Sundown: Peace, Love, and Understanding?

Plus Beinart is no ‘hater,’ and more

Elvis Costello.(Wikipedia)

Tablet Magazine and The Scroll will be dark until Friday morning in observance of Shavuot. Have a good holiday!

• Elvis Costello canceled two planned concerts in Caesarea, Israel, out of “instinct and conscience” regarding the Palestinian issue. [Arts Beat]

• Tablet Magazine contributor David P. Goldman takes issue with Peter Beinart’s essay: “Zionism is in no danger. The entity that is in trouble is Jewish liberalism.” [First Things]

• Meanwhile, Beinart happily reports that no one has accused him of Israel- or self-hatred. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York) has introduced a House resolution demanding that Hamas release Gilad Shalit. [JTA]

• Jean-Luc Godard’s new film, which debuted yesterday at Cannes, has references to “Jews, Hollywood and the Holocaust.” Not clear if they are meant to be related to each other, or if they just seem that way because of the jump-cuts! [Arts Beat]

• Tonight, at The Strand in Manhattan, Jewcy hosts the first Yiderati reading series. It features, among others, Tablet contributing editor Rachel Shukert. Come one, come all! [Jewcy]

Iran Sanctions Draft Finalized

Will China approve?

President Ahmadinejad and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

The nuclear swap deal that Turkey and Brazil extracted out of Iran seems good on its face, but the thinking is that, by taking the pressure off, it is actually likely to lessen the chance of meaningful sanctions against the Islamic republic.

Well, we’re about to find out if that’s true. The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have agreed on a draft sanctions resolution, which they are now circulating.

For the record, Russia, which is also involved in the nuclear material swap deal, has long been surprisingly onboard with the prospect of further sanctions. It is China that has been the holdout, and it is the country to watch.

Breaking: Clinton: Iran Sanctions Draft To Go to Full U.N. Security Council Today [Laura Rozen]
U.S. Is Skeptical on Iranian Deal for Nuclear Fuel [NYT]

Today on Tablet

The still-Samaritans, cheesecake, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Benjamin Balint reports on the would-be Jews—the small community of Samaritans who have lived uninterruptedly on what is now the West Bank for thousands of years. Books critic Adam Kirsch deals with the legacy of Irène Némirovsky. Our special Shavuot-themed Vox Tablet podcast involves … cheesecake. Mmm, says The Scroll, cheesecake.

DAWN 2010 Celebrates Shavuot

At the mystical intersection of Judaism and science

Novelist Gary Shteyngart and editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse at DAWN 2010.(All photos by Dan Coplan)

Moses among the penguins, rabbis beside the swamp! DAWN 2010, the late-night Shavuot arts festival that Tablet Magazine cosponsored (along with Reboot) Saturday night at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, was full of surprising juxtapositions of Jews and fauna. (For all photos, check our our Facebook album.)

One of the first of the evening’s dozens of events was the world’s second performance of Everything’s Coming Up Moses, which tells the story of the Exodus in under an hour—with inspiration from the music of Gypsy. The musical, premiered by Tablet Magazine in New York this Passover and written by contributing editor Rachel Shukert, was, naturally, performed in the African Hall beneath a taxidermied leopard that was hanging out in a tree overhead. (The very-much-alive penguins strutted at the other end of the hall.) (more…)

Daybreak: Did Iran Just Play Us?

