Today on Tablet

Dining chez POTUS, Turkey troubles, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing editor Joan Nathan remembers White House meals past and present. David P. Goldman points to the numerous contradictions in the Obama administration’s continued backing of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite his friendliness to Iran and moves against Israel. Music columnist Alexander Gelfand profiles Rafi Malkiel, who uses an aguaphonium—it uses water, and you can build your own!—to make music that explores his Jewish roots. Sarah Mishkin reports on a new Egyptian film that depicts Israel as the enemy, but not for anti-Semitic reasons. And The Scroll is still not over yesterday’s amazing soccer victory.

Giving Booze to Kids

This week on ‘Top Chef’

Do you even know how much sugar is in processed peanut butter?(The author)

When Alex Reznik made a deconstructed version of his mother’s borscht on last week’s season premiere of Top Chef D.C., it was charming (and, by all accounts, delicious). When Amanda Baumgarten, the program’s other Jewish contestant, made braised chicken thigh in a sherry jus—for middle-schoolers—in this week’s episode, it was dumb and apparently gross, and got her within inches of the boot.

The elimination challenge gives each of four groups of four chefs a paltry $130 budget at something called “Restaurant Depot” (no Whole Foods this week) to make a delicious and nutritious school lunch for 50 middle-schoolers. In other words: $2.60 per child. “I could make a dessert,” Amanda confides, “but I don’t want to, because people who make desserts go home.” A longtime Top Chef viewer, this one! “Take one for the team is not in my vocabulary,” she adds. Her group-mate Jacqueline has to cut back on her, yes, dessert because her ingredients took the group to over $170. “Kinda looks like Jacqueline thought the $130 was the individual’s budget,” Amanda snarks.

They go to cook at the Hilton—which the locals call the Reagan Hilton, because—and then head to the middle school, which is Alice Deal Middle School, in upper northwest D.C., which, in a funny coincidence, is no more than a quarter mile from Politics & Prose (it is also my father’s alma mater). Meanwhile, Amanda’s teammates have realized that, y’know, she is making something with sherry for middle-schoolers. “Alcohol is inappropriate for the kids,” says one; another suggests tomato paste instead. But Amanda presses on, the way young lemmings do. SPOILERS FOLLOW. (more…)

Daybreak: Will Iran Sanctions Bite?

Plus subsidies in the diamond district, and more


• Iran is well-prepared for the U.S. energy sanctions about to pass, say observers and experts. [WP]

• In an op-ed, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman lays out his peace plan: Land transfers designed to maximize the number of Arabs who are in the new Palestinian state (and minimize the number in Israel). [JPost]

• The Way We Live Now: “Iran, Turkey & Brazil To Stategize” reads one headline. [Arutz Sheva]

• President Obama sacked Gen. Stanley McChrystal over insubordinate remarks made in a Rolling Stone profile and instead put Gen. David Petraeus, who had been running military operations in the whole region, in charge of Afghanistan. [LAT]

• The International Gem Tower in in Manhattan’s midtown diamond district will soon be the recipient of New York state’s largest loan ever, along with numerous tax breaks. Tenants are also not required to pay many customs duties on their trades. [NYT]

• Another daily magazine of Jewish life and culture reports on Jack Abramoff’s new pizza gig and concludes the same way we did: That there’s no such thing as bad publicity. [NYT]

Sundown: The Belgian Lawsuit

Plus Drake’s on top, braised footwear, and more

The brisket flip-flop.(Etsy)

• In Brussels, families of Palestinians who died in the 2009 Gaza conflict sued former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, opposition leader Tzipi Livni, and a dozen other Israeli military and civilian leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. [JTA]

• Half-Jewish hip-hop artist Drake had the number-one album last week and the third biggest opening of the year. [Arts Beat]

• What tensions? Almost two dozen Turkish military officers and soldiers are training in Israel on an aerial drone, four of which Israel is selling to Ankara under a 2004 contract. [JTA]

• While much of upstate New York hemorrhages population (Buffalo alone lost 1,000 people last year; maybe because the Bills suck so much?), Kiryas Joel experienced the state’s highest growth—78 percent—thanks largely to its ultra-Orthodox enclave. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A new Website,, is bringing Israelis and Syrians together online to discuss the issues, with some success and some friction. [BBC]

• You know you want the brisket flip-flop. [Etsy]

U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Another Blockade Crops Up in Israel

Swan vs. swan

The other Israeli blockade.(Haaretz)

In recent weeks, a pair of white European swans at Ramat Gan’s Safari Park [outside Tel Aviv] have been refusing to let the black Australian swans enter the safari’s pond and swim there.

