Harvey Pekar Dies

Comic book writer was ‘poet laureate of Cleveland’

Pekar last year.(Chronicle-Telegram)

R.I.P. Harvey Pekar. The Jewish comic book writer whose autobiographical series, American Splendor, was made into a 2003 film starring Paul Giamatti, has died at 70. There are no details on the cause of death; Pekar was known to have suffered high blood pressure, prostate cancer, and other ailments.

In what was probably his final published work, at least while alive, Pekar and collaborator Tara Seibel wrote and drew a strip in the latest Jewish Review of Books.

Here is Pekar meeting television host Anthony Bourdain in what must be remembered as his natural habitat: A homely-but-charming, snowbound neighborhood of Cleveland.

Police: Cult Comic Book Writer Dead at 70 in Ohio [AP/WP]
Cleveland Comic Book Author Harvey Pekar Dead at 70 [Chronicle-Telegram]

Today on Tablet

Singing of Babylon, cyber-bullying, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Jewlia Eisenberg, whose band Charming Hostess has made music inspired by ancient Babylonian Jewish bowls, is the guest on this week’s Vox Tablet podcast. Marjorie Ingall gives roughly half of her parenting column to her editor, Liel Leibovitz, as the two of them—the media expert and the mom—debate the inevitability (or not) of cyber-bullying. Josh Lambert provides his weekly round-up of Jewish books of interest, including a new biography of Saul Alinsky and the latest from Tablet Magazine contributing editor Rachel Shukert. Finally, The Scroll has its daily round-up of just about everything.


Obama backs Bibi on direct talks

Netanyahu and Obama last week.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been quite some time since the U.S.-Israeli relationship felt like the old normal. But after last week, which featured Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Oval Office photo-op—not to be confused with March’s secretive and desperate and frank conversation, nor early June’s almost-meeting which was cancelled when the flotilla happened—it seems that Netanyahu and President Obama have reached some sort of equilibrium. Frenemies, call them.

It would be foolish to believe that the bad blood between the two men, the product of specific events to occur on their watches as well as each man’s opposing politics and temperaments, has simply gone away. One doesn’t see Obama inviting Bibi to a White Sox game the next time he’s stateside; and as for a trip to Israel, well, that’s not in the cards this year. But, as you know if you have a frenemy (and who doesn’t?), you may distrust your frenemy, or worse, on the inside; but to the outside world, and for all practical effects, your frenemy is basically your friend. (more…)

Daybreak: Polanski Is A Free Man

Plus Lebanon simmering, and more

Roman Polanski last year.(Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

• The Swiss government denied the U.S. extradition request for filmmaker Roman Polanski, who survived the Krakow ghetto. Switzerland blamed its lack of access to confidential testimony related to his sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. [LAT/AP]

• The U.S. and Israeli Reform and Conservative movements are furious at today’s vote on a bill that would give exclusive conversion authority to Israel’s Chief (Orthodox) Rabbinate. [Haaretz]

• Lebanon reinforced its troops in its south with 5,000 more. [WP]

• Meanwhile, Lebanese newspapers are reporting that the July 2006 conflict with Israel is “not over.” [Ynet]

• In a move that resembles 1979’s “morality police,” the Iranian regime is sending 1,000 clerics to Tehran schools to enforce against political dissent. Last month, the teaching of music was banned in Iranian schools. [NYT]

• Congratulations to España, which won the World Cup yesterday in its first-ever final game appearance. [ESPN]

Sundown: Clinton Is The Marrying Kind

Plus a Libyan ship heads for Gaza, and more

Bill Clinton last month.(Michelly Rall/Getty Images for TIME/FORTUNE/CNN)

• Former President Bill Clinton will officiate at the wedding of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) and longtime Hillary Clinton adviser Huma Abedin—this summer’s second-most-anticipated half-Jewish nuptials. [AP/Maggie Haberman]

• A “humanitarian” ship organized by Muammar Qaddafi’s son will depart Greece for Gaza tomorrow. [JTA]

• Yehuda Amital, a formidable leader in the religious Zionist movement, died at 85. [JPost]

• The University of California is taking criticism for too weakly responding to and condemning anti-Semitism on its campuses. [LAT]

• Ernest Nussbaum, an 82-year-old resident of Bethesda, Maryland, has invented a new instrument: The Prakticello (it’s a lot like a cello). [All Things Considered]

• Peaceniks for Gilad. [Dissent]

Today is the 15th anniversary of the Grateful Dead’s final show, at Chicago’s Soldier Field, before lead guitarist Jerry Garcia died. Below: “Sugar Magnolia,” the favorite song of the group’s longtime promoter, Bill Graham (born Wolodia Grajonca to a Russian-Jewish family that narrowly escaped Berlin).

Recessionary Judaism

Is the economy affecting religious participation?