Plus bad Blumenthal, good beer, and more in the news

Richard Blumenthal.(Wikipedia)

• Why Iran’s agreed-to nuclear swap, likely to forestall sanctions, could in the long run be a bad thing. [LAT]

• Connecticut Democratic Senate candidate Richard Blumenthal—a Scroll favorite—has been accused of repeatedly lying about his service in Vietnam. [NYT]

• Israel offered Syria the Golan in exchange for cutting ties with Iran and terrorist groups. And it refused. [JPost]

• President Obama will meet with Jewish Democratic lawmakers today, his first such event. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Noam Chomsky told Al Jazeera that his being barred from entering Israel is the sort of thing that “only happens in totalitarian states.” [Ynet]

• Roger Cohen enjoys a delicious West Bank microbrew. [NYT]

Sundown: Rahm in Jerusalem

Plus Woody speaks up for justice, and more in the news

The Woodman at Cannes this weekend.(Valery Heche/AFP/Getty Images)

• Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel is heading to Israel this week, with his family, for his son’s bar mitzvah. Wait, Rahm Emanuel is Jewish? [Arutz Sheva]

L’affaire Chomsky has become something of a cause célèbre in Israel. Additional French phrase. [NYT]

• Who knew Ben Bernanke’s middle name was “Shalom”? [NYT]

• A former Justice Department Nazi hunter (no, really) is agitating to have Richard Goldstone investigated for visa ineligibility due to his tenure as an apartheid-era judge. [Jewish Indy]

• Woody Allen (again) spoke up for his friend Roman Polanski, on the grounds that he is “an artist and a nice person.” In fairness, most people are only one or the other. Woody Allen, for example. [HuffPo]

• A dispatch from the West Bank, where the Samaritans—good and otherwise—still celebrate Passover in their own, distinctive way. Yes, this includes sheep-slaughtering. [VQR]

Late-‘60s Hadassah Head Dies

Jacobson, American Zionist activist, was 97

Charlotte Jacobson.(Hadassah)

Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization, sent out a press release earlier today announcing the death of Charlotte Jacobson, who chaired the group during the Six Day War. Though 97, Jacobson’s death came as a surprise: As recently as two weeks ago, Jacobson was at a conference with Hadassah’s current president, Nancy Falchuk, and in good form. “Her mind was sharp as a tack—she was educated and updated on everything that was going on,” Falchuk told Tablet Magazine this afternoon.

Jacobson, who held Hadassah’s presidency from 1964 to 1968, also chaired the American section of the World Zionist Organization from 1971 to 1982 and in 1981 was the first woman elected president of the Jewish National Fund. Her first trip to Israel was in 1951; she wasted no time making herself known to the leadership of the fledgling Jewish state. On a trip in the late 1950s, she was part of a delegation that met with David Ben-Gurion. “He was laying out the problems he was facing, and most of us just listened—but Charlotte interrupted the prime minister to say, ‘I’m not so sure I agree with you,’ ” recalled Bernice Tannenbaum, another former Hadassah head who was with Jacobson on the trip. “It didn’t matter that it was the prime minister of Israel. She just asked her questions.”

Jacobson was born Charlotte Stone in 1914 in the Bronx, where she was raised in an Orthodox family. In a 1967 interview with Morris Kurtzer, she recalled that she and her two sisters had been known in their youth not as the Stones, but as “the three pebbles.”

Jacobson was active in the Soviet Jewry movement in the 1970s, but within Hadassah she is famous for moving to reclaim the group’s hospital on Mount Scopus, in East Jerusalem, following the 1967 war. “She was a smart lady,” Falchuk said. “She knew that taking back the hospital put a claim on that part of Jerusalem.”

Beinart’s Backers

Those who applauded today’s essay


Today seems to be the day that folks sympathetic to Peter Beinart’s big ol’ essay weighed in with their support. Nothing, so far, from The Weekly Standard, or from Beinart’s old boss Marty Peretz, who can be expected to disagree with it strenuously; nothing from AIPAC or the ADL, both of which are cast negatively in the piece. For them, we will have to wait.

