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Across A Border

On the road with Girls in Trouble—with video!

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Any tour worth its salt includes these three things: major landmarks, occasional navigational difficulties, and lots of laughter in the van. If you’re really lucky, they happen all at once.

There’s also the pleasure of making friends with new bands, like Judgment Day (from the Bay Area), a kick-ass (and unusual) heavy metal trio with whom we played in Chicago:

And then there are the things that are hard to even put into words. Our bass player has toured through Detroit before and made it a point to bring us all to the Heidelberg Project, an absolutely incredible installation by a local visionary who has been making art out of abandoned homes for years:

In Hamtramck, Michigan, we played at a lovely cafe, where the audience energy was absolutely amazing. We stayed that night in a parsonage (!), thanks to our friend Faith, a pastor of the C.M.E. church. And then we headed to the Canadian border.

They almost didn’t let us in the country (shades of the Red Sea), but in the end we made it in and did two press performances (one mainstream, one college radio), and then drove to the club in Toronto. There, our new friend Lainie filmed us playing “Snow/Scorpions & Spiders.”

Daybreak: China Says It Backs Sanctions

Plus Israel insists on ‘homegrown’ peace, and more in the news

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Sarkozy arriving in America Sunday.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

• Meeting face-to-face, President Hu Jintao told President Barack Obama that China could support economic sanctions against Iran. [LAT]

• The Israeli government warned that it would oppose a peace plan that the United States writes and then imposes on the parties. A solution to the conflict, it said, must be “homegrown.” [WSJ]

• French President Nicolas Sarkozy cautioned that a failure of the international community to act on Iran would result in a “disastrous” Israeli strike. [Ynet]

• Israeli troops shot and killed an Islamic Jihad militant who was trying to plant explosives on the Gaza border. [NYT]

• Yom HaShoah celebrations in New York City over the weekend emphasized the passing of stories and memories on to the youngest generation. [NYT]

• Late Polish President Lech Kaczynski continues to be remembered as an unprecedented friend to the Jews and Israel—the first Polish leader to attend a Polish synagogue, for example. Prime Minister Donald Tusk (who was not on the plane) is also considered friendly to Israel. [JTA]

Sundown: A Banner Year For Anti-Semitism

Plus Kyrgyz Jews, Finklestein in Turtle Bay, and more

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Norman Finkelstein.(Wikipedia)

• There were over twice as many anti-Semitic acts in 2009 as in 2008, according to a new study. Incidents rose following the Gaza conflict. [Ynet]

• The New Jersey Star-Ledger was one of three finalists (though not the victor) for the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting for its coverage of the corruption scandal stemming from the state’s Syrian Jewish community. [Pulitzer]

• The Jewish community of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, is anxious for its own safety given the recent coup in the country. [JTA]

• Veteran negotiator Aaron David Miller posits that the Obama administration’s goal may be to encourage a change in Israeli government—so that they no longer have to deal with Prime Minister Netanyahu. [LAT]

• The notorious Norman Finkelstein appeared last week in front of the U.N. Correspondents Assocation. [TNR.com]

• Jewcy uncovers the executive editor of Village Voice Media writing something … really, really questionable about “Jews.” [Jewcy]

Old Jewish negotiator extraordinaire Herb Cohen discusses Real Housewives of New York. Pretty much can’t-miss.

Herb Cohen on Real Housewives of New York, S3E6 from aarongell on Vimeo.

Bishop Blames Criticism on Zionists

The church of self-hating Jews?

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Pope Benedict XVI yesterday.(L'Osservatore Romano Vatican-Pool/Getty Image)

Hey Catholic Church! Are you guys, in your persecution, sorta kinda like the Jews? Or are you yourselves being persecuted at the hands of the Jews? (“They do not want the Church,” an Italian bishop said, saying the recent criticism over pedophilia cover-ups was a “Zionist attack.”) “They are its natural enemies. Deep down, historically speaking, the Jews are God killers.”

My theory is that the Church is both persecuted Jews and persecuted by Jews. That is, they are self-hating Jews. They are certainly self-hating.

‘Criticism Against Church A Zionist Attack’ [Ynet]
Earlier: Vatican Official Compares Church Critics to Anti-Semites

Catching the Mouse

An old Jew tells a joke

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This one is, um, y’know, a little bit risqué, so be warned.

The Brooklyn Bike Lane Battle Today

‘New York’ covers the Hasid-hipster clash

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Satmar Hasidim in south Williamsburg.(New York)

The new issue of New York has a long, comprehensive article on the Great Brooklyn Bike Lane Brawl: the fight in south Williamsburg between the resident Satmar Hasidim, who aspire “to faithfully reproduce pious shtetl culture—in the sooty five-story brownstones,” and the nearby hipsters who are synonymous with the neighborhood in the popular culture. “Clash of the Bearded Ones”—great title, guys—focuses on the controversy over the Bedford Avenue bike lane, in which the Satmars, who do not like scantily clad young people cycling by, allegedly struck a deal to get the city to remove the reserved lane. It profiles Baruch Herzfeld, who has positioned himself as a go-between, and even alerts us to the emerging trend of, yup, Hasid hipsters.