The “blockade” launched by the white swans has been particularly hard on the black swans as the mercury climbed over the past few days.

Oh, I’m sure this couldn’t get more ridiculous.

No, no wait:

“If this doesn’t stop soon,” Goldstein said, “we’ll have to find a solution for the black swans in order to restore tranquility to their lives. In the meantime we are trying all sorts of intermediary solutions to open the water channels to them. It’s funny to say, but the caretakers are using peace activists to deal with this.”

Yeah, there it is.

White-Feathered Swans Imposing Naval Blockade on Black-Feathered Cousins in Ramat Gan [Haaretz]

Death Is Not So Funny

An old Jew tells a joke


I’m with the third guy.

Ice Cream Goes Kosher, and More

Is that rugelach in my scoop?

(Margarita Korol)

Approximately 1.54 billion gallons of ice cream are produced in the Unites States annually, according to an International Dairy Foods Association spokesperson. “Every major brand you can think of has a kosher symbol on most (not all) of its products,” Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, who oversees dairy product certification for OU Kosher, told me in an email. “A brief walk through the ice cream freezer aisle of any supermarket will testify to this.”

Now, kosher ice cream is getting a new face with Chozen, a Jewish sweets and holiday-inspired artisanal ice cream line that hit supermarket shelves this month with flavors like Matzoh Crunch, Coconut Macaroon, and Ronne’s Rugelach. (You’re probably thinking, didn’t I just see this today in that other daily Jewish magazine of life and culture? Yeah, well, Tablet Magazine tasted Chozen at its offices all the way back Monday afternoon. Just sayin’.)

Chozen is the brainchild of 62-year-old Ronne Fisher and her daughters, Isabelle, 34, and Meredith, 30. One evening in 2008, Ronne tells me, the family was doing a homemade mix-in of rugelach and vanilla, one of their typical culinary innovations. “We joked, ‘Wouldn’t it be delicious to just have ice cream with rugelach already in it?’” recalls Ronne. “‘Wouldn’t it be great to have sweet noodle pudding with ice cream, or potato pancakes with ice cream?’” (Let’s just stick with the rugelach for now!) (more…)


U.S. squad beats Algeria, advances in World Cup Finals

Landon Donovan scores today’s game-winning goal.(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the United States side (Tablet Magazine’s official team) through most of this morning’s match against Algeria: Though they scored in the 23rd minute, it was disallowed, like last week’s infamous non-goal, for dubious reasons. Meanwhile, England quickly secured a 1-0 lead over Slovenia, and looked unlikely to give it up. A 0-0 U.S. tie and an English victory would have spelled the end of the road.

But! After many close chances, in the 90th minute star midfielder Landon Donovan booted the ball into the net, and the otherwise-resourceful referee could not come up with a way to cancel it. Final score: 1-0. America wins Group C and advances to the elimination stage. They play Saturday. You’re a fool if you don’t watch.

Oh, and may we point out that America’s first World Cup Finals win since 2002 (!) was also the first of these games in which more than one of the squad’s Jewish players made an appearance? As happened last game, and as I predicted would happen this game, offensive-minded midfielder Benny Feilhaber was brought in for the entire second half. But additionally, defender Jonathan Bornstein (Feilhaber’s college roommate) started, and played almost the whole game. A game that, in case you hadn’t heard, we won!!!

