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Introducing ‘Forest Hills State of Mind’

Jay-Z and Alicia Keys ain’t got nothing on this

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Billy Eichner, a comedian and Friend-of-Tablet-Magazine, was inspired by Jay-Z’s anthem, “New York State of Mind,” to write a similar tribute to the site of his childhood: the New World shtetl of Forest Hills, Queens. Substituting for Alicia Keys as the female background vocalist is Rachel Dratch, of Saturday Night Live fame.

So I got bar mitzvahed
And though I didn’t wanna
The theme of my bar mitzvah party
Was Madonna!

“This is my ode to young Jews in NYC and all over the world,” Eichner told us. Enjoy!

Today on Tablet

Hating Israel but loving peace, recalling Derrida, killing Jimmy Carter, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Beirut-based Hanin Ghaddar struggles with her Lebanese grandmother, whom she loves, but who herself loves Hezbollah and is, er, less bullish on Israelis and Jews. Columnist Seth Lipsky takes a break from the Jew beat to profile Raymond Joseph, Haiti’s ambassador to the United States—and a former Wall Street Journal business reporter. Poetry critic David Kaufmann revisits (Jewish) literary theorist Jacques Derrida six years after his death. The latest entry in our Emails of Zion series—in which we helpfully publish those angry missives that your uncle may not have forwarded to you yet—concerns a wish that former President Jimmy Carter cease his current practice of being alive. The Scroll is more selective in its death-wishes.

Florida Ponzi-ist Could Make Big Impact

Rothstein revelations may toy with GOP primary

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Crist in Fort Lauderdale last month.(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

South Florida attorney Scott Rothstein has been accused of masterminding a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme, and plans to plead guilty. Should he allocute, and name names of co-conspirators or other complicit parties, this provincial small-time crook (well, small-time compared to a Bernard Madoff, anyway) could make national political waves.

That’s because, according to Time, plenty of Rothstein’s allegedly illegal money went into state politics, which may in and of itself have broken campaign-finance laws. And most of that money, moreover, went to the state Republican Party … which currently finds itself embroiled in a brutal primary campaign. Depending on which side is more implicated—incumbent Gov. Charlie Crist or state House Speaker Marco Rubio—Rothstein could affect the outcome of the race. On top of which, the contest has implications beyond itself: it is serving as a proxy for the national intra-Republican conflict between moderates (represented by Crist) and hard-line conservatives (represented by Rubio). So very quickly, you can see Rothstein having a major national impact.

Finally, since the bulk of Rothstein’s political donations went to the more powerful state Republican Party, a political scandal tied to the Rothstein case could also conceivably help state Democrats. And maybe national Democrats too? The sky’s the limit for this guy!

Florida’s Mini-Madoff: Scott Rothstein’s Fall [Time]

Daybreak: Israel Wants In the OECD Club

Plus Merkel the pro-Israel maverick, and more in the news

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• Israel’s controversial weapons trade and border disputes are threatening its membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the global club for large, developed economies. [NYT]
• An OECD report shows that Israel, if admitted, would be its poorest member. Its Arab and ultra-Orthodox populations pull the numbers down. [Haaretz]
• Chancellor Angela Merkel has made waves in the E.U. and Germany for her unusually staunch pro-Israel stances. [NYT]
• President Abbas’s current idea is to get Israel to impose an East Jerusalem construction freeze as short as three months before talks resume. But Prime Minister Netanyahu is unlikely to go along. [JPost]
• The FBI arrested four Israeli businessmen, along with 18 others, in connection with the alleged bribery of an African defense minister over a multimillion-dollar defense contract. [Haaretz]
• Ernst Cramer died at 96. He escaped Buchenwald, joined the U.S. Army, and fought the Nazis; in his later life, he was a journalist known for standing up for Israel. [JTA]