You should read the whole article, in other words. And, for context, you might want to watch the video, below, that the folks at God & Co. made for Tablet Magazine last year. Certainly provides a new perspective on the Hasid-hipster culture clash, and it’s just really, really funny.

The Golem from Tablet Magazine on Vimeo.


Clash of the Bearded Ones
[NYMag]
Feet of Clay [Tablet Magazine
Earlier: Did NYC’s Transit Dept. Strike A Backroom Deal with Satmars?
Better Living Through Cycling

Tabloid Awaits Pulitzer Announcement

Enquirer’s Levine expects to be shut out

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Sometime in 2008, at the height of the National Enquirer’s investigation into John Edwards’ affair with Rielle Hunter, the paper’s executive editor, Barry Levine, found himself at a party in East Hampton with one of his idols: Carl Bernstein, the Jewish half of the team that broke the Watergate scandal. As a kid in the Philadelphia suburbs, Levine scoured newsstands for copies of The Washington Post, a prized find in those pre-Internet days. “Watergate was a defining factor when I was growing up, and what they did was a great inspiration to me,” Levine recalled. “And Bernstein said to me, ‘You’re doing a good job, kid.’”

Levine, 51, is a veteran of the celebrity-scandal news business who directed the Enquirer’s Edwards coverage from the paper’s New York offices, on Park Avenue. He will be as surprised as anyone if he hears his reporters’ names when the Pulitzer Prize board announces this year’s recipients later today. Despite winning a much-publicized fight to gain eligibility for the Edwards stories, he told me last week, “We’re not holding our breath.” He went on, “Whether we win or not, we received a huge amount of recognition from the mainstream media.” And he doesn’t just mean Carl Bernstein.

The Edwards stories were hardly the first serious scoop the Enquirer has scored—there was the picture of Donna Rice sitting on wayward presidential candidate Gary Hart’s lap, in 1988, and the proof that Jesse Jackson was supporting an illegitimate child, in 2001—but it’s the first time the paper has provoked a grand jury investigation into once-viable presidential candidate’s alleged wrongdoing. The paper’s staff has earned itself a place in the pantheon of American muckraking, the long, illustrious history of which stretches from Ida Tarbell and Upton Sinclair to I.F. Stone, Jimmy Breslin, and Bernstein—scrappy, often ethnic journalists who never let go of their outsider perspective.

The Enquirer isn’t usually associated with Jews. Its founder was Generoso Pope Jr., a Bronx-born, MIT-educated former spy whose father published an Italian-language paper in New York. Its reporting DNA primarily reflects the Fleet Street veterans whom Rupert Murdoch imported into its onetime rival (and now sister paper) the Star in the early 1990s. But the three top guns who oversaw the Edwards story happen to be Jewish—Levine, former editor-in-chief David Perel (who now runs Radar Online, part-owned by Enquirer owner American Media Inc.), and AMI chief David J. Pecker, the Bronx-born son of a bricklayer who bought the paper in 1999 with the goal of competing with celebrity glossies like People and Us Weekly.

And they’ll keep running their band of muckraking outsiders, whatever the establishment in Morningside Heights announces this afternoon.

Timeline: How the Enquirer Uncovered the Edwards Scandal [National Enquirer]

Painting Her Grandparents, and Herself

‘Survivors’ depicts the Holocaust today

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“Into the Night.”(Julie Mauskop)

Through April 21, the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, in co-sponsorship with 3GNY, is exhibiting Julie Mauskop’s paintings of her grandparents, who survived Auschwitz, as well as her own reflections on the Holocaust. “Survivors” showcases 12 of the 24-year-old’s paintings, a video tape of her grandparents in their kitchen, and three photographs. “I am drawn to my grandparents’ spiritual journey, especially as time passes and we continue to grow,” writes Mauskop.

Mauskop’s paintings are generally large-scale and include different colors and motion. Some feature integrated photographs or dancers, as dancing is one of Mauskop’s passions. Mauskop also uses outside materials, such as the attached leaves and painted-over newspaper in her painting, “Untitled.” (more…)

Today on Tablet

Pi life, a Canadian book controversy, and more

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In an especially bookish day in Tablet Magazine, Life of Pi author Yann Martel, whose new novel uses animals in a Holocaust allegory, visits for a Vox Tablet podcast. Parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall discusses a young-adult novel about a Palestinian girl that has caused great controversy for Canada’s Jewish community. The forthcoming books that Josh Lambert previews in his weekly column look pretty good (and, in the case of Blue Ribbon Cookbook, delicious). Scrolls were books before there were books, and, let’s face it, The Scroll may be a book after there aren’t books anymore.