Earlier: U.S.A.! U.S.A!
Two U.S. Soccer Jews Are Old Buddies

Bibi, Oren At Odds Over Spy

Bucking official line, ambassador says Pollard was rogue

Spies!(Photo Bucket)

Jonathan Pollard, an American-born Jew, passed classified, potentially nuclear-related intelligence to the Israelis in the 1980s. In 1985, he was caught; in 1986, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government; in 1987, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Though there have been widespread requests for his clemency, he remains incarcerated—in fact, in the same North Carolina facility that houses Bernard Madoff (yes, they know each other).

But earlier this week, on Washington, D.C., radio news channel WTOP, Michael Oren, the American-born Israeli ambassador, denied official Israeli involvement in the Pollard case: “We’re talking about an event that was run by a rogue organization in the Israeli intelligence community,” he said. This statement contradicts official Israeli policy dating back to 1998, when the then-prime minister—who also happens to be the current prime minister—admitted that Israel officially sanctioned Pollard’s activity.

Among other people, the remark upset Pollard’s wife, Esther, who responded, “I don’t know from where to draw strength to tell my husband that the country he so loves and for which he worked with such self-sacrifice is once again knifing him in the back.”

Netanyahu stood by the party line, and ordered Oren to state that Pollard indeed was an official Israeli espionage agent. Yesterday afternoon, Oren did so.

Spying … it’s weird!

Netanyahu: Pollard Was An Israeli Spy, Oren Must Clarify Remarks [Haaretz]
Ambassador Oren Contradicts Official Israeli Policy on Pollard [Ynet]
Related: Spies Like Us [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

The northern border, the Bayou, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Mideast columnist Lee Smith takes us through how the next Lebanon war will come about, and how the United States ought to be managing it. Boris Fishman finds himself a stranger in New Orleans, and welcome into the city’s vibrant, one-of-a-kind Jewish community and culture. The Scroll says: Go U.S.A.!

Reflections on a Book Paradise

Politics & Prose shops for new owners


The future of beloved Washington, D.C., bookstore Politics & Prose is up in the air since its founders announced they are selling it. This story is hugely important in the D.C. area. It is also of almost astonishing importance in the literary world. “The influence of P and P on the entire book publishing industry is immense,” says a literary agent and hopeful new investor. (As an intern at one New York-based literary journal, it was my responsibility to regularly call dozens of independent bookstores around the country and ask if they needed more copies; Politics & Prose was distinguished on the list by the exclamation mark next to its name.)

But this is also a Jewish story: Because of (for all I know, and assume) the two founders, Barbara Meade and Carla Cohen; because prominent among those hoping to buy the place are Jewish journalists Franklin Foer, the New Republic editor, and Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic national reporter and Tablet Magazine contributing editor; and because of, as Goldberg put it, “our Jewish customers, of which I’ve noticed a couple.” Substitute “Zabar’s,” and you will catch Goldberg’s understatement. (This is only a small part of it, but the store is in—or incredibly near, I’m not sure—the neighborhood of Forest Hills, which gained the moniker “Hanukkah Heights” when many Jews settled there after being kept out of what were then more affluent neighborhoods.) (more…)

Daybreak: Everybody’s Got Something to Say

Barak, Peres, Mubarak, and more weigh in on the news

Ehud Barak (with Defense Secretary Robert Gates) on Monday.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• Defense Secretary Ehud Barak, visiting Washington, D.C., criticized Jerusalem authorities for okaying the razing of 22 Palestinian homes. [NYT]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu’s national security adviser told a group of mostly American Jews that Israel’s endorsement of Palestinian statehood has decreased its own international standing. He also held out the possibility of preemptive military action against Iran. [WP]

• President Shimon Peres said the Gaza blockade is a necessary defense against terrorism. [LAT]

• Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak said Israel is shifting blockade maintenance. [Ynet]

• The IDF has altered strategy to dictate a slower move into Gaza, to make time for complete evacuations, should a future incursion be necessary. [JPost]

• Israel launched a new spy satellite. [NYT]

Sundown: Little News Yet on Chelsea Nuptials

Plus Livni goes off on Bibi, and more

Kadima leader Tzipi Livni earlier this month.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

