Today on Tablet

The clothing rules, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall ponders shatnez, the ban against clothing made with two different kinds of fabric, in light of her son’s seemingly equally arbitrary dressing laws. Josh Lambert’s weekly look at forthcoming books of note focuses, appropriately, on beach reads. The Scroll focuses, appropriately, on what’s going on today.

A Sweaty Send-Off

The old East Village gathers for Kupferberg

Tuli Kupferberg, 1923-2010.(Steve Ben Israel; additional photos by the author)

One speaker at Tuli Kupferberg’s memorial service, which was Saturday at St. Mark’s Church, observes that the ‘60s radical bohemian par excellence and co-founder of underground rock band The Fugs had been a living testament to the principle that, in the end, “It’s not about the aspiration to great heights, but the perspiration.” The 150 or so folks packed in—yes, a funeral for a Jew on Shabbat at a church (Tuli died last Monday)—should have patted themselves on the back for fully living up to this tenet: It was well over 90 degrees outside, well over 80 inside, and perspiration came, to everyone except Tuli, as easily as breathing.

It was the kind of event that could make an upper-middle-class twenty-something who lives in a market-rate apartment nearby—for example, me—feel that maybe, even now, there still is something to the idea of the East Village. The previous happening that had so comprehensively attracted this group, according to one guy I overhear, was the auction of Allen Ginsberg’s possessions. This man says that he had bid on a tape recorder that Dylan had given Ginsberg; he then casually mentions that he had been there the night Dylan had made the gift; or, rather, he corrects himself after a pause, he had been there the morning after, and had heard about it then. Responds his friend, a woman named Judith Cohn: “Oy, it’s hot.”

The crowd skews old and, surely, Jewish and lefty: The sorts of people you imagine listening to NPR religiously, or producing NPR programs. Judith Malina, founder of The Living Theatre, is pointed out to me like she is a major star (which, in this orbit, she is). One guy is literally carrying around his own hair: Light gray and hard-stringy, like a metal sponge, it flows down, almost to the floor, but only because its bottom nine inches have been doubled back up onto the prior nine inches and held in place with a cafeteria-server-style netting; at times, this man would hold this big hunk of hair in the crook of his arm while chatting with people. The median age cannot be below 50, although one small boy—I find out that he is there because his babysitter is Tuli’s daughter, Samara—is there to drag down the mean. I am one of no more than seven people wearing a tie.


Daybreak: Bibi Opposes Conversion Bill

Plus Mubarak backs direct talks, and more in the news

Netanyahu and Mubarak yesterday.(Moshe Milner/GPO Via Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu came out against the so-called Rotem Bill, which would place Israeli conversions in the power of a small coterie of ultra-Orthodox rabbis. [JTA]

• Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (who is probably dying) said he supports direct Israeli-Palestinian talks following his meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu. [WP]

• Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s top foreign policy figure, visited Gaza and called for the territory to be opened further. [NYT]

• Thomas Friedman writes that the Mideast is a complicated place, in which the brief mourning of a figure with truly troubling ties is not necessarily a display of wrong-headedness. [NYT]

• Jean-Louis Bruguière, a world terrorism expert, reminded Israelis that back in 1996 he had reported that IHH, the charity behind the Gaza flotilla, was itself a terrorist organization. [Haaretz]

• Journalist David Twersky, who spent a good deal of his career at the Forward, died at 60. Tablet Magazine contributing editor Seth Lipsky’s New York Sun, which maintains a Website, has an obit worth reading. [JTA]

Sundown: Obama Turns from The Peace Process

Plus the awesome all-female IDF unit, and more


• Why past presidents have saved peace for their final years in office, and why President Obama may prove no exception. [Time]

• The dozen or so Senate Jews are backing a letter Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) is sending to Ambassador Michael Oren expressing grave concern over the conversion bill. [JPost]

• The latest Kabbalah red-string wearer? Gov. David Paterson of New York. [Daily News]

• The IDF has established the Nahshol, “the world’s first female-only unit dedicated to combat intelligence missions, combin[ing] the fighting capabilities of combat forces with advanced intelligence-gathering skills.” That is so insanely hot. [Ynet]

• Israeli political scientist Asher Arian died at 72. [JTA]

• Contributing editor Gary Shteyngart on how technology alienates us from each other. [NYT Book Review]

They say, ‘Sing while you slave,’ I just get bored.