Via Shmuel Rosner, a new Newsweek article argues that the recession could be threatening Jewish participation in religious life, because—all inevitable kidding aside—being a religious Jew is expensive. Columnist Lisa Miller analogizes a Jack Wertheimer piece earlier this year in Commentary, which sounded the alarm on the rising costs and declining incomes of Orthodox Jews (who are more likely to be poor), to Peter Beinart’s essay in terms of their respective shockwaves. (Last month, staff writer Marissa Brostoff reported on how tightened budgets had led to unprecedented sharing of funds among the Jewish denominations.)

Wertheimer’s point is that poor Orthodox Jews are going to be increasingly reliant on outside philanthropy, which in turn may be increasingly scarce. But Miller proposes an alternative:

In 2008, 2.7 million Americans called themselves religiously Jewish, down from 3.1 million in 1990. Wouldn’t the central challenge of American Jewry be to encourage the broadest range of people (including the intermarried, like me) to identify as Jewish and to raise Jewish kids? Costly barriers to entry need to be taken away, or, at least, reimagined. “We have this very bizarre pay-to-play philosophy,” says Jay Sanderson, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Christian churches, Sanderson points out, begin with an invitation to prayer; they ask for money later. “The Jewish community’s first instinct is ‘give us money,’ instead of ‘come in.’”

Those black-clad Chabad volunteers who have no doubt approached you—first asking, always, “Are you Jewish?” (since Jews don’t proselytize outside the faith)—and then invited you to come to Shabbat dinner at the local house, without asking you for money? According to Miller, they represent the future of Jewish growth, if there is a future of Jewish growth.

The Cost of Being Jewish [Newsweek]
The High Cost of Jewish Living [Commentary]
Related: Teachable Moment

Oranje v. Roja

The World Cup Finals finals are Sunday

The Dutch celebrate victory over Uruguay.(Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Image)

Tablet Magazine is sticking with The Netherlands, although we know there are good arguments for Spain (and not only from a Jewish perspective—here is why aficionados should be pulling for La Furia Roja).

Anyway, I think we can all agree that:

• You should watch the game on Sunday, at 2:30 pm E.S.T.;

• Youk got screwed;

• Lebron still sucks.

Orange Devolution [Slate]

‘To The Nighthawk and the Bird’

A preview of next week’s Vox Tablet

(Eric Molinsky)

Suppose you’re in the office of a certain Talmudic scholar, and you come across a book with the following text, originally found inscribed, in Aramaic, in a bowl in ancient Babylonia:

I am standing on the shore of the sea, on the shore of the great river
To the nighthawk and the bird
I am saying, I am asking him:

I adjure you, great bird of rivers
That you may hear my words
And accept my incantation

Do you:

A) Politely return the book to the shelf and continue with your visi;
B) Enroll in a PhD program in Aramaic Studies;
C) Build some masonry domes in San Francisco and write a raft of songs.

Jewlia Eisenberg, of the band Charming Hostess, will tell you which option she chose in Monday’s Vox Tablet podcast, which you can preview by clicking below:

Censored ‘South Park’ Gets Emmy Nod

Episodes depicted the Prophet Muhammad


Don’t think I can get you to feel good about NBA basketball today? Think again.

The Emmy nominations were announced yesterday—by the way, congratulations to Lea Michele, who is both a Jew and plays one on Glee—and Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s South Park received an outstanding animation nod for their two episodes, “200” and “201,” that Comedy Central censored because of depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.

So how did Parker and Stone (who, like his alter ego Kyle, is Jewish) respond? In a three-word email message: “Ball don’t lie.”

The phrase, in case you’re wondering, was coined by the recently retired Rasheed Wallace, who, when called for a foul that he did not commit, would insist that the free throws would not go in. Why? Because “Ball don’t lie.” Because there is karma and justice in the world.

It’s a lesson Comedy Central—and perhaps, also, the Miami Heat?—would do well to learn.

Emmy Nomination for Controversial ‘South Park’ Episode [Arts Beat]
Related: The Outsiders [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

Trans-global commuters, learning Yiddish, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Dina Kraft tracks the trend of Orthodox men who commute weekly from their homes in Israel to—get this—the United States. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz, inspired by Jeremiah, explores the deeper joy that exists beyond superficial happiness. And The Scroll has a big day, starting with the first installment of our Yiddish-instruction series.

A Yidisher Pop

Twilight, Tom Cruise, and a lesson in Yiddish


How can a new generation learn Yiddish? Through pop culture, of course: What better way to introduce the language than to let it do one of the things it does best, kibitz about the beautiful and the famous? Handing down a great literary tradition is a serious enterprise, but there’s no reason not to have fun with it. And there’s no better language than Yiddish to get across ideas both profane and profound.

Join us, then, at this new educational feature on The Scroll, a recurring lesson we’re calling—in a pun on the Yiddish term meaning “a Jewish brain”—“A Yidisher Pop.” Each Friday for the next eight weeks, “A Yidisher Pop” will caption gossipy photos of politicians, athletes, and celebrities, giving readers a vibrant taste of Yiddish.