Sundown: Turkish Turn Feared

Plus R.I.P. Erich Segal, Hezbollah and drugs, and more

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• The Israeli military intelligence head warned that Turkey is “moving further away from the secular Ataturk approach, closer to a radical approach,” and “no longer needs a close relationship with Israel.” [Haaretz]
• Erich Segal, the Harvard classics professor who wrote the popular novel Love Story, died at 72. Segal also penned Love Story’s screenplay, as well as the script of—who would have guessed?—The Beatles’s Yellow Submarine movie. [NYT]
• A Crete synagogue was set ablaze for the second time in two weeks. Israel asked Greece to prevent further attacks and to aid in the temple’s reconstruction. [Ynet]
• Hezbollah’s activities are funded in part through European drug-dealing, according to a big report in Der Spiegel. [Ynet]
• Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi, the first Israeli in the NBA, got into a heated argument with his coach over declining playing-time. [Haaretz]
• The papers of Chaim Potok, the rabbi and author of The Chosen, were moved to their new home: the University of Pennsylvania’s rare book and manuscript library. [ArtsBeat]

In and Out of Love With Zionism

Tony Judt recalls 1960s kibbutz life

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Orthodox Jews work the fields near a kibbutz, May 2009.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Historian Tony Judt provoked not a little controversy several years ago for proposing a single bi-national state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, effectively repudiating Zionism. Judt’s views, agree with them or not, are in part informed by his experiences living on kibbutzim in the 1960s. He recounts this time in a brief, lovely memoir in the latest New York Review of Books. Judt remembers:

For the neophyte fifteen-year-old Londoner encountering the kibbutz for the first time, the effect was exhilarating. Here was “Muscular Judaism” in its most seductive guise: health, exercise, productivity, collective purpose, self-sufficiency, and proud separatism—not to mention the charms of kibbutz children of one’s own generation, apparently free of all the complexes and inhibitions of their European peers.

Judt’s attraction to the world of the kibbutzim and to Labour Zionism failed to win out against his desire to attend university in Europe and the revulsion he felt while serving in the Israeli military. Judt concludes:

Labour Zionism made me, perhaps a trifle prematurely, a universalist social democrat—an unintended consequence which would have horrified my Israeli teachers had they followed my career. But of course they didn’t. I was lost to the cause and thus effectively “dead.”

Read the whole thing. Judt is a remarkable, perceptive writer. (He has also written beautifully about living with, and dying of, Lou Gehrig’s disease.)


Kibbutz
[NYRB]
Night [NYRB]

Jewish Characters on ‘Glee’ to Reunite

And we take the credit

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Breaking news for fans of Fox’s musical-comedy Glee (which won the Golden Globe for best comedy series Sunday night): Rachel and Puck, the musical-theater diva and the football-playing jock, are going to rekindle the romance they briefly enjoyed in an episode early this season. Said show creator Ryan Murphy: “I was really surprised [viewers responded so favorably to that pairing]. I thought people would find her to be far too irritating for him.”

Part of what makes Rachel and Puck such a special couple is their shared heritage. In fact, it is Puck’s desire to settle down with a nice Jewish girl that compels him to pursue her in the first place. Jeremy Dauber wrote about this intra-faith coupling last October in Tablet Magazine.

Exclusive: ‘Glee’ boss on Rachel/Puck, Kurt’s new BF, and Madonna! [Entertainment Weekly]

Related:
The Outsiders [Tablet Magazine]

Israeli Olympians Exiled from Promised Land

The skating diaspora is mainly in Jersey

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Where is the main Israeli skating rink? Why, in Paramus, New Jersey, of course! (There is one in Israel that is regulation-size, but it is located perilously close to the Lebanon border.) A bunch of Israeli hopefuls are training in and around Bergen County in anticipation of next month’s Olympics in Vancouver, Canada. Although for some, a solid performance at the European Figure Skating Championships, which begin today in Estonia, stands in the way of an Olympics berth.

Israel has never won a Winter Olympics medal; the closest it came was in the 2006 games, when a mixed ice-dancing team finished sixth. But Efraim Zinger, the Israeli Olympic Committee’s secretary general, is nonetheless optimistic for this year: “We are not blessed with too many outstanding athletes,” he boasted. Wait, what???

