Discuss Our Column

Marjorie Ingall wants your responses


Many of you seem to have a lot to say concerning my little cri de coeur about reconciling my liberalism with Zionism, and my uneasy feeling that I’ve fallen down on the parenting job by not addressing my ambivalence head-on with my kids. I appreciate all the comments, positive and negative. (Well, maybe not so much the one calling me a vapid ignoramus, but then I just took deep breaths and bought shoes on the Internet until the sad feelings passed!)

I’d love to continue to engage with you on this subject. I’ll devote my next column to responding to readers’ comments and questions. Send your suggestions, objections, and queries to—please try to be civil so your own mama would be proud of you—in as few words as possible, by day’s end Wednesday, and I’ll answer as many as I can next Monday. Thanks!

Never Never Land [Tablet Magazine]

The Non-Pulitzer-Winning ‘National Enquirer’

Journal with Jewish DNA strikes out


Great feature in GQ about the National Enquirer’s failed bid to win a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the John Edwards sex scandal. The author is with executive editor Barry Levine when the Pulitzer winners are revealed. (The awards for best investigative reporting went to a story about post-Hurricane Katrina hospital patients who were euthanized and a story about—what else?—corrupt cops. The Enquirer wasn’t even a finalist.)

“So, okay,” the author writes,

There’s one school of thought that says whatever the Enquirer turned up on Edwards is, from a media-ethics perspective (and therefore from a journalism-prize perspective), tainted, that even if Source Y volunteered corroborating evidence freely, the fact that the paper found Source Y by greasing X poisons the well. But it’s also entirely possible—and plausible—that the newspaper editors and J-school types on the Pulitzer board are uptight prigs who just don’t want to reward the UFO-chasers at the Enquirer for straight-up eating their lunch.

Last month, in the run-up to the annual Pulitzer announcement, Levine told Senior Writer Allison Hoffman, “We’re not holding our breath. Whether we win or not, we received a huge amount of recognition from the mainstream media.”

Hoffman noted the publication’s extensive Jewish DNA: In addition to top editor Levine, the former editor-in-chief and the head of American Media Inc. (which owns the Enquirer) are Jewish.

All The Dirt That’s Fit to Print [GQ]
Earlier: Tabloid Awaits Pulitzer Announcement

The Schlemiel Goes To War

Nextbook author speaks to Jewish West Point grads

Professor Ruth Wisse.(Harvard)

Ruth Wisse—a professor of Yiddish at Harvard and the author of Nextbook Press’s Jews and Power—gave a special commencement address last week to the 13 Jewish cadets who graduated this year from West Point. It’s well worth your time.

Speaking to the college grads, she recalled her own doctoral dissertation, titled, “The Schlemiel as Modern Hero.” The schlemiel—the quintessential bumbling Yiddish everyman (who, as Marissa Brostoff observed, continues to find new incarnations)—is, Wisse notes, “a man so naïve that he doesn’t understand the premise of the fight into which he has been conscripted.”

Hence the following joke: During World War I, an officer announces to his troops, “The moment has come! We’re going to charge the enemy. It’ll be man against man in hand-to-hand combat.”

A Jewish solider responds: “Please, sir. Show me my man! Maybe I can come to an understanding with him.”

“We now know,” Wisse continues,

what happened to the people who created those jokes. They were slaughtered in the millions. What we call the Holocaust targeted precisely the population that created schlemiel comedy. We learned from that episode that sweetness was no laughing matter and that joking—which momentarily releases tension—offered no defense against real belligerents. The schlemiel who initially made us laugh also taught us to raise our guard.

Her point? “In this season of convocation, we your relatives, friends, and well-wishers honor you who have trained for the armed forces, acting on the knowledge that radical innocence is no match for radical evil.”

War Is No Joke [The Weekly Standard]
Related: Jews and Power [Nextbook Press]
Look Out! [Tablet Magazine]

Today on Tablet

Rosenbaum and Kahane, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Ron Rosenbaum remembers the Jewish Defense League. Books critic Adam Kirsch tackles Anthony Julius’s tome on British anti-Semitism. And The Scroll tries to get some reading done as well.

Did Inna Grade Leave a Will?

