Palin ‘Refudiates’ Cordoba House

Colorfully opposes Ground Zero Islamic center

Sarah Palin.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Noted wordsmith Sarah Palin announced on Twitter yesterday that “peaceful” Muslims ought to “refudiate” Cordoba House, the Islamic center (invariably misreported as being a mosque) that planners are hoping will be located a couple blocks from Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan. (Tablet Magazine’s Mark Bergen reported on the controversy last week.)

Of course, the political media being the political media, the story has become Palin’s use of the, shall we say, neologism “refudiate”; her subsequent correction of her Tweet to “refute”; and then her defense of her own flexible use of the English language: “‘Refudiate,’ ‘misunderestimate,’ ‘wee-wee’d up,’” she Tweeted. “English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin new words too. Got to celebrate it!” (Does that mean the Constitution is living as well?)

The real story here, though, is that prominent moderate New York Jewish politicians like Michael Bloomberg and Scott Stringer all have no problem with the Cordoba House, which, by the way, is actively modeled on Jewish Community Centers. Another reason, in other words, why Jews may hate her. Also her sublimely grandiose view of herself.

Palin Invents Word ‘Refudiate,’ Compares Herself to Shakespeare [WP]
Earlier: Ground Zero for a Fight
Why We Hate Her

American Jewish Congress Closes Shop

Venerable group lost most funds to Madoff


The 92-year-old American Jewish Congress, which started hurting financially right about the time all the rest of Bernard Madoff’s clients started hurting financially, has suspended operations. It is still not clear whether, as some suspect, the Congress will be salvaged by the American Jewish Committee, which at the least would mean the Congress would not have to get its towels re-monogrammed.

Jerome A. Chanes has a fond eulogy:

The AJCongress pioneered the use of legislative and judicial action to improve conditions for American Jews. This direct-action method—using the law and litigation, often in coalition with like-minded groups such as the NAACP and the ACLU—concentrated on actively fighting discrimination, not simply on reforming prejudicial attitudes. …

The model of democratic governance in the Jewish community was a creation of the AJCongress, and was its hallmark from its earliest days. (The AJCongress did not make the transition until recently to the model of elite—that is, moneyed—governance that had long characterized many other national Jewish organizations.)

American Jewish Congress Suspends Activities [JTA]
Related: What The Congress Gave American Jews [Forward]

Top Ten for the Ninth of Av

Movies for the Mourning

Your number one Tisha B’Av movie.(IMDB)

Growing up and going to many a Jewish summer camp, I experienced Tisha B’Av in scores of unique ways along with my whole generation of Jewish-Americans, for whom watching video (no DVDs yet!) was both a fun and exciting part of the camp experience. Since campers and staff are fasting for 25 hours and all fun activity is forbidden, including learning Torah, films about Jewish suffering and morality make up the ultimate program for this definitive day of mourning.

In a survey, I asked my peers to let me know their top 10 Tisha B’Av films. From Camp Moshava to Camp Galil to Camp Ramah to USY to Camp Lavi (and more), these folks spent their summers across the United States, and while their experiences did span religious, political, and cultural backgrounds, they all had one thing in common: Intense Tisha B’Av experiences.

10- Operation Thunderbolt (1977)
9-Hester Street (1975)
8-The Chosen (1981)
7-Paper Clips (2004)
6-The Wave (1981)
5-Exodus (1960)
4-School Ties (1992)
3- Life is Beautiful (1997)
2-Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

And the top of the list is…

1-Schindler’s List (1993)

Other recommendations were Pleasantville, Night and Fog, Cast a Giant Shadow, Eichah, Pay it Forward, The Devil’s Arithmetic and Hotel Rwanda.

Bibi v. Rotem

Opposing bill, PM challenges coalition partners

Netanyahu at his Cabinet meeting.(Ronen Zvulun-Pool/Getty Images)

While you were likely spending your weekend trying to cool off, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was heating things up at his cabinet meeting Sunday, taking a stand against the proposed, and controversial, conversion bill.

“The Prime Minister said today in the cabinet meeting that he objects to the proposed conversion bill, which could tear the Jewish people apart,” said an official statement released yesterday by Netanyahu’s office. “Efforts will be made to consensually remove the bill, but if they fail Netanyahu will ask members of Likud and other coalition parties to reject the bill.”

As someone who normally does not find himself in the position of praising this particular Israeli prime minister, let me say that the latter half of that statement speaks volumes: By taking a principled stand against the bill, Netanyahu is rejecting its author, David Rotem of the Yisrael Beiteinu party, as well as Rotem’s political patron, party boss Avigdor Lieberman, a rift that could spell the downfall of Netanyahu’s precarious cabinet. While Lieberman has said repeatedly that neither he nor his party is slated to leave the government anytime soon, the foreign minister has nonetheless engaged in a series of provocative steps against the prime minister: On Friday, for example, Lieberman appointed a new ambassador to the United Nations without following protocol and first clearing the appointment with Netanyahu.

Seen in this light, Netanyahu’s position is even more impressive. While some skeptics noted that the prime minister originally supported the bill and changed his mind only when American Jewish leaders expressed their dismay, Netanyahu is nonetheless required to pay a steep political price for his struggle against the Rotem Bill, and opponents of that disastrous bit of legislation should take heart in knowing that Bibi’s up for the battle.

Interior Minister Yishai: Absence of Conversion Law Poses Danger to Jewish People [Haaretz]

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…)

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