Joshua Venture Group Names Fellows

You read it here first!

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Later today, the Joshua Venture Group, which promotes social entrepreneurship in the Jewish community, will announce its eight 2010-12 fellows. Along a venture capital model, each fellow will receive $100,000, plus additional organizational support.

Here are the eight fellows (full biographies available here). Don’t forget to congratulate them!

• Zelig Golden, Wilderness Torah. Oakland, California.

• Alison Laichter, The Jewish Meditation Center. Brooklyn, New York.

• Sarah Lefton, G-dcast. San Francisco, California.

• Rachel Nussbaum, Kavana Cooperative. Seattle, Washington.

• Nati Passow, The Jewish Farm School. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

• Zheynya Plechkina, The Children’s Art Initiative. Brooklyn, New York.

• Eli Winkelman, Challah for Hunger. Austin, Texas.

• Ari Weiss, Uri L’Tzedek. New York, New York.

Daybreak: Polish ‘Friend of Israel’ Mourned

Plus Iran’s maybe-never nuke, Obama’s nuke summit today, and more in the news

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A poster near the presidential palace in Warsaw.(Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu mourned Polish President Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and others aboard the plane that crashed in western Russia over the weekend. He called the late Polish president “a great friend of Israel.” [Haaretz/Forward]

• Accused leaker Anat Kamm said she would waive journalistic immunity, and urged Uri Blau—the Haaretz reporter who wrote the article allegedly based on her documents—to return from Britain. [Haaretz]

• Defense Secretary Robert Gates disclosed that the U.S. government does not believe that an Iranian nuclear bomb is inevitable. [Ynet]

• An amended military order enables the expulsion of West Bank residents who lack an unspecified “permit.” A human rights group worries it could pave the way to thousands of Palestinians being kicked out. [NYT]

• An Iran expert argues that extra U.S. pressure on Israel over settlements won’t help make the Arab world come around to the U.S. side vis-à-vis Iran. In fact, a U.S.-Israel divide may further harden the stance of Iran itself. [WP]

• President Obama’s nuclear summit begins today. Administration officials are seeking to emphasize common ground and downplay controversial issues, most notably the Mideast conflict. [LAT]

Sundown: Jewish Majority Approves of Obama

Plus Smith v. Rosenberg, Packer v. Ramadan, and more

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Malcolm McLaren.(Telegraph)

• President Obama’s approval rating among American Jews is 57 percent, according to an American Jewish Committee poll. 55 percent approve of his Israel policy. [Ben Smith]

• Mideast columnist Lee Smith responds to profile subject Dalia Mogahed (and to M.J. Rosenberg, who criticized him). [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• There have indeed been discussions, but “no decision” on an Obama administration-scripted peace plan, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Jim Jones. [Laura Rozen]

• Is the U.S. denying visas to Israeli nuclear scientists, as Maariv reported? No, says the State Department. [Ben Smith]

• George Packer’s take on last night’s panel, in which he participated. (Thanks for the link!) [Interesting Times]

• Malcolm McLaren, the half-Jewish Sex Pistols manager and important punk figure, died at 64. [Jewish Journal]

Anarchy in the U.K.!


Sex Pistols – Anarchy in the UK (Studio Version)
Uploaded by larsen42. – See the latest featured music videos.

Ramadan and Lévy: Separated At Birth?

Mirror images at odds

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Tariq Ramadan (L) and Bernard-Henri Lévy (R).(John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images (Ramadan); Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images (Lévy))

Two months ago, Columbia University rolled out the red carpet for French Jewish public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy when he headlined a panel discussion on secularism, Islam, and democracy in the West. Lévy asserted the need for Muslims to respect the Enlightenment value of free expression—including the freedom of Westerners, like the notorious Danish cartoonists of 2005, to criticize Islam without fear of censure or violence. Wearing his trademark spiffy, half-buttoned white Charvet shirt and blazer, fielding questions in his charming European accent from New Yorker editor David Remnick and flaking for the Intentional League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (the French Anti-Defamation League), which cosponsored his talk, Lévy, to my ears, was an entertaining but ultimately unbearable, grandstanding prig, and I said as much.

Last night, Swiss Muslim public intellectual Tariq Ramadan was welcomed with even greater fanfare—having been barred from America by the Bush administration, this was his first trip to the U.S. in six years—to Cooper Union (over 100 blocks down from Columbia!) to headline a panel called “Secularism, Islam, and Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West.” Ramadan asserted the need for the U.S. and Europe to respect the Enlightenment value of free expression—including the freedom of Muslims like himself to criticize the West without fear of censure or violence. Wearing his trademark spiffy white shirt and blazer, no tie, most buttons buttoned, fielding questions in his charming European accent from New Yorker staff writer George Packer and flaking for the American Civil Liberties Union, which cosponsored his talk, Ramadan was … well, you get the idea.

