Ultra-Orthodox Leader Touts Muslim Rapper

Q-Tip as a model for Jews

Q-Tip earlier this month.(Andrew Toomey/Getty Images)

A decade ago, my friends threw me a bachelorette party at The Park. As luck would have it, we were seated two tables away from Q-Tip, at the time my absolute favorite rapper. (Yes, he’s since been replaced. Two words in my defense: Vivrant Thing.) But Q-Tip was also part of a cohort of late 1990s hip-hop stars converting to, and singing about, Islam—a trend that fed into fears of rising black anti-Semitism that, every now and again, sent certain Jewish organizations into apoplectic fits of worry. I even remember a friend chastising me when she stumbled upon my copy of The Low End Theory, the masterpiece of an album that Q-Tip made with his band, A Tribe Called Quest. Anyway: The marriage didn’t work out, but to this day I remain the proud owner of a napkin from The Park with Q-Tip’s autograph.

And so imagine my surprise this morning when I opened my email to see that this week’s column from Rabbi Avi Shafran of Agudath Israel, the ultra-Orthodox communal organization, is about none other than Q-Tip (delightfully referred to as “Mr. Tip”). Titled “Rapper’s Sabbath”—an allusion to “Rapper’s Delight”? I don’t want to ask, lest it not be true—the piece notes that the rapper recently confessed to falling for the Jewish Sabbath while filming Holy Rollers, the new film about Hasidic ecstasy smugglers in the 1990s. “I’m going to enjoy Sabbath on Saturday, so on Friday at sunset I’m going to turn off my TV, my radio—I’m not going to do anything,” Q-Tip told the New York Daily News. “And then when the sun sets on Saturday night, I’m going to raise hell!”

Remarkably, Shafran doesn’t exploit Q-Tip as an easy target for ridicule and condescension, but rather as a potentially useful example for Orthodox Jews. “When the Sabbath ebbs away—especially during the long days of summer – are we saddened a bit by the imminent loss of its holiness, pained at least a little to emerge from our day-long cocoon of connection with the Divine?” he writes. “Or are we itching … to barge as quickly as possible back into the ‘real’ world, to listen to the news, check our e-mail, get in our cars—surrender without a fight to the mundane? If so, perhaps we shouldn’t smile so condescendingly at Q-Tip and his Saturday night plans, but rather recognize a bit of him in the mirror.”

Neither Shafran nor the JTA, which picked up the Daily News story, noted Q-Tip’s Muslim background. This is probably because the Jewish community has more significant concerns these days—and which may be why, for a few brief moments today, I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the last decade. Still, if the kind of ecumenicism espoused by Shafran is any indication, maybe there are reasons for some optimism. Mr. Tip, consider this your invitation to Shabbat dinner. I’ll even give you a new napkin.

Rapper’s Sabbath [The Matzav Network]

Reining In Iran

A tale of two competing efforts

The leaders of, from left, Brazil, Iran, and Turkey.(Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images)

Here’s the basic summary of what has been happening, with a hat-tip to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius: At the beginning of the week, Turkey and Brazil cut a deal with Iran involving a swap of unenriched uranium in exchange for 20 percent enriched uranium. The deal, in fact, is quite similar to one offered Iran in October. That deal was offered by the major powers (including the United States) and would have involved a swap with Russia; the major powers are not behind this deal and it involves a swap with Turkey. Brazil and Turkey get to solidify their position as leaders of a new bloc of rising nations; Iran gets to be seen as conciliatory and thereby persuades Russia and especially China that further U.N. Security Council sanctions are not necessary.

But! That only sort of worked! Because on the very same day—as if to say, “No, we’re still in charge”—the United States introduced a new draft sanctions resolution that has the support of all five permanent members, including general holdout China. While lacking much in the way of actual bite—there are no enforcement mechanisms, for example—the unity this expressed demonstrated that Iran is not going to be let off so easily. (As for Turkey and Brazil, the United States is appreciative of their efforts … and little more.) “What’s important about the unified U.N. stand,” Ignatius writes,

is that it will force Iran back to the bargaining table if it wants to avoid growing diplomatic isolation from the world’s superpowers. Yes, Tehran can claim that it has support from two of the world’s rising nations, Turkey and Brazil, which it will tout as allies against the great satans of the Security Council. But realistically, the Iranians know that having lost Russia and China on sanctions, they are on shaky ground.

The Obama administration has been calculating that unity among the “P-5″ (diplo-speak for the five permanent Security Council members) is more important than the details of the sanctions resolution, and this week’s events showed that this strategy was right.

Both the Anti-Defamation League and J Street, in e-mailed press releases, applauded the draft resolution. “The uranium exchange proposal by Turkey and Brazil,” Abraham Foxman said, “fell far short of addressing the core issue.” And J Street called the Turkish-Brazilian deal “a starting point for further diplomatic efforts but not as a substitute at this stage for further U.N. sanctions.”

