Tiffany Shlain Premieres Her Film

Getting ready for Dawn 2010


Tiffany Shlain, the founder of the Webby Awards, will be among the presenters at Dawn 2010, the Tablet-sponsored late-night cultural arts festival going down in honor of Shavuot on the evening of Saturday, May 15 in San Francisco. (Then, the next morning, she will give the commencement address at UC-Berkeley. Oof!)

Shlain told me that she will premiering a new, narrated version of a three-minute film, which she directed, called Yelp: with apologies to Allen Ginsberg, which “retools parts of Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ in thinking about how plugged in we are as a species and underscores the importance of unplugging.” She continued: “We were inspired to make this piece after hearing Reboot was organizing a ‘National Day of Unplugging.’”

Beyond the premiere, what’s she most excited about? “Seeing all the funky Jews in one place.”

A few years ago, Shlain sat for a Vox Tablet podcast about her earlier film, The Tribe.

Today on Tablet

Bow down before the king, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman has an epic profile, very much worth your time, of Malcolm Hoenlein, who is quite possibly the most powerful person in the world of American Jewish institutions. Books critic Adam Kirsch reviews a new tome on the Jews from the Renaissance to emancipation. James Kirchick reports that Kyrgzstan’s toppling of its oppressive president has been followed by a wave of anti-Semitism. Good news, puzzle junkies! Ethan Friedman has our latest crossword. And good news, news junkies! The Scroll will be around all day.

Kagan’s Jewish Quotient

The nomination as ethnic moment

Elena Kagan accepting her nomination yesterday.(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images)

This felt a little different, right? Sorta “Our Nominee”? New York Upper West Side (probably liberal) Jewish, the socialist summer camps and the father with the Ben Shahn drawings … (OK maybe not all of that).

Anyway, a quick look at how some of Kagan’s “cultural cues” were covered.

• Yesterday’s New York Times profile of Kagan was full of all sorts of cultural markers. [NYT]

• The National Jewish Democratic Council; the Anti-Defamation League; and the Reform movement all expressed their excitement. [Haaretz]

• J.J. Goldberg wonders whether certain folks will make an issue of the fact that Kagan’s accession would mean three Jews on the court. [Forward]

• No, she’s not one of those Kagans. [Slate]

• A Kagan confirmation would result in a Supreme Court that is New York-centric and, for the first time ever, WASP-free (three Jews, six Catholics). [Ben Smith]

• “The names of the justices read like a New York phone book—Scalia, Kennedy, Ginsberg, Sotomayor.” [Negev Rock City]

• Got an email yesterday with the following passage from Stephen L. Pease’s Golden Age of Jewish Achievement: The Compendium of a Culture, a People, and Their Stunning Performance:

As of mid-2008, seven of the 110 justices (6.4 percent) have been Jewish. The 6.4 percent statistic exceeds the expected 2 percent but understates the magnitude of the change since Brandeis. That is, there have been 44 appointments in the 92 years since Brandeis. Seven of those 42 (16 percent) were Jews. In the 46 years since Arthur Goldberg was appointed in 1962, four of 15 appointments (27 percent) were Jews. And, two of the last four appointments (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 1993, and Stephen G. Breyer, 1994) were Jews. That two of our nine Supreme Court Justices (22 percent or 11 times their percentage of the U.S. population) are now Jews indicates just how remarkable their achievement has been.

And, of course, those stats don’t include Kagan.

Daybreak: Russia, Syria Talk Nukes

Plus welfare mess, White House shindig, and more in the news

Presidents Medvedev and Assad.(Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images)

• President Medvedev made the first-ever visit of a Russian head of state to Damascus, where he and President Assad discussed denuclearizing the Mideast (hint, hint). [Ynet]

• But the International Atomic Energy Agency does not plan to tie Iran’s nuclear weapons program to Israel’s. [Haaretz]

• One economist warns that Israel’s bottom-heavy welfare system—where large numbers of able-bodied Orthodox and Arab men do not work—will topple the economy as those demographics grow. [LAT]

• An Israeli minister clarified that, despite rumors to the contrary and restraint in certain neighborhoods, Jewish building in East Jerusalem will generally continue. [JPost]

• A posh resort is being built just inside Lebanon on the Israeli border, a few miles from the Golan Heights. [NYT]

• President Obama will host a reception in honor of Jewish Heritage Month on May 27. Talk about a hot ticket! [JTA]

Sundown: Lebanon Is Hummus Champ

Plus YamulKap, ash over Israel, and more

Holy sh*t.(Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty Images)

• Saturday, a day which will live in infamy, Israel lost the hummus title to its enemy to the north. [Ynet]

• A profile of the Israeli company Teva, the world’s biggest maker of generic drugs. The owner describes it thusly: “We’re kibbutzniks.” [NYT]

• The YamulKap. Pretty self-explanatory, really. [YamulKap]

• An epic takedown of Harold Bloom’s review of Anthony Julius’s book on British anti-Semitism. [Jewcy]

• The volcanic ash has officially reached Israel, and has even disrupted a few flights! Wait, why does this seem vaguely exciting? [Arutz Sheva]

• MTV is throwing a massive party in Israel this summer. In addition to Israeli pop stars, Pink (who is Jewish!) and Jay-Z (who is not!) will perform. [Ynet]

Here’s Jay-Z killing it on this past weekend’s Saturday Night Live.