Kristol’s New Group Draws Attention

Targeted Democrat responds, and more

Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pennsylvania).(Wikipedia)

I had a bit of fun at the expense of Bill Kristol and his hot-off-the-presses Emergency Committee for Israel earlier this week. (Of course, even co-founder Noah Pollak had some fun at its expense, telling Shmuel Rosner, “We will not rest until there is a pro-Israel group representing every pro-Israel person on earth.”) But most of the responses, from both sides, have been less than light-hearted:

• Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s Senate seat, angrily fires back at the Committee: “It is offensive and outrageous to suggest [Sestak] does not stand with Israel.” [Ben Smith]

• In the course of explaining the group, Pollak refers to the “international lynching of the Jewish state” and implicitly denies that J Street is pro-Israel. [Rosner’s Domain]

Via Capital J, Tablet Magazine contributor Dan Luban finds that one of the group’s four principles, Rachel Abrams (wife of Elliott, stepdaughter of Norman Podhoretz), possesses a “strange obsession with (and apparent hostility to) homosexuality.” [Lobelog]

• James Besser argues that the group is less concerned about issue advocacy and more about steering election-year funds to the right places. [Political Insider]

Earlier: How Does Kristol Do It?

Teaching the Pre-Holocaust

Emerging pedagogy looks at life before wartime

Haberdashery in the open market, Warsaw, ca. 1935-38.(Roman Vishniac. © Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy the International Center of Photography)

A Vienna-based nonprofit, Centropa, is pushing a new way to teach the Holocaust to children: With the use of thousands of digitized photographs and other documents, you give kids a view of, in the words of one teacher, “the beautiful life of Jewish communities in Europe through personal stories. Students appreciate more what was lost and how diverse Jewish life was in Central and Eastern European life.”

As long as we’re plugging things Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse wrote in the New York Times, in April she published, in the paper’s magazine, a look at the work of famed photographer Roman Vishniac, whose portraits of pre-Holocaust shtetl life may have oversimplified the Eastern European Jewish experience. “After the war, it became difficult to view prewar images as anything but a prelude to destruction,” she wrote, “a backshadowing that distilled the complicated, multifaceted reality of prewar Jewish life into a two-dimensional shrine.” A new look at Vishniac, Newhouse suggested, would bring about a fuller appreciation of the breadth of the culture that was wiped out.

In Teaching Holocaust, Educators Focus on Prewar Lives, Not Just Camps [JTA]
Related: A Closer Reading of Roman Vishniac
Out of Focus [Tablet Magazine]

Americans Back Israel

Israelis don’t back America back


We love you; why can’t you love us (or, anyway, why can’t you love our president)?

That’s one message, anyway, to take from some polls released this week. Gallup sees record-high support: 63 percent are more sympathetic to Israel than to the Palestinian Authority. According to a TIPP poll, 56 percent of Americans (and 43 percent of Democrats; and 74 percent of Republicans) would back an Israeli military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, versus 30 percent who would oppose one. Another poll, this by Pew, found 66 percent for, 24 percent against.

And yet, Israelis still are not big fans of President Obama. A new poll found that nearly half of Jewish Israelis think he is pro-Palestinian, while only 10 percent said he favors Israel. And this poll came after last week’s friendly Oval Office photo-op and Obama’s interview on Israel’s Channel 2.

Since March, which represents the low point of relations between the two countries’ governments, the number of Israelis who think the Obama administration is pro-Israel has improved by … one percent.

So again: We love you; maybe the president we elected isn’t entirely against you?

Poll: Most Americans Would Back Israel Attack on Iran [Haaretz]
46% Say Obama Is Pro-Palestinian [JPost]
Earlier: Obama and Bibi Tag-Team for Friendship

A Yidisher Pop

Lindsay, Mel, and a Lesson in Yiddish


This week’s installment is about pronouns and Paul’s predictions, about Polanski’s litigations and some Yiddish conjugations. Let’s get right to it:

A Yidisher Pop

לינדזי ווייַזט אוּנדז אירע געפֿילן – אויב ניט מיט אַ גראָבן פֿינגער, איז עס מיט איר נאָגל!