(Want a dissenting view? Try Roger Cohen.)

Finally, Israel remains unsatisfied. “Israeli officials and commentators say that nothing short of a sanction of Iran’s energy sector will work,” the Post reports. “And with no sign of that in the offing, the prospect of Israeli military action, which Israeli officials have always said remains an option if sanctions fail, looms larger.”

A Diplomatic Game of Chicken with Iran [WP]
Israel Pushes For Definitive Action Against Iran Nuclear Program [WP]

‘L’affaire Beinart’ Continues

Responses to Zionism essay pour in


It was one thing when almost all of the initial responses to Peter Beinart’s big essay (reminder: He sat for a Tablet interview) were from supporters. Since then, several “liberal Zionists” have weighed in to differentiate themselves from Beinart’s take. But, with the exceptions of Tablet Magazine contributor David P. Goldman’s take and that (below) of Ross Douthat, where are the genuinely right-wing rebuttals? There has been not so much as a mention of teh essay on the Weekly Standard or National Review sites; there has been not so much as a peep from AIPAC, which Beinart explicitly attacks. (Marty Peretz, another logical combatant, gets a pass because he used to be Beinart’s boss.) What gives? Do these outlets feel they have no persuasive rebuttal to make? Do they want to keep their readers ignorant of the essay? I doubt it is the former; I hope it is not the latter.

• Leapfrogging off of Goldman’s post, Ross Douthat wonders if Zionism was destined to become a less preeminent commitment for American Jews regardless of the behavior of the Israeli government and the American Jewish establishment. [Evaluations]

• Contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg says of Beinart, “I think his message, flawed and somewhat ahistorical though it is, deserves a hearing.” And boy is he giving it one! Those two have entered Part III of an email dialogue. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• Jonathan Chait has much sympathy for the piece, but also thinks Beinart’s need to show “tough love” led him to drastically overreach in much of his criticism. [TNR]

• Beinart defends himself. [The Daily Beast]

• Chait responds to the response, arguing that Beinart’s apparent anger is proof positive that these things must be discussed with a calm temperament. [TNR]

• And, last but most certainly not least, Wieseltier weighs in. [TNR]

The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment [NYRB]
Earlier: Beinart Speaks To Tablet

Being Andrew Breitbart

Conservative impresario prepares a Mideast site

Andrew Breitbart.(Wikipedia)

If you like reading the Internet, and particularly if you like reading about politics on the Internet, you probably know that Andrew Breitbart is the guy who used to work for Matt Drudge, the elusive mastermind behind the Drudge Report, and now appears as a regular on Fox News and operates his own site,, along with a recently launched cluster of blog-based, citizen-journalist-y offshoots about the media, Hollywood, and government that together constitute, basically, the conservative response to the Huffington Post. [Deep breath.]

Moreover, you’re probably about to know even more about him: He plans to launch a site called Big Jerusalem, focused on Israel, sometime this year. As he told Mediaite last winter: “If you think it’s bad to be a conservative in the mainstream media or Hollywood, think what it must be like to be a small democracy in the Middle East and challenge the postcolonial approach.” Yes, that probably is worse, although in one case you are a person and in another you are a country.

But who is Breitbart? The New Yorker sent Rebecca Mead to find out, and it turns out that Breitbart, who was adopted, is a Jewish boy from L.A.’s Westside, specifically in Brentwood. There he attended the exclusive Brentwood School, which is the kind of place that turns out the people who run Hollywood’s machinery—the Ari Golds and the producers and the lawyers and the managers. But Breitbart tells Mead he was, even as a high-schooler, turned off by “the industry” and instead fascinated by the theatrics of Washington, D.C. His politics, he reports, emerged from his exasperation with the “deconstructive semiotic bullshit” first introduced to the American cultural scene by emigré members of the Frankfurt School—radicals, almost all of them Jews, exiled by the Nazis in the 1930s.

But what we begin to suspect, as we witness Breitbart making plans for a Vegas road trip from New York with Ann Coulter, and addressing a Tea Party rally in Washington, is that Breitbart is inspired less by a desire to overturn one political legacy or trumpet another than to engage an audience: He is a born emcee. “I love judgmentalism—it’s a sport,” he tells one fan in New Orleans. “I like judging! Let me judge.”

Rage Machine [New Yorker]
Earlier:The Real Michael Savage Stands Up

Jews for Jesus Founder Dies

And speaks from beyond the grave!

Jews for Jesus founder Moishe Rosen.(Jews for Jesus)

Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, died Tuesday (via Failed Messiah). He was 78.

And whoa! He has left one of those “If you’re reading this, then I am dead” messages on the Jews for Jesus Website!

“I hope I can count on you to show love and respect for the Jewish people,” he writes, “but Jewishness never saved anybody. Judaism never saved anybody no matter how sincere. Romans 10:9 & 10 make it clear that we must believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths the Lord Jesus in order to be saved. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy way. Within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism.”