Lévy and Ramadan hate each other. They feuded after Ramadan published an article in 2003 accusing Lévy and other French-Jewish intellectuals of selling out their political consciences for Israeli interests when they supported the Iraq War. I would like to propose that this is a classic case of sibling rivalry—classic even in the Freudian sense—as the two, as though separated at birth, compete for the love and legacy of the same father. Both men make fairly obvious points about the necessity of upholding “European values” despite the challenges of Muslim emigration to the West, and both give themselves massive credit for doing so. BHL believes Islam thus far has not shown itself to be compatible with these values, but offers prayers for a reformist Muslim intellectual to come along and resolve the clash of civilizations; Ramadan believes Islam is compatible with these values, and that he is the intellectual of BHL’s dreams. Oh Father Enlightenment, who is your favorite son?

Earlier: Live, From New York, It’s Tariq Ramadan
A French Intellectual’s French Views of Islam

Foreman and Cotto Meet at Fight Site

Warm-up conference for June 5 Yankee Stadium bout

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Cotto (L) and Foreman (R) at Yankee Stadium today.(Matthew Fishbane)

The Battle of the Boroughs is on. Renderings of the ring as it will fit in right centerfield, with its boxy bad-weather canopy, are printed. The Ballans have graciously ceded their son’s Bar Mitzvah slot. The undercard of nine fights is filled with a melting pot: “a fighter from every ethnicity,” proclaimed promoter Bob Arum, without elaborating, save to mention a Pole from New Jersey who will fight an Irishman. Come June 5, the first boxing match in Yankee Stadium since Muhammad Ali beat Ken Norton back in 1976 will pit Puerto Rican superstar Miguel Cotto against the Brooklyn-based Belorussian and famously Orthodox future rabbi Yuri Foreman.

“If I win,” Foreman told reporters gathered for a packed press conference this morning just up the third base line, “I will have the chance to rename Yankee Stadium ‘Yankel Stadium.’”

Bad jokes aside, and despite being the a super welterweight world champion, Foreman—in plaid pants, a pink tie, and fedora, looking every bit the Brooklynite—played the giddy pup to Cotto’s demure bulldog. “We are the owners of our own destiny,” Cotto said. Foreman, meanwhile, called his discovery of Judaism “amazing.” Both are charged with helping to bring stellar performers from their home countries to sing their anthems; Foreman, who lived in Israel from 1991 to 1999, promised “the greatest singer in Israel” to sing the Hatikvah. Commenters, place your bets.

Promoters handed the fighters baseball bats and boxing gloves. “It’s not a golf club,” manager Alan Cohen reminded Foreman, who has obviously never played baseball before. Foreman was asked if, before now, he had ever imagined standing behind home plate. “When I flew in from Ben Gurion to JFK,” Foreman said, “the only thing I was looking for was a cab. I was 19 then. Now I’m 29. I’m certainly happy to be here.”

On fight Saturday, Foreman’s camp considered spending Shabbat in the stadium (“a Shabbas to remember,” Foreman said). But Yankee officials balked, and so instead, he’ll stay at a 96th Street hotel, with police escort standing by to race him to the stadium as soon as the sun hits the horizon. Boxing begins at 10:15 pm. Tickets go on sale next Friday. Is this something you want to miss?

Related: In Training [Tablet Magazine]
Earlier: Yuri Foreman Battles a Bar Mitzvah

Montreal Police Test Holocaust Soap

Not of the clean variety

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Montreal police are conducting an extensive scientific analysis of a bar of soap that a St. Laurent Boulevard store was peddling for $300 last week. Why? Well, this is that bar of soap, stamped with a swastika, that shopkeeper Abraham Botines claimed was discovered at a Nazi concentration camp in Poland and was therefore “probably” made from … yeah, you get the idea. Botines said he bought it from a Canadian soldier who discovered it in Poland. The assumption that the soap was the product of human remains was apparently left up to Botines himself.

This isn’t the first talk of Nazis allegedly having produced soap from human remains. Last year, Tablet Magazine covered the “Nazi Soap Myth,” with Holocaust scholar Michael Berenbaum asserting that the making of soap from human fat would have been financially infeasible for the Nazis, and that several tests have shown that soap presented as “human soap” has in fact been nothing of the sort. As the good folks at Montreal PD will no doubt soon learn.

Alleged Holocaust Soap To Be Tested [JTA]
Earlier: Is ‘Nazi Soap’ A Myth?

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