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Today on Tablet

The Jews’ Jesus, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Robin Cembalest looks at depictions of Jesus in contemporary Jewish art, with an accompanying slideshow. In 1967, the Egyptians and the Soviets failed to halt Israel’s full nuclear development; Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez ask if Israel and the United States can learn from these countries’ mistakes vis-à-vis Iran. Books critic Adam Kirsch finds many extenuations for belief in God in a new anthology of liberal Jewish theology. The Scroll thinks it is very Jewish to disagree on what it means to be Jewish.

Top Rabbi

Chabad’s Krinsky is number one; and 49 more

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Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky, center, late last year.(Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images)

Mazel tov to Yehuda Krinsky, whom Newsweek named the most influential rabbi in America in its annual list. The Chabad-Lubavitch leader—“the contemporary face of the Hasidic branch”—improved on his number 4 showing in last year’s list. Coming in second is Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the head of the Reform movement, who jumped an impressive six spots from last year. (Yoffie recently announced that he will retire in two years.) Rounding out the top five are Martin Hier, of the Simon Wiesenthal Center; Mark Charendoff, of the Jewish Funders Network; and the politically-minded David Saperstein (who was last year’s number one), of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

A special in-the-family pat on the back to Joseph Telushkin, who held steady at spot 15. Telushkin’s biography of Hillel is being published by Nextbook Press in September.

Some more notable winners (and some losers) from the list—which is the brainchild of Sony Pictures’s Michael Lynton and “his pal” Gary Ginsberg, and which is strictly subjective—after the jump. (more…)

Daybreak: A’jad Sets New Obstacles to Talks

Plus Russian intelligence, and more in the news

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Boris, Natasha, and Fearless Leader.(Wikipedia)

• As “punishment” for the new sanctions, Iranian President Ahmadinejad put onerous new conditions on further nuclear talks. [LAT]

• Turkey has banned IDF flights in its airspace and will not invite Israel to its military exercises. [NYT]

• Elena Kagan vowed to be a “modest” and “deferential” justice during the first day of her Supreme Court confirmation hearings. [NYT]

• Israeli police announced the April arrest of seven Palestinian men accused of plotting attacks against Jews and Christians in Israel, Somalia, and elsewhere. [NYT]

• Not clear yet if there’s a Jewish angle, but holy crap Russian spies! [NYT]

• The “Three Weeks” of mourning begin tonight; it marks the day the Babylonian king entered Jerusalem on his way to destroying the Temple (the first time). [Arutz Sheva]

Sundown: The Anti-Zionism of the Muslim Liberals

Plus Rabbi Schneier steps out, and more

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Rabbi Marc Schneier, ladies’ man.(Foundation for Ethical Understanding)

• Columnist Jackson Diehl argues that the Obama administration’s relative silence on human rights and its distancing from Israel has made anti-Zionism (sometimes with an anti-Semitic edge) the go-to rhetorical device for Muslim democrats who otherwise might be important American allies. [WP]

• A profile of the American Council for Judaism, which urges the separation of church and state—church being the synagogue and the state being Israel. [NYT]

• Onetime Labor Party minister Yossi Beilin argues that Jordan should be allowed to enrich its own uranium. [NYT]

• Barry Rubin argues that the Obama administration, wittingly or not, is propping up Hamas’s rule in Gaza. [JPost]

• Marc Schneier, the impeccably first-named rabbi to the stars, is splitting from his fourth wife; he has been seen around town with a woman a couple decades his junior. [Page Six]

• Walter Shorenstein, a presidential adviser, top Democratic donor, and prominent San Francisco real estate maven, died at 95. [NYT]

A teaser trailer for The Social Network, the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (played by Jesse Eisenberg), has dropped. If it feels a bit like Aaron Sorkin wrote the thing, well, um, he did!

Happy 94th, Ms. Kaplan

The grandma of Manhattan’s social scene

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Kaplan last year.(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Did people know about Zelda Kaplan? She celebrated her 94th—nine-four—birthday last night at an exclusive New York club, because that is how she rolls. As of four years ago, when the Village Voice profiled her, she was partying into the wee hours two to three nights per week. Her other passion is the rights of African women (her idol as a young woman was anthropologist Margaret Mead); she frequently sports authentic West African attire.

“I think I inspire them because I am out,” she told the Voice four years ago. “I hope I inspire people to not be afraid of being old—really old. And not to feel empty about life, because life is worth living. Don’t you think?”

Socialite Zelda Kaplan Celebrates 94th Birthday [Page Six]
Related: Nightlife Begins at 90 [Village Voice]

Kagan Hearings Kick Off

Decline and fall of the WASP

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Elena Kagan today.(Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

Her confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee have begun (streaming here; one of no doubt many live-blogs here).

It is looking like committee Republicans are not going to make this one easy, although since they have only a minority and, unlike the full Senate, Senate committees operate under the arcane voting method known as “majority rules,” these hearings are largely pomp and circumstance. It is once her nomination arrives at the Senate floor—with its much more commonsensical voting procedures (think about it: Is 58 percent really a majority?)—that the real fun will begin, depending on your definition of fun.