• We learn a fair bit about Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky’s forthcoming wedding, like that it will take place within three hours’ drive from New York City and have 400 guests. No word, however, on the religious character of the ceremony. [NY Mag]

• As the Turkish-Israeli pissing match (and worse) continues, what is the United States—which for various reasons needs both in its corner—to do? [Politico]

• Ethnic tensions in Kyrgyzstan—mostly against the Central Asian country’s Uzbek minority—have led a dozen Jews to leave and make aliyah. Most its 1200 or so Jews, however, have elected to stay. [Ynet]

• Opposition leader Tzipi Livni criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu for easing the Gaza blockade under international pressure and not defending the Supreme Court’s recent decision integrating a religious school. [Ynet]

• A man convicted of helping Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was released in exchange for continuing to cooperate in the search for extant funds. [NBC News/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Tablet Magazine contributor David P. Goldman’s contest: Why do Palestinians deserve a nation-state and Kurds don’t? [First Things]

Yeah, just Drake asking his very obviously Jewish mother for a tuna sandwich. No big deal.

U.S. Teammates Are Old Pals

Feilhaber and Bornstein were roomies

U.S. midfielder Benny Feilhaber playing club soccer last fall.(Henning Bagger/EuroFootball/Getty Images)

Tomorrow morning, at 10 am E.S.T., the U.S. soccer team—that would be Tablet Magazine’s official squad—plays its final game of the group round against Algeria. Should it win, it advances. Should it lose, it is done. Should it draw, there is a complicated scenario involving what happens in the contemporaneous England-Slovenia match, but it would still stand a good chance to advance. Anyway: Go Yanks!

Meanwhile. We have by now established that Benny Feilhaber, the U.S. reserve midfielder and one of three Jews on the team, is kind of awesome (that’s one word for it, anyway). But here are some fun facts, dug up by the Jewish Journal: Feilhaber and Jonathan Bornstein—a defender who is another of the U.S. team’s Jews (the third is Jonathan Spector)—have been friends since high school; played together on the under-17 Irvine Strikers and the 2005 Silver Medal-winning Maccabiah Games team; and were even roommates at UCLA.

If the Americans are down or tied after the first half, it’s a good bet that Feilhaber, who is more of an offensive player than one of the starting midfielders, will go in; he did last game. So don’t forget to watch!

Two Jewish SoCal Players Head for World Cup [Jewish Journal]
Earlier: Tune in Tomorrow To See Jewish Soccer
U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Who Is Joining NYU in the Gulf?

Branch President, leading professor are Jews


In case you hadn’t heard, New York University is opening a new campus this fall in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich emirate that has also attracted outposts of the Guggenheim and the Louvre. The project is the brainchild of NYU’s current president, John Sexton, who says his effort to build “the world’s honors college” is a first step toward a self-consciously globalist network that will outclass anything much wealthier institutions like Harvard or Yale or Stanford can offer back at home. Over the weekend, the New York Times wrote about the efforts to attract a top-flight inaugural class, and yesterday the university announced that its 189-person Class of ’14 includes students from 39 countries speaking 43 languages and with average SAT scores of 770 (reading) and 780 (math). Naturally, we wondered: How many of these smarty-pants brainiacs are Jewish?

The university has emphatically advertised the religious diversity of faculty heading to the Gulf—Branch Campus President Alfred Bloom, formerly head of Swarthmore College, is Jewish, as is Amir Minsky, who will be teaching a course in the development of German ideologies of the 19th century. But as far as the students go, not so much: Spokesman Josh Taylor told us that the university, despite saying that it expects religious as well as national, linguistic, and socioeconomic diversity at the new campus, hasn’t polled students about their sectarian affiliation. Taylor checked, and it turns out that neither Hebrew nor Yiddish are among the languages students reported being able to speak. So: If you’re Jewish, and you’re among the lucky group joining Erin Meekhof of Woodbridge, Va., in September, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you!

N.Y.U. Abu Dhabi Scours Globe for Its First Students [NYT]

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