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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.

Lieberman Nixes Palestinian State in ‘12

Inside Israel’s insane coalition politics

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Foreign Minister Lieberman last month.(Maya Hitij - Pool/Getty Images)

The big news out of Israel today is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s declaration, “I’m an optimistic person, but there is absolutely no chance of reaching a Palestinian state by 2012.” Keep in mind that much-beloved (though also controversial) Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has floated the notion that, in the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority will have developed enough of an infrastructure to declare unilateral independence by the end of 2011. “We will make every effort to reach a solution because time is not on anyone’s side,” was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s indirect response to Lieberman’s statement.

The other context in which to understand Lieberman’s comments is Israel’s complicated coalition politics. (more…)

Nachman Gets a Stamp

Rabbi is subject of forthcoming Nextbook Press book

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The new stamp.(Vos Iz Neias?)

Israel issued a new stamp to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. The Rav’s Hasidic followers make a pilgrimage to his grave, in Uman, Ukraine, every year; the stamp itself is based on a painting by the current Breslov rabbi, who in turn based it on a 1922 photograph of mourners.

Nextbook Press’s Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratzslav and Franz Kafka, by Rodger Kamenetz, drops in October.

New Stamp Honors Rabbi Nachman of Breslov [Ynet]
Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratzslav and Franz Kafka [Nextbook Press]

Boca Survivors to Get More Reparations

But what about their neighbors who freed them?

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The entrance to the Lodz ghetto.(Wikipedia)

As many as 16,000 Holocaust survivors in Boca Raton—the south Florida city where your parents or grandparents probably live—may be eligible for additional pensions from Germany after a German court ruled that applications to receive compensation for slave labor in the ghettos should be “liberalized.” Florida agencies will receive nearly $4.5 million from a German fund this year as a result of the ruling—a whopping 40 percent increase from last year.

I am all in favor of reparations for survivors—especially since, scandalously, one in four American ones lives below the poverty line. That said, I found it interesting that Col. Ellis Robinson (Ret.), a longtime Jewish Boca resident and (if I may say so) truly spectacular grandfather, is not also eligible for some Holocaust-based cash. The colonel was not a survivor of the camps; rather, as an officer who landed at Normandy, freed Paris, fought in the Ardennes, and crossed the Rhine at Remagen under General Patton, he helped free them.

So, I asked the colonel: Why isn’t he getting some cash now for his services?

He responded in an email: “Was glad to do it … FREE OF CHARGE.”

Former Nazi Slave Laborers Seek Payment from Germany [South Florida Sun Sentinel]
16,000 Floridians Get a Shot at Holocaust Pensions [UPI/Vos Iz Neias?]

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]

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