Yes, folks, the buried lede here is the astonishing—and, to editorialize a tad more, disgraceful—lack of support these athletes are getting from their own country. It is not just those undermine-y comments. So far, the Israeli Ice Skating Federation has received roughly one quarter what the IOC has promised it. “Everything is a challenge,” says the Federation’s head (who resides in Paramus, natch). “No winter in Israel is one problem. Not being a sports country is another. It’s a challenge for funding, a challenge to get people to appreciate what our skaters have accomplished.”

Only two things, it seems to us, will change this: Either one of these competitors is going to have to win a medal, or someone is going to have to make Cool Runnings 2: Shalom Skaters! We would prefer the former. In the meantime, can someone please fire the Israeli Olympic Committee head?

Israel’s Winter Athletes Come to U.S. Seeking Ice and Medals [NYT]

Iraq To Build Mosque Over Prophet’s Tomb

And wants its Jewish archives back

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The tomb of Ezekiel, April 2009.(Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)

Ezekiel is buried in Iraq (so are Ezra, Daniel, Nehemiah, Nahum, and Jonah—where exactly did you think Babylon was, anyway?). He is supposedly interred in a tomb in the town of Al-Kifl, south of Baghdad. The building has a minaret attached, but in its interior there are Hebrew inscriptions and a Torah ark. Give credit where credit is due: the local Shiites have preserved it this way for centuries (Ezekiel is holy to them, too). Now, though, according to local reports, the Iraqi government plans to remove all traces of the site’s Jewish heritage and build a mosque atop it. The government cites the structure’s dangerous condition, but many have their doubts.

Meanwhile, half a world away, the invaluable contents of the Iraqi Jewish Archive, recovered by U.S. troops in May 2003 from a flooded basement, are in storage near Washington, D.C. The Iraqi government wants them back, and it is worth pausing on what the head of the country’s national archives had to say in response to concerns that Iraq’s Jewish artifacts do not belong in a country with maybe a dozen Jews left in it: “Iraqis must know that we are a diverse people,” he said, “with different traditions, different religions, and we need to accept this diversity.”

Erasing Ezekiel’s Jewish Identity [JPost]
Iraq Urges U.S. to Give Back Iraqi Jewish Archive [AP/Haaretz]

The Cure To Fasting Headaches

And no, it’s not ‘eat something’

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Pharmaceutical company Merck thinks it has solved your Yom Kippur headache—and that its infamous drug Vioxx, which was the subject of a massive recall and class-action settlement, is involved. The anti-headache drug, marketed as Arcoxia, is a Vioxx cousin. In studies, people who took it the night before a night and day of fasting experienced either no headache or a reduced headache (as compared to those who took the placebo), and found it easier to fast. Arcoxia is available in several European countries as well as Israel. Stateside, however, it is hard to come by: the Food and Drug Administration refused to approve it, on the grounds that it is too similar to its black-sheep cousin. Dunno—it certainly beats suppositories!

Could Vioxx Cousin Prevent Yom Kippur Headache? [Reuters/Vos Iz Neias?]

Today on Tablet

The rabbis’ silence, trouble with Saudis, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, coverage of Rabbi Leib Tropper continues with Allison Hoffman’s look at other prominent rabbis’ notable reaction—or, really, notable lack of reaction—to the scandals surrounding the conversion guru. In his inaugural column, Lee Smith reports a widespread sense that the Obama administration has been tone-deaf in its dealings with Saudi Arabia. Adam Kirsch discusses German Catholic theologian Hans Küng’s “Global Ethic,” an ecumenically-minded tenet that “conceals the very real disagreements between faiths.” Yesterday, Marjorie Ingall compared student experience at Jewish day schools to that at public schools on Martin Luther King Day, and Josh Lambert offered his weekly round-up of forthcoming notable books. The Scroll is back, well-rested, and ready to bring the good word.

