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]

A Jew By Any Other Name

An old Jew tells a joke


This one is funny, but even more, it’s kind of reassuring in its way.

Jack Abramoff’s Post-Prison Gig

It involves tomato sauce


Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from alleged corruption in 2006, has a new job out of his halfway house: Helping out at Tov Pizza, Baltimore’s premier kosher pizzeria! While some insist that Mama Leah Gourmet Kosher Pizza, in nearby Pikesville, Maryland, is superior, Tov has been serving quality kosher pizza in Baltimore proper for more than a quarter of a century (with a brief pause after a fire two years ago).

“We’re all Jews, we’re all on the same team,” says Tov owner Ron Rosenbluth. “I’m more than happy to help a fellow Jew in any way I can.”

Abramoff, who used to own and operate a kosher restaurant in Washington, D.C., is helping out with “all aspects” of Tov’s business, particularly marketing strategies. For starters: He is educating the business as to the principle that there is no such thing as bad P.R.

Abramoff To Work at Tov Pizza
[Baltimore Jewish Times]

With Blockade Eased, Where’s Shalit?

Many argue soldier should be released in return

Noam Shalit, father of Gilad, earlier this month.(Gali Tibbon/AFP/Getty Images)

Noam Shalit—the father of Gilad, the Israeli soldier captured and held by Hamas for more than four years—is furious that the recent easing of the Gaza blockade was a quid without a quo: The quo being his son.

“Yesterday, in a confident voice and without compromise Netanyahu announced the change in policy on the Gaza siege,” Shalit said. “In other words, he announced, ‘I surrendered to international pressure that was applied to us’ and we are asking where Gilad stands in this equation. We are asking where is Gilad, our son?”

The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street—last seen calling on legislators not to sign AIPAC-endorsed letters unequivocally backing the blockade—has released a memo arguing much the same thing. “J Street reiterates its call for Shalit’s immediate and unconditional release,” it reads, “and urges Members of Congress to highlight the opportunity—and moral imperative—that the Israeli Government’s wise policy shift in Gaza creates for Shalit’s captors to reciprocate.”

Noam Shalit Slams Netanyahu Over Ease of Gaza Blockade [Haaretz]
Earlier: J Street Challenges AIPAC Over Flotilla Letter

Today on Tablet

What Syria is up to, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Tony Badran tries to discern just what Syria and its President, Bashar Assad, are up to. A history of the Jews causes books critic Adam Kirsch to wonder just what the Jews’ history is. The Scroll has more presssing concerns.

Huckabee in the Holy Land

Evangelical ex-governor loves the Jews; will they love him back?

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee.(

A New Yorker writer catches up with Mike Huckabee—the former Arkansas governor; the once and probably future Republican presidential candidate—at the Western Wall, where he and country singer Pat Boone are leading more than 100 Christian evangelicals on what is Huckabee’s 14th trip to Israel. “I think what I should do is convert,” he says. “This covers my bald spot completely.” He continues: “I have a lot of Jewish friends, and they’re kind of, like, ‘You evangelicals love Israel more than we do.’ I’m, like, ‘Do you not get it? If there weren’t a Jewish faith, there wouldn’t be a Christian faith!’”

While most of the article is a look at Huckabee as a ’12 contender and as the apotheosis of an evangelical political movement four decades in the making, it does address the phenomenon of Christian Zionism—the same thing Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith was pointing to when he noted that American evangelicals had proven Israel’s “unshakable ally.” A prime reason for that, of course, is that Jewish control of the Holy Land is a prerequisite for Jesus’s Second Coming … which will incidentally entail the eternal damnation of all non-Christians. Israelis are evangelicals’ useful idiots.

In the meantime, though, much of Huckabee’s rhetoric matches that of some of the Jewish right. “There’s really no such thing as a Palestinian,” The New Yorker has him saying. “That’s been a political tool to try to force land away from Israel.” Whether intentionally or not, Huckabee is setting himself up to benefit from American Jews’ increasing disenchantment with the current administration. “There’s a lot of Jewish money on the right that’s got to go someplace,” says journalist Zev Chafets, who once worked for Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin, “especially if Obama continues to be perceived as unfriendly to Israel.” (The New Yorker doesn’t note that Chafets has himself profiled Huckabee!)

As always, the tension for many American Jews will be where to place Israel among their political priorities. For the American Likudnik, Huckabee would seem a more favorable choice than Obama. But the former governor is also the guy who refers to “the holocaust of liberalized abortion.” Faced with a Huckabee, what’s an Abe Foxman to do?