Yiddish writer’s papers may wind up in Jerusalem

Inna Grade.(Jack Manning/The New York Times/Redux)

The New York Times (a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture) has published the latest in its series of items on Inna Grade, who died two weeks ago. (The Times broke the news of her death. Oh, no, sorry, that was us, though you wouldn’t know it from the NYT—not to be peevish or anything.)

Inna Grade was the 85-year-old widow of the Yiddish writer Chaim Grade. She was best known in Yiddish literary circles as a somewhat miserable person who spent three decades after her husband’s death blocking scholars and translators from coming anywhere near his work. Many of those scholars and translators started chomping at the bit when Grade died earlier this month, seemingly without a will—and thus no clear inheritor of Chaim’s literary estate.

But a New York attorney is now claiming that Grade composed a will, back in 1992, and that he has a copy. The lawyer told the Times that Grade wanted her husband’s papers to go to a Hebrew University professor of Yiddish named Yehiel Szeintuch and his wife. If valid, the will is a blow to organizations like the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which has reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Chaim Grade’s papers. Additionally, the Times reports that two septuagenarians who say they are Inna Grade’s first cousins have come forward as well, but have not expressed interest in her husband’s estate.

One thing is for sure: There’s a great sultry jazz number missing from Fiddler on the Roof. “If Inna’s got a will, baby, Inna’s got a way.”

New Twists in the Tale of Chaim Grade
Related: Keeper of the Flame [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: Obama Accuses Syria

Plus Australian ‘crisis,’ and more in the news

Prime Minister Saad Hariri and President Obama in the Oval Office yesterday.(Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

• President Obama informed the Lebanese prime minister that he still believes Syria is transporting Scud missiles to Hezbollah. [Ynet]

• We learned that Australia’s expulsion yesterday of a Mossad representative related to the Dubai/Hamas assassination followed the country’s intelligence chief’s personal trip to Israel. Israeli diplomats called this “a very serious crisis.” [Haaretz]

• Others joined Shimon Peres in denying the report that Israel offered to sell nuclear weapons to apartheid-era South Africa. [NYT]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell revealed that he intends to set a “deadline” for a peace agreement to emerge from the proximity talks. [Foreign Policy]

• Israeli police suggested that the attorney general indict Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for allegedly attempting to subvert a corruption investigation. His indictment for alleged corruption has previously been recommended, though not followed through on. [WSJ]

• The guest list to Thursday night’s White House Jewish Heritage reception is beginning to trickle out. Hopefully invitee Sandy Koufax will show. (We will have a report afterward.) [AP]

Sundown: Out of the Outback

Plus one great big ball of falafel, and more

Giant ball of falafel, with Omri Casspi.(JTA)

• Australia expelled an Israeli diplomat over continuing fallout from the Dubai murder of the Hamas weapons procurer. [Ynet]

• An Israeli chef made the world’s largest falafel ball—30 pounds!—right here in New York City, at what sounds like a typical Greek diner. [JTA]

• The unlikely tale of Henry Roth’s soon-to-be-posthumously-published seventh novel. [NYT]

• Nextbook Press editor Jonathan Rosen is participating in an exciting-sounding forthcoming exhibit at the Whitney Museum. Birds, guys! Birds! [Whitney Museum]

• Simon Monjack, the husband of the late actress Brittany Murphy, was found dead. They’re saying natural causes. [AP/NYT]

• Beef roll-up: The Jewish deli meat presentation you may not have tried, yet. [NYMag]

Marjorie Ingall’s column today has 52 comments! Keep ‘em comin’!

Reform Leader Gets Tough on Iran

Yoffie calls for unity on importance of sanctions

Rabbi Eric Yoffie.(Union of Reform Judaism)

Last week, the Forward published an op-ed by Rabbi Eric Yoffie, the leader of the Reform movement, in which he called on liberal and centrist Jews—his constituency, in other words—to “wake up” to the dangers of a nuclear Iran. The basic message wasn’t news to anyone who’s been paying attention to the Iran issue, but Yoffie’s real argument wasn’t about whether Iran is a threat to the Jewish state. It was about the imperative for the Jewish community to set aside increasingly partisan differences and mobilize as a whole on this existential issue. The left, he wrote, may be underestimating the threat to both Israel and the U.S. But the right isn’t helping by mixing up its opposition to the Obama administration’s Iran policy with its broader discontent, thereby turning off people administration supporters who might otherwise be willing to sign on to a tough-on-Iran platform.