IDF Delivers Babies, One Named ‘Israel’

‘No one except the Israeli hospital has taken any of our patients’

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The baby Israel with mom, IDF hospital staffers(IDF)

CNN reports that the Israel Defense Force’s emergency medical facility in Haiti is far and away the most capable and state-of-the-art there right now. (As of Monday, according to the report, not even the United States had established such a facility.) Located in a Port-au-Prince soccer field, the hospital has operating rooms, a radiology department, an intensive care unit, and a children’s division. Doctors in its maternity ward have delivered at least a dozen babies, according to the IDF. The very first infant born there, pictured, was named “Israel” by her mother.

Also, IDF rescue crews have been deployed to try to save victims of the earthquake that struck the Caribbean country one week ago.

Please consider giving to the American Jewish World Service’s Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund, here. You can also text “Haiti” to 90999 to automatically donate $10 to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts.

Finally, you can get updates on the IDF’s activities in Haiti by visiting—where else?—http://twitter.com/idfinhaiti.

Haiti Earthquake: Mother Delivers Baby in a Disaster Zone [ABC News]
Israel Crews Rescue University Student from Haiti Rubble [Haaretz]

Daybreak: Germany’s Historic Anti-Iran Stand

Plus a pope defends another, the ‘couch crisis,’ and more in the news

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• After the first-ever summit between Germany and Israel, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she would seek harsher sanctions against Iran for its alleged nuclear violations. [NYT]
• Pope Benedict XVI defended Pius XII, the controversial pontiff who is now up for sainthood. During the Holocaust, Benedict said, the Vatican gave European Jews “hidden and discreet” help. [WSJ]
• Jordanian sources claim that Iran orchestrated last week’s attack on an Israeli diplomatic convoy traveling through their country. [JPost]
• Defense Minister Ehud Barak met with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara. The two sides said they hope the diplomatic to-do now known as the “couch crisis” can be put behind them. [Haaretz]
• “This was a colossal mistake on the part of Israeli diplomacy,” says a former Israeli envoy to Turkey in a helpful interview. [LAT]
• The U.S. believes Syria is letting Hezbollah train there with advanced anti-aircraft missiles. [Haaretz]

Sundown: Abbas Says He Fears Israeli Assassination

Plus happy 100th to a New York knishery, and more

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• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told an Egyptian news agency that Israel killed Yasser Arafat, and he is worried he will meet the same fate. [Arutz Sheva]
• Legendary Lower East Side knishery Yonah Schimmel’s celebrated its 100th anniversary. [City Room]
• Hamas asked Egypt to stop building an underground wall along its border with Gaza. The wall is intended to slow smuggling. [Ynet]
• A (apparently non-Jewish) Labour member of Britain’s House of Lords announced that the nation’s Jewish community feels “under constant attack.” He pointed to a recent rise in anti-Semitic incidents. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
• Kadima Party leader Tzipi Livni said that Turkey, with which Israel is on icy terms, must choose between moderation and Islamic fundamentalism. [JPost]
• Speaking of which, one Turkish human rights group announced plans to try to lodge war-crimes charges in its country against Israeli Defense Minister (and former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak. [Haaretz]

Why They Hate ‘Why Jews Hate Palin’

A detailed analysis of controversial ‘Commentary’ essay

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Can’t get enough of hating on Jennifer Rubin’s controversial Commentary essay, “Why Jews Hate Palin”? The Atlantic’s Website has a nice compendium of angry reactions to Rubin’s article, grouped under one of three problems that they accuse the essay of having:

• No Evidence That Jews, in Particular, Hate Palin
• Conflates Jews and Liberals
• Recycles Every Anti-Semitic Jewish Stereotype Known to Man

If anyone notices anything detailing why the haters are wrong and Rubin is right, do please leave it in the comments.

The Three Biggest Problems With ‘Why Jews Hate Palin’ [TheAtlanticWire]

Related: Why Jews Hate Palin [Commentary]

Earlier: Why We Hate Her

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