulties with these two officials that puts Barak in his current role. According to David Makovsky, director of the project on the Middle East peace process at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Obama administration is actively attracted to work with Barak in particular, because he is seen as someone who “understands that time is not on Israel’s side” when it comes to negotiations with the Palestinians.

Israel’s Stealth F.M.: Barak, Not Lieberman, Tasked With Weighty Issues [Forward]
Earlier: Lieberman Nixes Palestinian State in ’12
Lieberman, in New York, Meets With Russian Jews

Today on Tablet

Jewish gangleader, Mideast roundtable, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Lee Smith gives his column to some friends—including Elliott Abrams and Robert Malley—to opine about the Obama administration’s work in the Mideast so far. More tomorrow! Dvora Meyers profiles Benjy Melendez, a descendant of conversos who in the ‘60s founded the violent South Bronx street gang the Ghetto Brothers but now places his religion, which he interprets only from the Tanakh, in the center of his life. Last night, the Three Weeks, which culminate in Tisha B’Av, began; here is everything you need to know. The Scroll always wants to know!

Which Squad You Should Root For

Now that the U.S. is gone from the World Cup

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The Dutch team celebrates. Go Orange!(Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

There are eight teams left in the World Cup Finals. Which should be Tablet Magazine’s official team, since Tablet Magazine’s original official team was defeated Saturday? Let’s have a look at the nominees:

Uruguay. Harbored Nazis after the war.

Ghana. They (in soccer, a side are described with plural verbs) defeated Tablet Magazine’s official team, so by a certain logic they now claim that mantle. Plus, they have John Pantsil, who in the last World Cup waved an Israeli flag after scoring a goal, in honor of his then-team, Hapoel Tel Aviv.

Argentina. Harbored Nazis.

Paraguay. Harbored Nazis. Harbors Hamas.

Netherlands. Compared to most other Western European countries (ahem, France?), they resented Nazi persecution and slaughter of their Jews. Plus, Anne Frank lived there!

Germany. I mean.

Spain.

Brazil. You can’t root for Brazil: That’s like rooting for the Yankees or the Lakers! Plus, they harbored Nazis.

For now, Tablet Magazine is officially supporting the Netherlands, which is playing Brazil, and Ghana, which is playing Uruguay, both on Friday. We’ll revisit the matter after the quarter-finals. Happy watching!

Earlier: U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Daybreak: Spies Targeted Jewish Donor

Plus Kagan discusses Chinese food, and more in the news

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Spy target Alan Patricof.(Portfolio.com)

• A confirmed target of that Russian spy ring was Alan Patricof, a (Jewish) venture capitalist who is close with Secretary of State Clinton and a prominent Democratic fundraiser, particularly in New York. [Politico]

• Turkey says it won’t appoint a new Israeli ambassador until Israel apologizes for the nine civilian deaths aboard the flotilla. [WP]

• When asked at her confirmation hearing where she was on Christmas Day (when a man tried to bomb an airplane), Elena Kagan replied: “Like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.” [JPost]

• President Obama and Saudi King Abdullah met at the White House. The topic of Israel was broached, though there were no breakthroughs. [WP]

• Thomas Friedman praises the West Bank state-building led by Prime Minister Fayyad and suggests that, when they meet next week, Obama urge Prime Minister Netanyahu to cede certain cities to the P.A. [NYT]

• Following hard upon his 25th anniversary on the show, Larry King is closing up Larry King Live, whose ratings have been in decline. He will remain a CNN contributor. [NYT]

Sundown: Drake Smacks Down Matisyahu

Plus, what’s new with the Palestinians, and a Talmudic inquiry

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• Drake, the rising Canadian Jewish star of hip hop, told Jimmy Kimmel last week exactly how he felt about that other Jewish hip-hop guy, Matisyahu: “He’s so blatantly Jewish, with the payes, and the hat.” Piped up Kimmel: “It’s like a costume!” This would be the place to point out that rappers have not historically eschewed the wearing of costumes—though to be fair, Drake showed up on Jimmy Kimmel Live! in what appeared to be a baby-blue Christmas sweater. But Drake, isn’t that a costume if you’re Jewish? [Heeb]

Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen argues that Hamas is inflicting more harm on the people of Gaza than Israel is: “Maybe the blockade ought to end—but so, too, should anyone’s dreamy idea of Hamas.” Mr. Cohen, are you trying to take away my lovely Hamas dreams? What’s next, bunnies? [WaPo]

• The AP takes a look at Mahmoud Abbas’ new strategy of cozying up to American Jewish leaders. [AP]

• As we noted this morning, the Three Weeks begin tonight, which means, for many observant Jews, no music. Do Simon and Garfunkel get an exemption?

How To Punish Anti-Semitism

Hate a Jew, get a sandwich

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(Flickr)

The Riverfront Times, St. Louis’ alt-weekly, has happened upon the perfect sentence-cum-education-session for anti-Semitic offenders: Send ‘em to a deli! “As part of his court-ordered punishment for alleged anti-Semitic remarks during a traffic stop, Mel Gibson recently paid a visit to Protzel’s Deli,” the paper writes, tongue firmly in cheek, in its best-of issue.

His sentencing included sampling a smorgasbord of Protzel’s classic deli sandwiches: corned beef, pastrami, brisket, tongue, whitefish salad, reuben. When he asked, “Do these come on white bread?” security guards tensed, but the Protzel family simply continued loading a platter with knishes and kosher pickles. Gibson was then asked to identify by sight and smell delicacies including kugel, challah and gefilte fish, and culinary curios such as Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda.

Guys, we can build on this.

Don’t forget to debate St. Louis’ best deli in the comments. Hell, let’s open it up to the entire Midwest. I hear Manny’s is pretty good.

Protzel’s Delicatessen [Riverfront Times]

Lemon Squeeze

An old Jew tells a joke

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In the words of Jay-Z, this might offend our political connects.

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