• My vote for least-expected response of the day goes to the Orthodox Union. It calls Beinart a “thoughtful and wonderful writer,” thanks him for starting the conversation, and even decides to take his observation that the Orthodox community prioritizes its love for Israel over other commitments, such as liberalism, as “a kind of back-handed compliment.” Er, sorta. The OU does accuse the New York Review of Books of “pernicious anti-Israel hatred.” [Orthodox Union]

• Jeremy Ben-Ami called it “a powerful wake-up call.” [J Street]

• Spencer Ackerman believes that a corollary to Beinart’s essay is that pro-Israel groups will increasingly look to Christian evangelicals for support. [Attackerman]

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg says the essay is “analytically valid,” but that its placement in the NYRB is “semi-tragic.” He promises much more in the coming days. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Kevin Drum agrees with Beinart’s analysis of demographic trends. [Mother Jones]

• Joe Klein loved it! [Swampland]

• So did Andrew Sullivan! [Andrew Sullivanl]

• Ezra Klein pivots from the essay to argue that it is in Israel’s interests to make peace, as doing so will tamp down the hatred and lower the threats the country faces. [Ezra Klein]

Conservatives Talk About Conserving Judaism

JTS head lays out more ecumenical future

The Jewish Theological Seminary.(Wikipedia)

In March, Arnold Eisen, the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary—which is the intellectual heart of Conservative Judaism—gave a blunt interview to Manfred Gerstenfeld of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in which he admitted that his movement suffers from what marketers might describe as a crisis of brand identity. “When I speak throughout the United States to Conservative Jews, many of them do not know what the movement’s message is,” he said. “Even some rabbis complain that they are not able to convey its essence to their congregants. Some seem not to know it themselves.”

This morning, during commencement at JTS’s Upper Manhattan campus, I witnessed Eisen confirm that he is on a mission to reverse the prevailing view that the Conservative movement is on the wane. “This moment offers not only unprecedented challenge but unprecedented opportunity,” he said in his address. He pledged to position his school not just as a hub for people who identify as Conservatives, but for “the religious center.”

Who’s that, we wonder? Well, Eisen wasn’t quite clear about his definitions, but it apparently includes anyone in New York who’s interested in Judaism: Full-time students and part-time students “eager for Jewish learning and Jewish wisdom” will learn together at newly developed continuing education classes. And he was clear that JTS’s umbrella will now extend not just to Jews but to people of other faiths, particularly Christians and Muslims, whose clerics are going to be welcomed not just into public policy debates at JTS but into training in things like providing pastoral care.

These are general principles; what about specifics? Last week, Eisen outlined six core principles that will guide the school’s mission going forward. He elaborated, a bit, this morning on what that will mean: more interdisciplinary classes, more practical training for future clergy, and more continuing education, especially for professional staff at Jewish organizations. It will also mean more targeted focus on shaping how day schools and summer camps teach Jewish principles, and—you knew it was coming—“the revitalization of synagogue worship.” For more, I guess we’ll have to wait for the prospectus.

An interesting thing to note, especially in light of Peter Beinart’s powerful new essay about the future of American Zionism: Eisen was clear that he was speaking to American Jews, as Americans. Israel came up twice, once in a mention of the need for “creative thinking” about the Israel-Diaspora relationship (especially, we imagine, in light of the new conversion bill making its way through Israel’s Knesset), and once in explicit reference to the “inescapable tension between our focus on North American Jewry and significant involvement in the State and society of Israel.”

But to the new graduates, American Jews or otherwise, he said this: “You will no longer be enacting the hyphen in your identity by walking up and down Broadway” and exhorted them to go out into the wider world and do good.

Full speech after the jump. (more…)

Beinart Speaks to Tablet

Defends NYRB piece, which was originally for NYT Mag

Peter Beinart.(Wikipedia)

As you know, Peter Beinart has penned a blockbuster essay in the New York Review of Books condemning the Israeli leadership for their illiberal treatment of the Palestinian question, and the American Jewish leadership for making Zionism unattractive by insisting on near-unquestioning support. I talked to Beinart (whose new book, The Icarus Syndrome, comes out June 1) today about why he wrote the article, why he published it where he did—it was originally supposed to run in the New York Times Magazine, but “there was a stylistic disagreement, not an ideological one”—and what he expects in response.

