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

Halkin and Wisse and Shulevitz, Oh My!

The latest ‘Jewish Review of Books’


Another quarter, another issue of the Jewish Review of Books. To read all the articles, you should subscribe (or, alternatively, go work at a daily magazine of Jewish life and culture—The New York Times, say—that subscribes for you). But many of the newest articles are available online. Here are some favorites.

• Our most favorite, of course, is the rave that esteemed intellectual Robert Alter gives to Hillel Halkin’s biography of Yehuda Halevi, published by Nextbook Press. “His biography,” says Alter, “with the translations it incorporates”—and Alter knows a thing or two about translating!—“gives us a vivid and persuasive sense of Yehuda Halevi that should make him more real and more understandable than he has been until now.” [“All the Good Things of Spain”]

• Ruth Wisse, author of Nextbook Press’s Jews and Power, remembers the great Yiddish poet Avrom Sutzkever and the great Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich. [“The Poet from Vilna”] (more…)

On Tour, Bibi Is All Smiles

New York elite welcome him at the Plaza

Netanyahu at the United Nations yesterday.(Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images)

For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, this week has been one long, continuous photo-op: Visiting President Obama at the White House; chatting with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America; facing off with Katie Couric on CBS Evening News; kibitzing with Larry King. This afternoon, he’ll be at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan, where he’ll have the opportunity to reiterate his carefully honed message for an audience of diplomatic professionals. The contrast with Netanyahu’s past visits—rushed affairs conducted mostly off-camera and narrated by anonymous leakers with at-odds agendas—is already stark.

Even his one visit before an explicitly Jewish audience—an hour-long talk last night at the Plaza Hotel organized by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations—was crafted to play to a wider audience. The 200-person crowd included members of New York’s congressional delegation, both Jewish and not—Anthony Weiner, Jerrold Nadler, Yvette Clark—along with former New York City Mayor Ed Koch and NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly. Bibi was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who recounted the trauma of her visits to Sderot, and by New York Gov. David Paterson, who called him “a visionary” on terrorism. (more…)

Brodsky To Be Extradited on Lesser Charge

Alleged Mossad agent may appeal Polish decision

The false passport for Michael Bodenheimer.(JPost)

Uri Brodsky, the alleged Mossad agent who is the first person arrested in connection with the January assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, will be extradited from Poland to Germany to face charges of illegally obtaining a German passport, a Polish court ruled. (He may appeal.)

While Israel had hoped the Polish judge would deny Germany’s request for extradition altogether, the ruling was actually not nearly as bad, from Israel’s and Brodsky’s perspectives, as it could have been: It extradites not for the much more serious charge of espionage, but rather for the lesser crime of forgery. Why? Because—unsurprisingly, when you come to think of it—spying on Germany is not a crime in Poland.

Brodsky (which may or may not be his real name) is not suspected to have been directly involved in the assassination. Rather, he stands accused of procuring a fraudulent passport for one of the assassins in the name of Michael Bodenheimer—a real-life Israeli rabbi who, being the American-born son of a pre-World War II German citizen, is entitled to a German passport under German law. Al-Mabhouh buffs will recall that the single German passport used by the assassins was, in fact, a genuine one.

Poland To Extradite Alleged Mossad Agent [JPost]
Alleged Mossad Agent May Appeal Extradition Over Dubai Hit [Haaretz]
Related: Murder in Dubai [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

Conversos in Medellín, Moishe Oysher!, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, deputy news editor Matthew Fishbane heads to Medellín, Colombia, where Jews dating back to the Inquisition try to eke out lives amid that country’s instability. Staff writer Marissa Brostoff pinpoints the trend boomlet of the summer: A revival of Lower East Side cantor and Yiddish theater star Moishe Oysher (“yes, that is said to be his given name”). The Scroll will be saying “Moishe Oysher” aloud all day long.

Babies Making Baby Food

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’


Top Chef D.C. host Padma Lakshmi has confirmed rumors that her daughter’s father is Adam Dell, the younger brother to (Jewish) computer magnate Michael. Last night’s Quickfire Challenge involved cooking for little Krishna Thea Lakshmi as well as little Luka Bodhi Colicchio—sorta. Chefs made an “adult” plate, then puréed it and tried to have that taste good, too. In case you are wondering, no, if you take all the letters that comprise this blogpost and randomly rearrange them, your child will probably not enjoy it.

The good news is that Padma’s and Tom’s favorite baby food-makers each get $10,000.

“I would use it toward an orphanage in Thailand that helps children affected with HIV and AIDS,” says one chef.