Yoffie talked to Tablet Magazine today about his diagnosis, and how he hopes the left will respond.

What prompted you to write this now?
As I said in the essay, the conservative response was the motivating factor. The common sense notion is that you need American support for dealing with Iran, and the anti-government rhetoric seems so counterintuitive and counter-productive. I have heard it, and having that experience in several instances had me shaking my head, and saying I need to write about it. On the one hand it indicates concern for Iran, but on the other hand it seems to be so counterproductive and not focused on Iran at all, but focused on all kinds of other agendas. Do we care about Iran, or is it a pro-settlement agenda, or an anti-Obama agenda? And is Iran getting lost in the fog?

You wrote that you were puzzled about the relative silence from left and center of the Jewish community on Iran. Why do you think that’s been the case?
On the liberal, centrist side of the equation, I don’t think people feel as passionately about it as they should. So much of the rhetoric on the right strongly suggests, implies, or directly acknowledges that what we’re really pushing for is military action, and that really makes the left and center uncomfortable. My view is that, as the Obama administration has said, we’re not taking anything off the table, but that while it’s getting late, crippling sanctions can still make a difference. I think that’s the way to go. Liberals and centrists are scared off by the implication of military action and that’s a factor in their thinking. But that can’t be a reason for staying silent.

You invoke 1967 to indicate how urgent the threat is.
This is the critical time. It’s not something we can wait six months to talk about. We have to talk about it right now. I think we’re running out of time on the ability of economic sanctions to be effective. So there is real urgency now. And the Obama people have ratcheted up the rhetoric. But if it’s between that and delivering results, results have not been delivered yet. (more…)

Critics Accuse Essay of Ignoring Israel’s Enemies

Conservatives wonder at Beinart’s omission

David Frum.(Wikipedia)

When The Scroll last visited l’affaire Beinart, there were a notable lack of critical right-wing responses to the essay. (Unrelatedly, Tablet Magazine editor-in-chief Alana Newhouse has weighed in.) Now, however, at least two responses—one from David Frum, one from James Kirchick—have supplied the following rebuttal: That Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay understates (or altogether elides) the threats that Israel faces, and therefore is unduly harsh on the Israeli government and its more hawkish American Jewish supporters.

“There is no mention that Palestinians voted Hamas into power in the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections,” Tablet Magazine contributor Kirchick argues.

There is similarly no mention of the murderous anti-Semitism spewed in Palestinian schools, television, radio, and newspapers, or the medieval propaganda sponsored by Iran, Saudi Arabia, or even Egypt. And, perhaps most tellingly, there is no mention of the poll, conducted just last month by An-Najah National University in the West Bank, which found that 77 percent of Palestinians oppose a two-state solution.

The foundational error in Beinart’s piece is a grievous misunderstanding for why the Arab-Israeli conflict persists to this day: Arab intransigence.

Beinart responded to this line of argument by claiming, first, that his essay was less concerned with the motives behind the Israeli government’s actions than the far less explicable ones behind the American Jewish establishment; and, second, that “Arab intransigence” (and worse), while far from irrelevant to the conflict, is also not necessarily the main motivating factor. (more…)

Blown Disguise

An old Jew tells a joke



Israeli Sitcom Coming to Fox

With L.A. subbing for T.A.

Ramzor.(Ramzor on Facebook)

Ramzor, Hebrew for traffic light, is one of those television shows—think Everybody Loves Raymond or Two and a Half Men—that everybody watches and nobody admits to watching. The sitcom was aired on Israel’s Channel 2 for two years. And, coming this fall, American audiences, too, can enjoy its surprisingly satisfying blend of stereotypes and raw humor: Fox has bought the format, rechristened the show Mixed Signals, and transferred its plot from Tel Aviv to Los Angeles. It debuts this fall.

The show’s Hebrew name is meant as a metaphor for the three stages in the development of the average male: Green Light (single! stupid! oversexed!); Yellow Light (in a committed relationship! confused! anxious!), and Red Light (married with children! desperate! emasculated!). As befitting such a premise, the American show’s mastermind is Bob Fisher, who wrote that classic of male arrested development, Wedding Crashers.

