Today on Tablet

Madoff imagined, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, staff writer Marissa Brostoff raves over Imagining Madoff, the controversial play that once featured Elie Wiesel as a character, which is playing upstate. The Scroll needs to get to the theater more often.

Will She Convert?

The groom’s family may contain a clue (or not)

Rhinebeck, New York, the site of the nuptials.(Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

We know Chelsea Clinton is getting married to the tastefully named Marc Mezvinsky this Sunday Saturday; we know the wedding will take place in Rhinebeck, New York; we know some of the people who will be there; we know how the uninvited feel; we even know (courtesy @daroff) that the bride’s mother, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is already in the state.

What we don’t know, and what the Jewish community seems to want to know, is: Will Chelsea convert for her Jewish husband?

I don’t know! But one clue could be to know whether the Mezvinskys—the only Jews who could at least be argued to have an actual personal stake in whether Chelsea remains Methodist—are likely to care every bit as much as we do. Here’s what we got: In 1996, the groom’s mother, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, a onetime congressperson, disclosed that she was raised Reform; that her then-husband (now ex-husband), Edward Mezvinsky, was raised “very Orthodox”; and that as a compromise they chose to raise the kinder as Conservative.

That’s it. That’s all I got. There’s your speculation, as it were, for the day. Who knows, maybe we’ll have more tomorrow!

Ex-Congresswoman Laments Women’s Losses Since 1992 [J Weekly]
Earlier: Boldface Names at Chelsea’s Wedding
Flying the Friendly Skies With Clinton

Daybreak: The Future Is Foggy

Plus American girl mired in legal dispute, and more in the news

Emily Henochowicz, 21.(NYT)

• What’s going to happen in September, when the settlement freeze ends? No one knows, and the Israeli government is sending mixed signals. All of which arguably makes direct talks more helpful. [WP]

• President Abbas plans to tell the Arab League to reject direct talks on the grounds that the “proximity talks” haven’t yet achieveved enough. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• Emily Henochowicz, the Jewish American girl struck in the eye by a tear-gas canister at a pro-flotilla protest in Israel a few months ago, now lies at the center of a dispute over who should pay her hospital bill. [NYT]

• Commercial airline pilots worry that new Israeli security protocol, requiring a code before landing, could end up leaving planes vulnerable to actions from the Israeli Air Force. [NYT]

• Israel bulldozed 45 Bedouin homes in the Negev, the largest such razing in awhile. [LAT]

• Heirs to a Hungarian Jewish banker filed a U.S. federal lawsuit against the Hungarian government demanding it account for and return more than $100 million of their benefactor’s art it came to possess after the war. [NYT]

Sundown: Bibi Warms Up to Jordan

Plus Cameron calls Gaza ‘prison camp,’ and more

British and Turkish Prime Ministers Cameron and Erdogan, today.(Adem Altan/AFP/Getty Images)

• Without prior announcement, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Amman to ask Jordanian King Abdullah to back direct Israeli-Palestinian talks. [Haaretz]

• British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza “a prison camp” and advocated an end to the blockade while addressing a group of Turkish businessmen. [Haaretz]

• Six Israeli and one Romanian solder died in a helicopter crash in central Romania, where they were participating in joint military drills. [JTA]

• Oliver Stone apologized for his remarks yesterday about Jewish control of the media and clarified that the Holocaust was—indeed—“an atrocity.” [NYT]

• Rebecca Newberger Goldstein (author of Nextbook Press’ Betraying Spinoza) has a great essay on the brothers Singer (yup, there was another!). [The Book]

• Ian Buruma accuses Israel’s critics of holding it to a double standard. [Project Syndicate]

Nice song for a summer day:

Some See Jewish Conspiracy in Listserv

Of course, some also see Jewish conspiracy most places


There has been a to-do over the past weeks concerning Journolist, a now-defunct listserv on which many like-minded liberals and center-liberals emailed about politics, policy, and other topics. Journolist members—who would presumably know more than anyone else—note that it was innocuous (that no policies or talking points were actively and regularly coordinated, for example) and mainly served as a helpful resource for journalists and academics, a way for different generations of thinkers to learn from one another, and generally a place that could be characterized by practically any other adjective before you got down the list to “insidious.”

But conservatives (and some others) have disagreed, saying in fact that this was a secret group of like-minded individuals in disparate, powerful institutions coordinating with each other in something very like a conspiracy to drive the course of history toward their preferred, nefarious ends. And, hey, there are a lot of interesting last names among the members of the group. Uh-oh. (more…)

Save a Torah Controversy Prompts Deal

Nonprofit pledges stricter authentication standards

Rabbi Youlus at work in 2008.(Brendan Hoffman/NYT)

A Torah owned by the Upper East Side’s Central Synagogue that purportedly had been used by Auschwitz prisoners may not actually have come from the camp. So, Save a Torah, a Rockville, Maryland-based nonprofit that restores scrolls and had authenticated this particular one, struck a deal with local authorities only to authenticate Torahs “if there is documentation or an independent verifiable witness to such history.” It added: “In the absence of such independent verifiable proof, there will be no discussion of the circumstances under which the Torah was rescued.”

Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a lawyer and activist, wrote to Maryland’s attorney general earlier this year alleging fraud and/or misrepresentation concerning Save a Torah rabbi Menachem Youlus’ contention that the Torah in question had been salvaged from Auschwitz by a Polish priest. (more…)

Obama, Dems Tout Pro-Israel Bona Fides

No effort is made to challenge prevailing assumptions

Netanyahu and Obama in the Oval Office earlier this month.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

After a year-and-a-half during which the United States has enjoyed at best a bumpy relationship with Israel, will Jewish voters bestow the same love on Democrats running in November’s midterm elections as they did on President Obama in November 2008? To try to get a “yes” on that, Obama and House Democrats have leaked a series of talking points that purport to show that Democrats and Obama have been just as good for Israel as the previous administration—if not better!

Many have said that the notion of “support for Israel” should be redefined because, sometimes, the way for the United States to be Israel’s best friend is to criticize it; that, in the case of American backing of Israel, there is such a thing as loving not wisely, but too well. This is, broadly speaking, the J Street line: We are “pro-Israel,” it says, but part of that involves telling Israel that, say, continued settlement beyond the Green Line, combined with demographic trends, is actually bad for Israel.

Certainly you could find plenty of people to agree with that notion. But these Democratic talking points indicate that the alternate, tough-love definition of “pro-Israel” has not penetrated the broader domestic political consciousness. The Obama administration and national Democrats are still playing by the old “pro-Israel” rules, which almost certainly favor the other side. As far as the midterms are concerned, the government that supports Israel best supports it most. (more…)

Flying the Friendly Skies With Clinton

William Daroff’s excellent adventure

Clinton on the shuttle yesterday.(William Daroff)

William Daroff, an FOTM and the Vice President for Public Policy of The Jewish Federations of North America, had a pretty awesome flight yesterday, from the look of his Twitter (via Laura Rozen). He boarded what appears to be the 6 pm National-to-LaGuardia shuttle; secured the foursquare mayoralty (if you don’t know what that means, you’re best left in the dark) of both the National runway and, apparently, of the airspace above National Airport; he then announced to his nearly 4,000 (!) Twitter followers that there is a VIP on his flight; and then, upon landing, once no longer at risk of Tweeting something that would land him in a Secret Service black site in Romania, he revealed: The VIP was Secretary of State Clinton, a.k.a. MOTB (Mother of the Bride), and she was flying up to the City to continue up to Westchester to make arrangements for her daughter’s wedding to the tastefully named Marc Mezvinsky this weekend. (Bonus for Daroff: “we discussed #EU action today strengthening #Iran sanctions.” I’m super-jeal!)

Reported Daroff, “Clinton was accompanied by her mother and a bevy of staff. She read WP, NYT, SkyMall, & the ‘Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source.’” Plus a book: How To Be The Mother of a Bride Who Has Just Converted to Judaism. Just kidding about that last one! Anyway, Twitter: It’s what’s for dinner.

Today on Tablet

Cohen and Shteyngart team up to drink, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, novelists and contributing editors Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen join editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse for smoked fish, alcohol, and a Vox Tablet podcast not to be missed. Guess which group had disproportionate influence on music during the czarist era in Russia? Adam Kirsch reviews the new book that shows it was the Jews. The Scroll is sad it wasn’t invited to the Brighton Beach drinkathon.

Jews for ‘Sister Act’

Broadway show will find non-churchgoing fans

Whoopi Goldberg in the original ‘Sister Act.’(IMDB)

When Sister Act came out in 1992, a generation of Jews who would never step foot in a church learned songs such as “Hail Holy Queen.” Church culture became cool, and before you knew it, kinderlach were requesting Sister Act at slumber parties. Now, when Sister Act arrives on Broadway next spring, a generation of young Jewish adults will relive their childhood explorations of church music.

For the uninitiated, Sister Act tels the tale of Deloris Van Cartier, originally played by the EGOT-winning Whoopi Goldberg. After witnessing her lover and manager take out a snitch, the night club songstress must get herself to the nunnery via police protection. And so Sister Mary Clarence is born. Hilarity ensues as she adjusts to the habit while bringing tight beats to the church choir and inspiring the community to wake up and pay attention (oops, that’s from Sister Act 2, the one starring one Lauryn Hill.)