He also writes a bunch of inside-baseball stuff regarding the movement. And also: “I don’t suppose that I will be writing you any new material, but there are a few articles in the works that might still come through.” Can’t wait!

Born into an Orthodox family in Kansas City, Rosen and his Jewish-born wife converted to Christianity, and he was ordained a Baptist minister. In 1973, he founded Jews for Jesus, which today is the most prominent sect of the Hebrew Christian movement. As its name suggests, adherents believe Jesus was the Messiah but also consider themselves Jewish.

“Mr. Rosen said he modeled his evangelical efforts on Vietnam War protests he saw while living in the San Francisco area,” the Washington Post reports.

De mortuis nil nisi bonum goes the famous phrase: Speak no ill of the dead. Today, what say we leave it at that, hrmm?

Moishe Rosen, 78; Founded Evangelistic Group Jews for Jesus [WP]

Today on Tablet

The nose makes the man, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, contributing ed(d)itor Eddy Portnoy briefs us on the pseudoscience of nasalogy, which is what it sounds like. Prompted by a new book, Benjamin Pogrund re-examines Israel’s alliance with apartheid-era South Africa. In this week’s haftorah, which depicts Samson’s origins, Liel Leibovitz sees a parable about how to become (and how to avoid becoming) blind and powerless. And The Scroll is back after two days of cheesecake.

Obama and the Jews Break Bread

President reassures legislators on Israel, Iran

Obama yesterday.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

On Tuesday afternoon, after The Scroll was already off celebrating Shavuot, President Obama met with 37 Jewish senators and congressmen at the Old Executive Office Building to reassure him of his unequivocal for support for Israel’s security. (All of the over 40 Jewish legislators were invited; notably absent was Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), the Minority Whip and sole Republican.) “One part group hug and one part gripe session,” is how Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) described it.

And apparently it went fairly well. According to various reports, Obama was most popular on the questions of Iran and Syria, and a bit less so when it came to the ongoing proximity talks with the Palestinians. “I walked through a minefield in the Middle East and I stepped on the land mines,” Obama reportedly said. “I got some toes blown off.” (The White House stated that the event was “a wide ranging and productive exchange about their shared commitment to peace and security in Israel and the Middle East.”)

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York) were Obama’s toughest customers. They accused him of putting disproportionate pressure on Israel in the proximity talks and of considering proposing his own plan. He nixed this, saying, “I cannot impose a settlement. Israel is a sovereign nation and the notion that I would or could do that is simply wrong.” In fact—somewhat surprisingly—he said that the issue even of West Bank settlements is best left for final-status talks, rather than the current indirect peace talks.

The 90-minute meeting’s most heated exchange reportedly came when Lieberman asserted Obama’s main regional goal appeared to be engaging Arab countries. Obama denied this.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who was quite critical of the administration during the darkest days of the recent imbroglio over settlements, reportedly praised Obama’s stances on Iran’s nuclear program and the allegations that Syria was transporting missiles into Lebanon. He even said that Israel should be more vocal in its praise here. (It helped that the meeting was held the same day the United States submitted its China-supported sanctions draft.)

One attendee told Laura Rozen that his boss “came away feeling like [Obama] is genuinely committed to accomplishing a lasting [Israeli-Palestinian peace] agreement, and that he feels it strongly.” Maybe nothing, however, could accomplish quite what an Obama visit to Israel woul: Such a trip was suggested, and Rep. Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey) said he was sure Obama would follow through. Preferably not on a week during which Tablet is off half the time.

Obama Reassure Jewish Members on ‘Obama Plan’ [Ben Smith]
At WH Powwow, Jewish Dems Get a Chance To Vent to Obama [Laura Rozen]
Obama’s Meeting With the Congressional Tribe [Capital J]
Obama Meets With 37 Jewish Pols for a ‘Group Hug and Gripe’ Session [NY Daily News]
O: Israel My ‘Land Mine’ [NY Post]

Daybreak: Bold Palestinian Move

Plus Gingrich goes there, and more in the news

Newt Gingrich in February.(Wikipedia)

• The Palestinians made a surprisingly generous land-concession offer in the proximity talks. Israel would rather be talking about a less controversial subject like water rights. [WSJ]

• Hezbollah is mobilizing to prepare for a large Israeli military drill beginning Sunday. [Haaretz]

• France and Germany’s foreign ministers both hit the Mideast this weekend to talk peace. [Ynet]

• Moshe Greenberg died at 81. An Israel Prize winner, he was one of the first Jews who critically taught the Bible in the American academy. [NYT]

• Newt Gingrich’s new book says President Obama’s policies are as “great a threat to America as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.” The AJC wants an apology. [American Jewish Committee]

• And while we were out for Shavuot, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania) lost this year’s Democratic primary. So much for the party switch. [JTA]

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.”

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