In the Times this morning, prominent public intellectual Noah Feldman argued that Kagan’s nomination as well as the departure of the only remaining white Protestant justice on the Supreme Court (John Paul Stevens) mark the definitive end of the era of WASP dominance in American life—an end made possible by none other than some of the most powerful WASPs themselves.

Kagan Promises Impartiality as Hearings Open [NYT]
The Triumphant Decline of the WASP [NYT]
Earlier: Kagan Had Synagogue’s First Bat Mitzvah

The Jewish Type of Type

When tribute becomes kitsch

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(Sholom, Hebrewish, and Circumcision Fonts.)

Good thing there’s design writers like Jessica Helfand, of Design Observer, to remind us of typography’s chronic suffering of false Hebraics. More specifically: The vague ghetto-izing of Latin letters to Hebrew handles; the pouring of shmaltz onto font. The names themselves give it away: Hebrewish, Faux Hebrew, Bagel, Jerusalem, Sholom, Talmud, and—the most painful moniker of all—Circumcision.

While Jews can take a certain pride in the kitsch value of this treatment (after all, didn’t the Jews invent kitsch?), Helfand points out that these letter treatments brush aside aspirations for more serious type designers. She also challenges us to consider: “What’s the difference between a celebrity making an unforgivable racist remark and a typographer making a font that clumsily perpetuates a cultural stereotype?” Perhaps we should ponder the relevance of a “Jewish” type over a He’Brew.

Why Is This Font Different From All Other Fonts? (Design Observer)

Ike Davis Goes Yard

Photo of the day

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Jewish ballplayer Ike Davis heads home after slamming a solo shot in the fifth inning yesterday. He also scored a run in the previous inning. The New York Mets beat the Minnesota Twins 6-0 at Citi Field in Queens.

Photograph by the author.

Livni: ‘I Will Be Prime Minister’

Opposition leader backs Gaza blockade

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Livni, rocking some awesome shades, earlier this month.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

Tzipi Livni got the interview treatment in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine (a weekly magazine of Jewish life and culture). Even casual observers of Israeli politics will be unsurprised to find that, on matters of security, she and her Kadima Party differ little from Prime Minister Netanyahu and his Likud: “On the right of Israel to exist and to defend itself,” the opposition leader says, “there is no opposition.”

The most compelling part of the interview comes when she discusses her parents, who were prominent Revisionist Zionists (the right-wing forerunners of Likud) and members of the paramilitary group Irgun. Says Livni:

A few years ago, when I was interviewed on Israeli television, I said I support the idea of two nation-states. I was afraid that my mother was listening and hoped that she didn’t open the TV when I was speaking. But then one day she called me and said: “Listen, Tzipi. I hear you. It gives me pain. But you need to make decisions about the future of Israel. We didn’t establish this state for having just old people living here.”

Oh, and is she going to run for prime minister again? And how.

Meanwhile, for domestic Israeli consumption, Livni is being much harsher on the present government: “They go from crisis to crisis,” she thunders, “leading Israel into one of the worst situations in its history.”

Leader of the Opposition [NYT Magazine]
‘Bibi Gov’t Is Destroying the Country’ [JPost]
Related: Tough Love [TNR]

Today on Tablet

Packing for camp, Ashkenazim online, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall tells a tale of two trunks: What she packed in the one she took to her Jewish sleepaway camp three decades ago, and what is packed in the one her daughter, 8, is taking this summer. Tablet Magazine executive editor Gabriel Sanders discusses the newly online Encylopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe with its editor-in-chief for this week’s Vox Tablet podcast. Josh Lambert provides his usual look at forthcoming books of note. And The Scroll does its thing, too.

The Holocaust in Russia, Photographed

The Soviet Union obscured victims’ Jewishness

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One of the earliest photographs of the Holocaust in Russia.(Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine)

A forthcoming book details the official Soviet practice of explaining photographs of Jewish victims of the Nazis—among the first visual documents of the Holocaust—as evidence not of anti-Jewish violence but of broader malevolence toward “the Soviet people,” whose country the Germans invaded in 1941.

Even more poignantly: The photographs were almost always taken by Jews.

David Shneer, a professor at the University of Colorado, writes in Through Soviet Jewish Eyes that the Soviet government wanted citizens to view these products of its nearly all-Jewish corps of photojournalists and believe that the Nazis had not distinguished among their victims.

“During World War II,” an article about the book in Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine reports, “the Soviets saw an advantage in framing the Nazi assault as being against the entire nation, not just Jewish people. As Shneer observes, there was a rationale: ‘Do you think a bunch of Russian peasants wanted to go fight a war because of Jews?’”

Take the photograph above. It was originally captioned, “Kerch resident P.I. Ivanova found her husband, who was tortured by the fascist executioners.” There is no note of the fact that her husband was likely one of 7,500 Kerch Jews murdered, for being Jews, before the Red Army retook that southern city.