Mor Rossler, 27, watches Sister Act whenever it is on the tube. (more…)

Daybreak: Europe Moves Against Iran

Plus Yoffie speaks out, and more in the news


• Following the Americans, the European Union instituted tougher-than-ever economic and energy sanctions against Iran. [LAT]

• West Bank settlers yesterday protested the demolition of a single home. [NYT]

• Russia, in many ways one of Iran’s prime patrons, has seen its relations with the Islamic Republic deteriorate significantly since it voted for sanctions at the U.N. Security Council. [NYT]

• Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Reform movement, expresses bewilderment at why some in Israel, led by David Rotem, would push their conversion bill at a time like this. [JTA]

• Roger Cohen wonders why we haven’t heard more about the lives and deaths of the nine flotilla activists, including the one American, and wonders whether, say, a Jewish kid caught in some crossfire would receive the same non-attention. [NYT]

• Soon after the United States raised the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic status from “bureau” to “delegation,” France went a step farther, raising it from “delegation” to “mission,” which includes an ambassador. [NYT]

Sundown: U.S. Pressuring Abbas on Talks

Plus Oliver Stone on Jewish media dominance, and more


• In a leaked memo, U.S. diplomats threatened to withdraw strong support for a Palestinian state if President Abbas does not quickly accede to direct talks. [AP/Haaretz]

• Director Oliver Stone blamed “Jewish domination of the media” for preventing an open discussion of the Holocaust and “the most powerful lobby in Washington” (hint: Not the AARP) for “messing up” U.S. foreign policy. [JTA]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu compared the U.N. Human Rights Council’s flotilla probe to the Goldstone committee. [Ynet]

• Michiko Kakutani is famous for being harsh on novels, so if she calls a new one “wonderful” and “supersad, superfunny, superaffecting,” you may want to consider reading it. [NYT]

• This story is a week old, but depressing enough to be flagged: The Hamas operative who shot and killed an Israeli security agent last month has a daughter who, a couple weeks before that, had had a tumor removed from her eye at an Israeli hospital with funds from an Israeli organization. [Ynet]

• A conservative synagogue in Olney, Maryland—a town in heavily Jewish Montgomery County (whence comes your faithful blogger)—was vandalized with swastikas and slogans. [Vos Iz Neias?]

Oliver Stone may think the Jews are an insidious influence on the body politic. But what does he think of the Magic Loogie Theory?

Against the Israeli Boycott

Jacob Weisberg and Johnny Rotten make common cause

Johnny Rotten.(Robert Yager/Independent)

Slate Group Editor Jacob Weisberg makes the case against the Israeli cultural boycott:

That supporters of this boycott seldom focus on China or Syria or Zimbabwe—or other genuinely illegitimate regimes that systematically violate human rights—underscores their bad faith. Boycotters are not trying to send the specific message, “We object to your settlement policy in the West Bank.” What they’re saying is, “We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are going to treat all of your citizens as pariahs.” Like the older Arab economic boycott of Israel, which dates back to the 1940s, the cultural boycott is a weapon designed not to bring peace but to undermine the country.

A couple weeks ago, former Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten announced that he would not cancel a gig in Israel next month despite hate mail he has received*. Rotten expanded on his stance recently: (more…)

And Thanks For All The Fish

Tomorrow’s Vox Tablet today

(Eric Molinsky)

In tomorrow’s podcast, Vox Tablet brings you a conversation among editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse and the authors of two of our favorite summer novels, contributing editors Gary Shteyngart and Joshua Cohen. Though stylistically quite different, Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and Cohen’s Witz both offer dystopic visions of the future in which the things they love, whether literature and passion (Shteyngart) or rigorous Jewish life and thought (Cohen), are on the verge of extinction. Their wide-ranging discussion, conducted over drinks and smoked fish at a down-on-its-heels Brighton Beach establishment on a sweltering summer day, covers such topics as the pending collapse of the U.S. empire, rhinoplasty, crucifixion, and, here, Shteyngart’s declaration that if we all get is some delicious fish to eat and a few other material pleasures, well, that would be enough:

My Hagee Problem—And Ours

Why the enemy of our enemy isn’t always our friend

Hagee in Jerusalem in March.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

In The Weekly Standard, Jennifer Rubin writes a praise-poem to Christian Zionists, and specifically to the Rev. John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel. Tablet Magazine columnist Lee Smith gave the group much more nuanced treatment a few months ago; I don’t think I can give Rubin’s article a similarly moderate hearing, as she essentially glosses over CUFI’s theological underpinnings, which include the belief that the Second Coming depends on Jews inhabiting the Holy Land.

But just as important as what Rubin fails to mention about evangelical Christians’ Zionism is what she fails to mentions about Hagee. Jonathan Chait reminds us that Hagee first entered national consciousness in early 2008 when he endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) for president, only to have the record show that Hagee had once said that Hitler was God’s agent for punishing those Jews who did not do the sensible thing and move to Palestine, as the Bible had demanded. (more…)

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