“I’d use it to buy me something nice: A hooker and an eight ball, please,” says another.

Can you guess who the second speaker is? (more…)

Daybreak: Goldstone, Vindicated?

Plus ‘noble’ and ‘ugly’ Israel, and more in the news


• Recent indictments related to the Gaza conflict have left many wondering if there wasn’t a significant helping of truth to the Goldstone Report. [LAT]

• Visiting Jerusalem, Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) insisted that an Israeli attack on Iran is not forthcoming, at least at this point. [WP]

• The European Union’s chief foreign policy negotiator expressed optimism over autumn talks with Iran. [NYT]

• After its U.S. Ambassador endorsed military action against Iran (while in conversation with Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg), the United Arab Emirates attempted to take back the remarks. [WSJ]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu heads straight to Egypt after departing the United States to visit Hosni Mubarak, who continues to appear quite ill. Uh-oh. [Haaretz]

• Nicholas Kristof has much praise for the the “noble side” of Israel—mainly its human rights NGOs—in contrast to the “ugly side” it frequently displays to the world. [NYT]

Sundown: ‘Jews Are Not Indians’

Plus Hoffman cancels Israel appearance, and more


• A brilliant dissection of “the plight of secure young upper-middle-class Jewish funnypeople, who have inherited the sharp humor traditions of an oppressed minority without inheriting very much of the oppression.” [Scocca]

• The U.N. General Assembly has backed off plans for an emergency meeting regarding Israel’s response to the flotilla. [Haaretz]

• Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman canceled appearances at the upcoming Jerusalem Film Festival, apparently because of the flotilla, although both actors deny this. [Arts Beat]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of Defense Gates discussed Israeli military matters today in Washington, D.C. [Ynet]

• James Franco appears in the trailer for Tablet Magazine contributing editor Gary Shteyngart’s forthcoming Super Sad True Love Story. [NY Mag]

• Icelandic authorities exhumed chess legend Bobby Fischer’s body in relation to a paternity suit. Grody. [LAT]

Three Weeks followers, cover your ears, but here are three generations’ worth of a family at Auschwitz—including the oldest, who did time there—dancing to, yes, “I Will Survive.”

The Israeli Nuclear Issue

Some want ‘ambiguity’ cleared up


Since May, Israel’s strategic “nuclear ambiguity”—under which it has not signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, has never publicly tested weapons, and yet is widely known to have nuclear bombs—has come under scrutiny in light of a 1990s U.N. resolution declaring the Mideast to be a nukes-free zone as well as the recent attempts to sway Iran from its path toward nuclear capability.

The little-noticed catch is that a March document signed by NPT signatories—including the United States—urged, in one paragraph buried amid many, that Israel become a signatory as well (which would in turn compel it to give up its weapons).

“Israel believed it had assurances from the Obama administration that it would reject efforts to include such a reference,” the New York Times’s Mark Landler wrote last weekend, “and it saw this as another sign of unreliability by its most important ally.” (more…)

The Most Un-Kosher Thing You Will Ever See

Photo of the day


The pig’s head stuffed with lobster at Montreal gastronomic mecca Au Pied de Cochon.

Photo by 1000yregg.

Go … Germany?

They take on Spain for the final Finals spot

Germany celebrating victory over Argentina in the quarter-finals.(John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

As we hoped, the Netherlands took care of Uruguay yesterday, 3-2 (with the help of one of the most sensational goals you will ever see). Today at 2:30 E.S.T.: Germany v. Spain.


In Israel, they’re having no trouble hoping that Germany ends up, well, uber alles. “Israelis support Germany,” the AP reports,

for the same reason fans around the world do: They are one of the competition’s strongest teams, with beautiful footwork, aggressive strikers and a no-nonsense defense.

The passing of time and Germany’s consistent public contrition for the Holocaust has softened many Israelis. And Germany’s strong political support for Israel at a time when the country feels like the target of international hostility makes their soccer team more endearing.

Adds Howard Wolfson, who asks “Is It Okay To Root for Germany?” (and answers that it is), “I’m looking forward to putting history and politics aside for 90 minutes and enjoying a great match. Hopefully that will be ok.”

It will be. Until Sunday, when we’ll be rooting for the Righteous Oranje to put the beatdown on whoever wins today.

Some Israelis OK With Cheering for Germany [AP]
Is It Okay To Root for Germany? [The Goal Post]
Earlier: Going Dutch
Which Squad You Should Root For
Postcard from Berlin

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.