Iran Points Finger at California

Says U.S. harbors terrorists in L.A.

West Side ’til we die!(2Pac Japan)

The latest front in the cold war between the United States and Iran is in a place about as far away from Iran as can be: Los Angeles. The Islamic Republic has accused the United States of providing sanctuary in L.A. to a group, called Tondar (which is Farsi for “Thunder,”) that plots and executes terrorist attacks on Iranian soil. For what it’s worth, the State Department does not classify Tondar as a terrorist group, and Tondar itself denies terrorist activity. A slightly mysterious organization, it claims to use peaceful means to work to replace Iran’s current government with a secular monarchy.

“Iran analysts said Tehran government may be pointing the finger at Tondar because it is politically expedient,” the article concludes.

One interesting tidbit: Among other incidents, Iran blamed Tondar for the murder of an Iranian physicist in January. This puts it at odds with Haaretz’s Yossi Melman, who believes the physicist was killed by some group whose prime aim is to slow Iran’s nuclear program; with the U.S. think-tank Stratfor, which blamed Mossad; and, of course, with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad himself, who, after a rigorous examination of the assassination, detected that the physicist was undoubtedly killed in the “Zionist style.” Which presumably involves—literally dozens—of bagels.

U.S.-Iran Feud Hits L.A. [WSJ]

Two Alleged Hezbollah Spies Arrested

One is prominent Palestinian rights leader


Israeli security forces arrested a prominent Palestinian human rights activist and another activist on suspicion of spying for Hezbollah. Ameer Makhoul is the head of Ittijah, or The Union of Arab Community-Based Associations.

We only learned this today, because before then Israel had imposed a gag order on the case (remember, they can do that), and there were only scattered reports that Makhoul had been arrested from his home in Haifa late last week at 3 in the morning, held lawyerless for 48 hours, and remanded for six days. (Electronic Intifada also organized a petition protesting his arrest.) JTA noted that Ittijah was involved in the infamous 2001 Durban conference, and that it refuses to condition aid based on being from non-terrorist sources.

2 Nabs for Spying for Hezbollah [JPost]
Rights Orgs. Condemn Arrest of Palestinian Civil Society Leader [Electronic Intifada]
Arrest of Arab Leader, Gag Order Are Protested [JTA/Baltimore Jewish Times]

The Bride-To-Be

An old Jew tells a joke


Have a feeling this one’s especially funny if you’re, y’know, married.

NYT Becomes Tablet for a Day

Your Sunday reading, Monday


Wow. Last Friday, when it looked like this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review might have some Jewish content, we had no idea! Turns out it its theme is “The Jewish Question,” with four big reviews trying to give some sort of answer.

• Über-Jew Harold Bloom tackled Anthony Julius’s new tome on British anti-Semitism.

• As presaged Friday, Tablet Magazine books critic Adam Kirsch struggled with whether we must throw out the baby that is Martin Heidegger’s mainstream philosophical contribution with the bathwater that is his undeniable Nazism.

• Also as presaged Friday, Francine Prose reviewed a new biography of Irène Némirovsky as well a collection of the French-Jewish writer’s newly translated stories.

• And Francis Fukuyama, in the course of an essay on Friedrich Nietzsche, argues that the crazy/brilliant German philosopher transformed from a run-of-the-mill casual anti-Semite to “a principled anti-anti-Semite” and enemy of “German chauvinism.”

And a bonus! In the Week in Review section, film critic A.O. Scott declared that this is the year of Generation X’s midlife crisis in an essay whose central juxtaposition was the new Noah Baumbauch film Greenberg and the new Sam Lipsyte novel The Ask, which both feature similarly schlemiel-like protagonists. Wish we’d thought of that connection. Oh, wait, our very own Marissa Brostoff did.

Related: Look Out! [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Kirsch, Heidegger, and Némirovsky, Oh My!

Gary Shteyngart Answers Questions

Getting ready for Dawn 2010

Novelist Gary Shteyngart.(Wikipedia)

Gary Shteyngart, whose third novel, Super Sad True Love Story, comes out in July, will be among the presenters at Dawn 2010, the Tablet-sponsored late-night cultural arts festival going down in honor of Shavuot on the evening of Saturday, May 15 in San Francisco. Specifically, he’ll be interviewed by Editor-in-Chief Alana Newhouse.

So, Mr. Shteyngart, what exactly will you be doing?

Alana Newhouse will be talking with me about stuff. Very exciting. I heart Alana very much. She threw me a book party for my last novel-type thing, Absurdistan, and it blew the roof off a bar in downtown Manhattan. Many were hurt.

Have you ever stayed up all night on Shavuot to study before?

Shavuot, which one is that? Temple burned? Temple rebuilt? Exile in Babylon? Return from Babylon? I guess the answer is no, I’ve never stayed up to study.

First time for everything. What are you most looking forward to at Dawn?