What prompted the essay? Why now, when you previously have not written much about Israel?
Having kids definitely played a role. I think it made me think about not just my Zionist identity, but what kind of Zionism was available to them. And the more I thought about that, the more I began to worry. I also think that we all operate at intellectual levels and emotional levels, and for me I just decided … There was this story in the New York Times about the Gaza War, about the house in Gaza where they found the children whose parents were dead. What you may find, if you do have kids one day, you are affected at an emotional level more strongly by certain things, in a way you may not be entirely prepared for. I think that’s a good thing, it’s primordial. I know people develop all kinds of shrewd and sophisticated and clever ways of explaining anything that happens, but when I read the story I just thought I was not in the mood to try in some clever way to explain it away. And the fact that I felt I was supposed to just sickened me a little bit.

That’s not to say there are never gonna be civilian casualties in war. But knowing the people who are running Israel now. … The amazing thing about Netanyahu’s book, which is a pretty long book, is there is not a single word of human empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians or Arabs. It was for me such a chilling book in its willingness to essentially. … there was something so inhuman about it, I felt. I just felt like that wasn’t something that I wanted to apologize for. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Poor Shavuot, the Ortho-politico, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff examines why Shavuot—which starts tomorrow!—never really became a thing in America the way Passover and the other usual suspects did. Senior Writer Allison Hoffman profiles Nachama Soloveichik, an Orthodox 29-year-old descendant of a prominent rabbinic family who is now the press secretary to conservative Catholic Pennsylvania Senate candidate Pat Toomey. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall tries to figure out when her kids’ secular identity should take precedence, and when their religious one should. The Scroll will try not to make the whole week about the Beinart essay. Honest.

In U-Turn, Beinart Slams Israel, AIPAC

Warns Zionism is increasingly for the Orthodox


This is what we’ll be talking about all week. Prominent liberal journalist Peter Beinart has predicted that Zionism among young American Jews is increasingly the exclusive reserve of the insensitive, illiberal Orthodox. Moreover, he blames this trend on AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and the rest of the establishment. These organizations, by insisting on all-but-unquestioned support for Israel and its governments’ policies, have served, he argues, as “intellectual bodyguards for Israeli leaders who threaten the very liberal values they profess to admire.”

Here is the essay’s crux: “For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.”

Beinart is one-time editor of the staunchly pro-Israel New Republic. He prominently supported the Iraq invasion and specifically chastised fellow Democrats who didn’t. He has since repudiated that support, but even so, it is not a little surprising to see a one-time genuine hawk calling Israeli “new historian” Tom Segev “fearless.” (Under his leadership TNR endorsed Joe Lieberman in the 2004 Democratic primaries. Joe Lieberman!)

And even that is not as jarring as Beinart’s choice of venue. The New York Review of Books is the premier outlet for essays that are critical of Zionism; it famously published Tony Judt’s repudiation of Zionism in 2003. Tellingly, this is Beinart’s first contribution to the journal. Among other things, Beinart’s decision is designed to reassure you that, no, you’re not misreading it, and, yes, his piece really does represent a genuine shift for him. It also means Beinart chose to trade a certain amount of credibility with those who disagree with his conclusions in exchange for solidarity with those who do. Not to be overly cynical, but Beinart’s new book is out in two weeks.

Beinart’s essay may not garner quite the controversy that Judt’s did, but older American Jewish liberals won’t enjoy being told that their strong support for Israel is illiberal. They will make some immediate counterpunches, and will also take issue with Beinart’s handling of the relevant research, which may not suggest a permanent generation gap on the question of Israel (more on this in a bit).

The left will applaud Beinart, although he remains a Zionist—there are no better prizes for them than once-hawkish Jewish apostates. Meanwhile, J Street may be a little afraid to embrace him, even though his critical, liberal Zionism seems like a good match. (Beinart conspicuously does not mention the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group.)