Transliteration:Lindzi vayzt undz ire gefiln—oyb nit mit a grobn finger, iz es mit ir nogl!

Meaning: Lindsay expresses herself—if not by giving the finger, then with her nail!


Today on Tablet

Keret on soccer, a good-bye to Pekar, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, columnist Etgar Keret wonders if there is life after World Cup. Contributing editor Vanessa Davis gives Harvey Pekar a graphic farewell. Liel Leibovitz recommends that Israel look to the prophet Isaiah for guidance as it decides what sort of state it really wants to be. The Scroll has been wondering less if there is life after World Cup and more if there is life before football.

Daybreak: Flotilla Backers Reach to Top

Plus Abbas is told to keep talks indirect, and more in the news

Abbas in Bulgaria earlier this week.(Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Turkish charity behind the flotilla, IHH, is connected throughout Turkey’s political elite; the flotilla itself received backing from top members of the prime minister’s party. [NYT]

• Whether or not there remain disagreements over this or that issue, the United States and Israeli security establishments remain strongly linked, and the U.S. continues to purchase arms for Israel. [WP]

• The supposed U.S. spy against Iran—maybe?—got a hero’s welcome on his return in Tehran. This case is very strange. [NYT]

• Two synagogues are objecting to Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s planned amphitheater for free summer concerts. [NYT]

• Palestinian President Abbas is unlikely to agree to direct talks, as the Israelis want, due to pressure from his party, Fatah. [Haaretz]

• Oh, and great Times op-ed on the conversion bill. [NYT]

Conversion Bill Takes Aim at Diaspora

Our editor returns fire in the NYT

The Knesset.(Jim Hollander/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning, Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse published a New York Times op-ed about the so-called Rotem Bill, which would give a small coterie of ultra-Orthodox rabbis in Israel the power over all conversions, and by extension over all other rites, and again by extension the power over Jewish religious identity in Israel. Sponsored by a member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, the bill, Alana argues, represents a gigantic threat not only to Jewish life in Israel but to the “vital” tie between Israel and the Jewish diaspora:

If this bill passes, future historians will inevitably wonder why, at a critical moment in its history, Israel chose to tell 85 percent of the Jewish diaspora that their rabbis weren’t rabbis and their religious practices were a sham, the conversions of their parents and spouses were invalid, their marriages weren’t legal under Jewish law, and their progeny were a tribe of bastards unfit to marry other Jews.

It’s a sad state of affairs, one this magazine has been covering for at least half of its existence—beginning with a story that Alana alludes to when she mentions “an American Haredi rabbi who had become one of the most powerful authorities on the question of conversion [who] resigned from his organization in December after accusations that he solicited phone sex from a hopeful female convert.” She’s referring to Leib Tropper, whose power, corruption, and lies we investigated last January (and which, frankly, we’ve been mystified about the non-reaction to):

-Allison Hoffman’s profile;

-Marissa Brostoff on one woman’s side of the story;

-Hoffman on the wealthy, possibly crazy heir who bankrolled Tropper;

-Hoffman on how other Haredi rabbis have been reluctant to condemn him;

-Oh, and you can listen to the tapes.

Below, a helpful cheat sheet for Alana’s essay: (more…)

Sundown: Boat Stopped Via Secret Deal

Plus Yitzhak Rabin Gallery, new trailers, and more

The Libya-sponsored ship, docked today in El Arish, Egypt.(AFP/Getty Images)

• The Libyan ship headed for Gaza agreed to dock in Egypt under a secret deal: Libya gets to send $50 million’s worth of construction material into the Strip instead. [Ynet/J.J. Goldberg]

• The U.S. State Department may add IHH, the Turkish charity behind the flotilla, to its list of foreign terrorist organizations. [JPost]

• Former Clinton administration Health Secretary Donna Shalala—the first Arab-American U.S. Cabinet member—denounced academic boycotts of Israelis from her perch as president of the University of Miami. [JPost]

• A Spinoza-spouting hipster has opened a new Lower East Side art space called Yitzhak Rabin Gallery. Whatta town! [Art Info]

• Gal Beckerman gives hard-luck Jewish fighter Dmitriy Salita the old-school profile treatment. Check it. [Forward]

• There is definitely a hair salon in southern Massachusetts called The Perm Solution. [Merchant Circle]

James Franco as Allen Ginsberg. Trailer’s dropped. Hell yes.