Another, similar photograph was captioned, “V.S. Tereshchenko digs under bodies for her husband. On the right: the body of 67-year-old I. Kh. Kogan.” The name Tereshchenko (a Ukrainian surname) is still alive; the Kogan is not.

The photographer’s name? Mark Redkin.

A few months ago, Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse looked at how Roman Vishniac’s famous photographs have also been put to use crafting an alternate narrative for the Jews of Europe.

Prof Uncovers Early Holocaust Photos [Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine]
Related: A Closer Reading of Roman Vishniac [NYT Magazine]

Daybreak: No ‘Tectonic Rift,’ Oren Says

Plus Shalits on the march, and more in the news

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• Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren denied reports that he described a “tectonic rift” in U.S.-Israeli relations earlier this year. [WP]

• In East Jerusalem, protesters and police skirmished at the site of 22 Palestinian homes whose destruction municipal authorities just approved. [NYT]

• Gilad Shalit’s family is leading a march to Jerusalem demanding the Israeli government retrieve Shalit, whom Hamas kidnapped over four years ago. There is particular resentment that the Gaza blockade was eased without securing anything—like Shalit’s release—in return. [NYT]

• Thomas Friedman warns that the expiration of the settlement freeze, in September, could prompt major West Bank violence. [NYT]

• U.S. and E.U. officials worry that China will step into the energy-trading vacuum that new sanctions against Iran will create, rendering them fairly meaningless. [LAT]

• M.D. Ginsburg, the husband of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, died at 78. [NYT]

Sundown: Why We Hate Her

Plus Iran gets its Seas confused, and more

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Sarah Palin last month.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

• Maybe Jews hate Sarah Palin because they’re liberal. Or maybe they hate her because she disseminates op-eds that compare Obama to Hitler. [HuffPo]

• Respected Mossad chief Meir Dagan was reportedly denied a requested year-long extension of his tenure and will step down in three months. [Ynet]

• Hamas says U.S. officials have asked it not to tell people that they are meeting with the group. Which, Hamas adds, they may or may not be doing. Officially. Or unofficially. Or something. [Ynet]

• The Rabbinical Alliance of America warns that confirming Elena Kagan will “homosexualize” America. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Iran’s plans to send a flotilla to Gaza’s Mediterranean coast via the Caspian Sea were foiled by the revelation that the Caspian Sea is landlocked. [Heeb]

• The Macaroons, a JDub Records Act, will be performing tomorrow in lower Manhattan at Children’s Day. [Children’s Day]

Saw these guys last night. Seeing these guys again tonight. Last night, they played this:

Designer to the Converted Stars

Marry a Jew, buy a Wang

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Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump (who wears Vera Wang).(Brian Marcus/Fred Marcus Photography via Getty Images)

Chelsea Clinton has tapped Vera Wang to make a one-of-a-kind dress for her upcoming July 31 nuptials to member-of-the-tribe Marc Mezvinsky. And Wang also designed a tzniusdik, Grace Kelly-like gown for Ivanka Trump, a.k.a Mrs. Jared Kushner. While Trump famously converted to Judaism with the Upper East Side’s Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, it is still up in the air whether Chelsea will take the dip made so famous by Sex and the City’s Charlotte.

Stay tuned …

Chelsea Clinton to Wed in Classic Vera Wang? [InStyle]

Leon Wieseltier’s Plan for Iran

‘Democratization and deterrence’

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New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier.(Slate)

On Monday, Fareed Zakaria argued that Iran’s pro-democracy Green Movement is unlikely to overthrow the Ahmadinejad regime, and that “punitive sanctions” only will harm the Iranian people. In response, today, New Republic literary editor and Tablet Magazine contributing editor Leon Wieseltier criticized Zakaria, a prominent foreign-policy voice, arguing, “Real realism consists of the recognition that nuclear peace and social peace in Iran will be reliably achieved only with the advent of democracy, and that since June 12, 2009″—when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad allegedly stole his re-election, prompting the rise of the Green Movement—”the advent of Iranian democracy is not an idle wish.”

With new Iran sanctions having just passed Congress (President Obama is expected to sign them), I decided to ask Wieseltier what else the United States should be doing to aid Iran’s Green Movement; where Israel fits in all of this; and how he feels about the annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland.

You publish an essay in the back of almost every issue of the New Republic. Why did you decide to publish this essay in the Washington Post?
There was nothing strategic about it. I had a piece in this issue, I published something on the Website, and I had something more I wanted to say, and I thought I would publish it at the scene of the crime. There was nothing calculating about it.

How do you feel about the sanctions against Iran that Congress passed yesterday?
The tougher the better, I don’t expect them to do the trick. Insofar that it’s a sign that Congress is finally being aroused, it is a good thing. But I think the Iranians have figured out ways to outwit any variety of sanctions. (more…)

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