The Orthodox? Well, they won’t be too happy, and few will blame them. (Beinart attends an Orthodox synagogue. Awkward!)

Quick prediction: The sentence that will attract the most ire is, “Not only does the organized American Jewish community mostly avoid public criticism of the Israeli government, it tries to prevent others from leveling such criticism as well.” It will be very easy for critics to mention Walt and Mearsheimer as an inspiration.

After the jump: A couple key paragraphs and the anticipated counter-arguments. I’ll round-up the responses in the afternoon, assuming any writers or bloggers decide to respond to Beinart’s essay. (That was a joke.) (more…)

Daybreak: Iran Swap May Forestall Sanctions

Plus Chomsky turned back, Rahm ‘screwed up,’ and more in the news

Noam Chomsky.(

• Iran agreed to send most of its enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for differently graded uranium from international regulators. [LAT]

• Palestinian boycotts of Jewish West Bank businesses are beginning to have real bite. [WP]

• Israeli officials denied left-wing intellectual Noam Chomsky entry to Israel, though they now look to be reconsidering. (“Real democracies aren’t afraid of ridiculous men like Noam Chomsky,” says Jeffrey Goldberg. Ouch!) [JPost]

• Obama chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel told a multisectarian group of rabbis the administration “screwed up the messaging” and wasn’t sufficiently clear about its staunch support for Israel. [JPost/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Pat Buchanan engaged in a bit of Jew-counting on the topic of Supreme Court nominations. (In fairness, so did the Forward’s J.J. Goldberg.) [JTA]

• Someone wrote an article that you’ll be discussing all week. Much, much more at 10. [NYRB]

Sundown: Rabbis Go To Emanuel’s Temple

Plus why Obama should’ve picked a Protestant, and more

Rahm Emanuel.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

• So 15 rabbis go to the White House … no, really, 15 rabbis had a meeting with chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel and other top advisers about Israel. [JTA]

• Thirty prominent American Jews signed a petition calling for a two-state solution. Supporters include Judge Abner Mikvah; the Forward’s publisher; Rabbi David Saperstein; and Theodore Bikel. [For The Sake of Zion]

• Former editor of the Forward argues Obama should have chosen a Protestant Supreme Court nominee. [Forward]

• J Street supports the extra U.S. aid for the Israeli missile shield. [J Street]

• An interview with Tablet Magazine contributor Judith Shulevitz on her new book about the Sabbath. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

Keith Richards introduces Phish on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon; they cover the Stones’s “Loving Cup”. Awesome.

The Love Lives of the Early Birds

This Week on ‘Sunset Daze’

Sunset Daze(NYT)

When I last left the Sunset Daze girls, they were ready to conquer the world. But in this week’s episode, hiccups such as chiropractic Debbie downers and the cock block that is a comb-over derail their dreams. A dream of being Ms. Senior Arizona, a love life, a road to recovery from drugs, and the factors of old age came in their way of the residents of Surprise, Arizona.

The focus of the episode was a new character, Eileen. “I am having the time of my life,” she tells us. “I didn’t go into retirement to sit in a rocking chair.” Her latest mission is to win Ms. Senior Arizona. She considers getting lip implants to better her chances: “There are young women doing it and certainly we need it more than they do.” However, the recovery period from surgery would be too long for her to qualify for the pageant, so she nixes the idea. Next up: Finding the perfect ball gown. “Thank God there is no bathing suit competition in this pageant,” she remarks. Final challenge: Coming up with a dance routine. Eileen takes a dance class but her bad back flares up. The next day, she and her husband, Gary, visit the chiropractor. His final diagnosis is fodder for next week’s episode.

Meanwhile, Jack has decided to break up with the elusive Kathleen. Although he is very enamored of her, he knows she is not invested in their relationship. He ends their courtship and insightfully tells the viewer, “Time wounds all heels or time heals all wounds.” He decides that the time has come to start dating again. (more…)

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