Though the lessons embedded in these captions are progressive in the way of any beginner course, this feature is intended, of course, as an introduction, not a comprehensive class. The Yivo Institue, Tel Aviv University’s Goldreich Family Institute, and the Vilnius Yiddish Institute all provide more resources.

And, in the meantime, if you need to brush up on your Yiddish alphabet, Yivo can help you with that, too.

A Yidisher Pop

יונגע… שיינע… און אַזאַ אוּמגעלוּמפּערטן פֿילם!

Transliteration:Yunge… Sheyne… un aza umgelumpertn film!

Meaning: Young… Beautiful… and such a clumsy film!


Daybreak: Risky Business

Plus LeBron moves to Israeli-owned Heat, and more in the news

Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.(Stan HondaAFP/Getty Images)

• While acknowledging skepticism, Prime Minister Netanayhu pledged “to take risks, political risks” in order to get direct peace talks underway. [NYT]

• President Obama predicted that Israel would not take military action against Iran behind his back. [JTA]

• Iran, meanwhile, said it would not accede to talks with Washington until the West clarified Israel’s nuclear status. [Haaretz]

• Roger Cohen says he has never seen Israel more isolated. He also primarily blames its reaction to the flotilla for the fallout in Turkish relations, while acknowledging Turkish leaders’ pre-existent hostility. [NYT]

• Frederick M. Lawrence, the dean of George Washington University Law School who specializes in civil rights law, will be the new president of Brandeis University. [Boston Herald]

• LeBron James chose the Miami Heat, apparently unaware that no one will give him credit for winning a championship with Dwyane Wade. One author made the point yesterday that LeBron never seemed to have a real understanding of the way sports fandom works; growing up in Akron, Ohio, he rooted for the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Yankees. Last night, he created the NBA equivalent. [NYT]

The Heat’s owner is Mickey Arison, an Israeli-born billionaire. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner, Dan Gilbert, is a Jewish-American mortgage magnate (he owns Quicken) who sent Cavs fans an epic letter last night promising to win a championship before LeBron does. He won’t, but you should be rooting for him to.

Sundown: Tombstone Blues

Plus drink your vodka, and more


• The strange tale of Hinda Amchanitzky’s tombstone, found next to a fire hydrant in Manhattan’s Alphabet City. [NYT]

• Haifa U. has a breaking news report: Better-looking politicians tend to be more successful. Who’da thunk it? [JPost]

• President Obama reaches out in an Israeli TV interview. [JPost]

• An artist has put old pictures of Jews who used to live in Lublin, Poland, at real-life spots in the modern-day town. [Ronen Dvarim]

• Jason Diamond praises Dalkey Archive Press’s Hebrew literature series. [Jewcy]

• Grey Goose is now officially kosher. [Jerusalem Kosher News]

Washington City Paper has great photos of a Neturei Karta anti-Zionist rally in the nation’s capital yesterday.

New York City Cab Drivers

An old Jew tells a joke


Give it a sec …

Which Team Will Farmar Sign With?

Oh, plus that LeBron James character

Jordan Farmar in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals.(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Tonight at 9 E.S.T., basketball player corporate brand LeBron James will announce which NBA team he will sign with. It’s basically among the Cleveland Cavaliers (his current team), the Miami Heat (as things look now, the most likely candidate), the Chicago Bulls, and the New York Knicks, with dark-horses like the Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks sort of thrown in the mix. All you really need to know is that everyone hates him now because this whole thing has been a sickeningly tacky display of raging egotism, and that if he does leave Cleveland—which, from a pure basketball perspective, was always the smart move—and does so now in this manner, you should probably actively root against whichever team he ends up on. In fact, you probably should anyway.

I can’t even muster the strength to say which team would be best from the perspective of the Jews (with apologies to Shaker Heights, it’s probably the Knicks, although the unsung Jews of Dallas and the Mavs’ Jewish owner, Mark Cuban, would certainly jump for joy if James picks them, which he won’t). For the best long discussion of everything at play, read Bill Simmons; for the best quick visceral take on how hateful James is right now, read Drew Magary; and for a new favorite basketball player, please consider the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant, a future superstar who quietly signed an extension with his team yesterday, because that is what classy athletes, as opposed to spoiled, choking-in-the-clutch cases of arrested development, do.

NOW. What of point guard Jordan Farmar? The NBA’s only current Jewish player who isn’t the Sacramento Kings’ Israeli forward Omri Casspi will almost certainly not return next season with the Los Angeles Lakers, the team on which he just won two consecutive championships: The Lakers did not tender him an offer, making him an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with the highest bidder. Farmar isn’t going to be starting anywhere any time soon, but you would think there would be an NBA team looking for a decent back-up PG with more playoff experience than all but a handful of the league’s starting guards.

If not, though, he and Jon Scheyer can always head for the Euroleague and make up an all-Jewish backcourt—and, frankly, a pretty competitive one at that.

Earlier: Undrafted, Scheyer Ponders Next Move

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