Prodigal Son [New Yorker]
Related: Friends In Deed [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: East J’lem Houses Will Be Razed

Plus Gaza’s isolation lessens, Israel’s grows, and more in the news


• Jerusalem’s city government approved zoning plans for the sure-to-be-controversial destruction of 20 houses in East Jerusalem to clear space for an industrial zone and a tourist center. [NYT]

• Four Hamas-affiliated politicians rejected an Israeli demand that they leave East Jerusalem for the West Bank. [WP]

• The House will likely pass a version of Iran sanctions that is harsher than the White House hopes for. [Politico]

• The response in Gaza to the easing of the blockade can be summed up in two words: “We’ll see.” [NYT]

• Even concert cancellations have contributed to Israel’s current unprecedented feeling of isolation. [WP]

• Because former Agriprocessors head Sholom Rubashkin’s 27-year sentence was so high, it promises to deepen the case’s controversy among his Orthodox defenders. [NYT]

Sundown: Undercover Jews

Plus Franco’s complicity, and more

Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1969.(Wikipedia)

• The acting mayor of Amsterdam—the former mayor, Job Cohen, is currently leading his party in upcoming elections—is considering a plan to dress policemen up as Jews as a way to bait and then arrest perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts. The city apparently already dresses policemen up as old people and gay men for similar purposes. [Dutch News]

• A recently published document shows that in 1941 Spanish dictator Francisco Franco ordered underlings to create a list of 6,000 Spanish and foreign-born Jews to be handed over to the Nazis. I asked the Generalissimo for comment, but he responded with total, complete silence. [Ynet]

• Large majorities of the House and Senate have signed the AIPAC-endorsed (and J Street-challenged) letters backing Israel’s Gaza blockade. [Ben Smith]

• UC-Berkeley will soon be home to a major collection of Jewish art, music, and rare documents. [UC-Berkeley]

• Brazil, which had joined Turkey in opposing Iran sanctions in the U.N. Security Council, says now it is backing away from its more pronounced stance. [Haaretz]

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Ben Greenman reads in Brooklyn tonight. [Greenlight Bookstore]

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee) won’t be giving Drake a run for his money as the best Jewish hip-hop act anytime soon:

Celebrity Rabbi Maybe Related to Death

Hasidic real estate maven committed suspicious suicide


Solomon Obstfeld, an ultra-religious Bobover Hasid, jumped to his death at the Jumeirah Essex Hotel on Central Park South a couple weeks ago. Obstfeld’s death was ruled a suicide, though his family claims he had a heart attack (suicide is illegal under Jewish law). It is coming out that Obstfeld had been attempting to sell his Essex House pad for $6.5 million, and that he had entered into a disagreement over the lease to a different Essex House property with Rabbi Yishayahu Yosef Pinto, a kabbalist descended from a venerable Moroccan rabbinic family who has been something of a New York City-based rabbi to the minor stars as well as, maybe, a somewhat sketchy businessman.

Why Pinto? Because I am really mature, here’s why.

Questions Raised About Brooklyn Investor’s Suicide at Essex House [The Real Deal]

Rubashkin Gets 27 Years

Meat-packing owner, 51, was convicted of financial fraud

The Iowa Agriprocessors plant.(Wikipedia)

Not two weeks after being cleared of a slew of child labor charges, Sholom Rubashkin, the ultra-Orthodox owner of the Agriprocessors Glatt kosher meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa, has been sentenced to 27 years in prison for the 86 federal financial fraud charges of which he was convicted late last year. Prosecutors had requested a 25-year sentence. Rubashkin is 51.

Rubashkin Sentenced to 27 Years [JTA]
Earlier: Rubashkin Found Guilty of 86 Fraud Charges
Rubashkin Cleared of Child Labor Charges

Former Spanish PM Stands Up for Israel

Your latest Emails of Zion


The Emails of Zion is a collection of messages from Jewish parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and others who are eager—often way too eager—to inform their children about issues of pressing concern to the Jewish community. Some of these emails may sound crazy, paranoid, ethnocentric, and/or racist, while others are disturbingly sane.

Forward emails from your elders to

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: _______
Date: Fri, Jun 18, 2010 at 1:36 AM
Subject: Fw: If Israel Goes Down We All Go Down
To: ______, _______

Wouldn’t you and I love to see Jose Maria Aznar as our American President instead of the Marrano Moslem now actively destroying democracy, capitalism and Israel?

How much more destruction do we need before those who voted for Osama finally say “ich hub gemacht a toos” (I made a mistake voting for Obama?)

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T
From: One Jerusalem
Date: Fri, 18 Jun 2010 03:57:24 +0000
Subject: If Israel Goes Down We All Go Down

If Israel Goes Down We All Go Down

In a powerful article in today’s Times of London, Jose Maria Aznar, the President of Spain from 1996-2004) provides a rousing and eloquent defense of the State of Israel. Aznar also uses this opportunity to announce the launch of his new organization “Friends of Israel” composed primarily on non-Jewish Europeans and Americans. President Aznar is to be applauded for standing up for Israel, standing up for what is right.

The article is below: (more…)

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