Here’s a quick taste of the traffic light, American style. Say, is that Pam’s ex?

Fox Buys Israeli Sitcom ‘Ramzor’ [Ynet]

Nixon’s Jew-Counter Returns to Spotlight

Virginia governor taps Fred Malek

Fred Malek.(Washington Post)

Slate’s Timothy Noah has a nice screed against Fred Malek, the longtime political operative most recently appointed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a conservative Republican, to a government reform commission. The problem with Malek is that, in the 1970s, at the direction of President Nixon, he appears to have compiled a list of Jews (or, more precisely, people with Jewish-sounding names) at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and then played a role in many of these folks’ demotions. Later on, he lied about this.

Writes Noah,

Malek has not lifted a finger publicly to correct these lies, much less apologize for the actions they were meant to conceal. …

Malek’s Jew-counting past probably played some role in his investment group’s failing to win Major League Baseball’s approval to own the Nationals, the D.C. baseball team—Malek had previously helped supply the cash for George W. Bush to acquire the Texas Rangers—but given the Nationals’ performance, that may have been a blessing in disguise. Malek has lately emerged as a leading adviser to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

Now Malek is reorganizing Virginia state government. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that in giving Malek this job, McDonnell is coddling an anti-Semite. I believe that Malek was probably repulsed by what he ended up doing for Nixon. But he did it, and ever since Malek has lied to avoid admitting the depth of his involvement in this grotesque episode. If that’s atonement, then I’m St. Francis of Assisi.

One quibble: Check the sports section, Mr. Noah! The Nationals are currently one game above .500!

What’s The Matter With Virginia? Part 2 [Slate]

Today on Tablet

Berman takes flight, Zionism for kids, and more


Today, Tablet Magazine presents a double helping of Paul Berman and his new book, The Flight of the Intellectuals: Berman sits with Senior Editor Sara Ivry for the Vox Tablet podcast, and Christopher Hitchens gives the book a rave review. The whole brouhaha over Peter Beinart’s essay provokes parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall to consider how American liberals should discuss Israel with their kids. The Scroll sort of wishes there were a yontiff this week, too.

Livni Attacked for Pro-Gay Stance

Good luck with that


Tzipi Livni, the leader of the main Israeli opposition party, Kadima, came under fire from some activists in her party for her “exaggerated demonstration of support for the homosexual and lesbian community.” Kadima—which aims for the political center, to the left of the ruling Likud Party but to the right of traditionally left-wing Labor—“should position itself in the center and right of the political map,” the activists argued, and supporting gay rights works against that.

Livni had wanted to personally launch next month’s Gay Pride parade in Tel Aviv. But the activists alleged that “such conduct may create the wrong impression that Kadima is shifting to the left, and this may distance the party from its main target audience.”

Really, though, this is a good excuse to point out (as Eli Valley helpfully did) that the ad that went along with Ynet’s article last night is, well, below.

Ah, the free market comes through again. Point being—and honest American conservatives would likely have the same advice for these Kadima activists—if you are against gay advancement, then the last thing you want to do is bring the issue up.

Kadima Activists Slam Livni Support for Gays [Ynet]

Daybreak: Tehran and Ramallah

Plus Israel would have sold S.A. nukes, and more in the news

President Shimon Peres.(WSJ)

• President Shimon Peres argued that resolving the Iranian nuclear issue would make it easier for Israel to achieve peace with the Palestinians. [WSJ]

• A new book (reviewed in Tablet Magazine) reports that, in 1975, the Israeli defense minister—then Shimon Peres—offered to sell nuclear warheads to apartheid-era South Africa. A Peres spokesperson vigorously denied the report. [Guardian]

• Sometimes a drill is only a drill. This includes, the Israeli government says, the current five-day civil defense drill, which is not, it adds, designed to drum up war with Lebanon. [NYT]

• The Dubai police now have its 33rd subject in the murder of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh: a Scottish-born British national who apparently used his own passport. [WSJ]

• Yesterday’s Salute to Israel Parade drew “tens of thousands” to Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue. [JTA]

• Should Turkey continue to try to forestall Iran sanctions, it could seriously rupture its relations with its NATO allies. [WP]

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