I’m looking forward to SF, specifically the jiggling beef dish in that Vietnamese place in the Ferry Building. A Shavuot tradition.

Today on Tablet

City of Gold (and Steel), and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, in honor of Yom Yerushalayim (which is on Wednesday), Liel Leibovitz profiles “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” on the Vox Tablet podcast series. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall explores the disconnect between reading children books about lovable furry creatures after serving them meat for dinner. Josh Lambert offers his weekly look at forthcoming books of interest, with an emphasis on those by Wunderkinden. And while Liel mentions Phish’s cover of “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav,” honestly, The Scroll prefers their “Avenu Malkenu”.

J Street Pushes ‘Linkage’

And struggles to find co-signers

Gen. David Petraeus last month.(Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)

J Street is circulating a letter on Capitol Hill that tells President Barack Obama that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is crucial to furthering U.S. national security interests—in Iraq and Afghanistan, against Iran, and elsewhere in the region. This is the doctrine of “linkage,” most visibly advanced by Gen. David Petraeus, seconded by prominent administration adviser Dennis Ross, and seemingly echoed by Obama himself. It’s also been lambasted by many critics (including Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith).

The letter spends much time citing Petraeus, in fact, before going on to argue:

A just and sustainable end to this conflict will not only secure Israel’s future as a democratic, Jewish homeland—it will also enhance our ability to confront the threats posed by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other actors in the Middle East, and advance critical U.S. security interests in the region more broadly.

Four (not particularly prominent) Democratic congressmen have signed the letter. Last Thursday, Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization, frankly acknowledged that garnering more signatures would be a challenge … though he also said the challenge would be overcome. “One by one, 10 by 10, dozen by dozen, members of Congress are going to sign that letter.”

When you predict something like that, of course, it’s generally best if you’re proven right.

Update: The letter also cites Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who makes the case that resolving the conflict is crucial to Israel’s own security. Also, more than just the four sponsors have signed the letter; a full list of signatories has not yet been made available.

Delahunt-Kind-Price Snyder Letter to the President [J Street]
‘J Street’ Faces Battle in Congress [JPost]

Related: Linked In [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: Obama Picks Kagan

Plus habemus proximity talks! and more in the news

Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• We have new news, and so a new picture: Solicitor General Elena Kagan is President Obama’s nominee to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. She would become the third current Jewish justice. She established her independence early on, we learn, when she disagreed with her rabbi over her bat mitzvah ceremony. [NYT]

• Proximity talks officially began yesterday, following Palestinian Authority approval. Expect at least four months of U.S. envoy George Mitchell’s shuttle diplomacy. [NYT]

• U.S. diplomats say that Prime Minister Netanyahu has quietly agreed not to build in the especially controversial East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo for two years. [Arutz Sheva]

• Hamas: Not a fan of the proximity talks. [Ynet]

• Over the Palestinian Authority’s objections, Israel was elected the 32nd member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. [JTA]

• Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed unconcern for the survival of Israel’s strategic nuclear “ambiguity” after several countries have questioned it in recent weeks. [Haaretz]

Sundown: High Court May Get Its Third Jew

Plus cartoon Jesus, Gen-Stewart, and more

Harvard Law Dean Elena Kagan last year.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• Sources say that President Obama will nominate Elena Kagan, the dean of Harvard Law, to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. [HuffPo]

• M.J. Rosenberg says that Millennials, and especially American Jewish Millennials on the question of Israel, would be more aptly named “the Jon Stewart generation.” [MediaMatters]

• What’s your #ish? It makes more sense if you click the link. [What’s Your #ish?]

• Comedy Central will air a cartoon starring Jesus as an average New York City guy trying to escape an overbearing, video-game-obsessed father Father. N.B.: I am not kidding. [Newser]

• Roger Cohen, hopeless romantic. [NYT]

• Matt Yglesias explains his disdain for politically conservative Jews: “nobody should be eating bad bagels, but it’s especially sad when you see Jews do it.” [Yglesias]

Happy Mother’s Day! Not enough people know that “Julia” is about John’s mom.

Israeli Arabs Join Palestinian Boycott

Are they all Palestinians now?

(Jerusalem Post)

It’s not really surprising to find Israeli-Arabs joining Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s call for a boycott of products made on Jewish settlements in the West Bank. Still, it is provocative to read the head of a committee in one Arab Israeli town identify Israeli Arabs as “part of the Palestinian people.”

The chairman of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip—that’s itself something of a provocative name; there isn’t a Jewish community of the Gaza Strip anymore—accused the boycott of violating a 1994 agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, and called on the Israeli government to use some of the money it transfers to the Palestinians each month to compensate settlers harmed by the boycott.

Notably, he affixed prime blame not on Abbas but on Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, whom many have welcomed for his emphasis on West Bank Palestinian autonomy. Part of autonomy, of course, means not having Jewish settlers in your midst, much less giving them business.

“What we are seeing here is a complete identification, and not for the first time, by the Arab population of Israel with the Palestinian Authority,” the Council chairman warned. Indeed.

Arab Israelis Boycott W. Bank Good [JPost]
Earlier: The Deceptively Controversial P.M.

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