AND Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg. New trailer’s dropped. Hell yes.

Fibi Netanyahu

In 2001, PM boasted of manipulating Oslo accords

Netanyahu in 2001.(Channel 10)

Meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu last week, President Obama could not have been more effusive. “I believe Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace,” Obama said. “I believe he is ready to take risks for peace.”

A newly revealed tape of Netanyahu in 2001, being interviewed while he thinks the cameras are off, shows him in a radically different light. In it, Netanyahu dismisses American foreign policy as easy to maneuver, boasts of having derailed the Oslo accords with political trickery, and suggests that the only way to deal with the Palestinians is to “beat them up, not once but repeatedly, beat them up so it hurts so badly, until it’s unbearable” (all translations are mine).

According to Haaretz‘s Gideon Levy, the video should be “Banned for viewing by children so as not to corrupt them, and distributed around the country and the world so that everyone will know who leads the government of Israel.”

Netanyahu is speaking to a small group of terror victims in the West Bank settlement of Ofra two years after stepping down as prime minister in 1999. He appears laid-back. After claiming that the only way to deal with the Palestinian Authority was a large-scale attack, Netanyahu was asked by one of the participants whether or not the United States would let such an attack come to fruition. (more…)

Boldface Names at Chelsea’s Wedding

Obamas, Streisand expected upstate at month’s end

The mother of the bride and the bride, last year.(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Via The Jerusalem Post, the Hudson Valley News is reporting who some of the celebrity guests at the July 31 Mezvinsky-Clinton nuptials in Rhinebeck, New York, will be.

The biggest names, of course, are President Obama and the First Lady. But also count on Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand (presumably with hubby James Brolin—he is such a rock), Kate Capshaw and Steven Speilberg, Harold Ickes, Terry McAuliffe (he is basically Bill Clinton’s manservant at this point), former British Prime Minister John Major (what, no Blair?), Doris Kearns Goodwin, Ted Turner, and Denise Rich (ex-wife of Marc, the prominent Jewish philanthropist whom the bride’s father notoriously pardoned in 2001).

This is one day on which the Hudson Valley won’t be such a Sleepy Hollow!

(Boy, writing in the US Weekly style is tougher than it looks. My respect to them.)

(And, no, still no word on whether she’s converting.)

Obama and Oprah Expected To Be At Clinton Wedding [Hudson Valley News]

Study: Attack Won’t Work, Will Cause Long War

The consequences of bombing Iran

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study argues that Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities would fail to substantially halt the program and would lead to a long war. Grain-of-salt alert: The study was produced by a think tank that that “promotes non-violent solutions to conflict” and was written by a professor of “peace studies.”

A few months ago in Tablet Magazine, Yoav Fromer reported on a different study, by an Israeli physicist, that reached a similar conclusion: A military attack would prompt a war that would last years, not months or days.

Most other studies, Fromer adds, envision a shorter follow-up war. And almost all, including (it appears) this new study, agree on what the Islamic Republic’s immediate response would be:

Iran would initially retaliate by lobbing ballistic missiles at Israel, while Tehran’s proxies Hezbollah and Hamas would bear most of the burden by launching corresponding rocket attacks from Gaza and Lebanon. Most predictions also include some Iranian attempt to wage economic warfare by sealing off the Strait of Hormuz to stop the flow of oil.

Which is why, as Eli Lake does a great job reporting in the The New Republic, perhaps the real ideal is to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program via covert sabotage—and don’t think Israel and the United States are not trying.

Israel Attack Wouldn’t Stop Iran Nuclear Program, Says U.K. Study [Reuters/Haaretz]
Related: Not So Fast [Tablet Magazine]
Operation Sabotage [TNR]

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