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Everything Came Up Moses

Tablet’s Passover musical premieres

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A scene from last night’s climactic act.(Len Small.)

The Laurie Beechman Theatre on 42nd Street was packed last night for Tablet Magazine’s production of Everything’s Coming Up Moses, a re-telling of the Passover story as inspired by the legendary musical Gypsy. It was massively fun: The performers were outrageously talented and evinced the exact right irony-to-earnestness quotient. The music was, obviously, unbeatable. And contributing editor Rachel Shukert’s book and lyrics were hilarious and witty—really just inspired. Check out the lyrics to four of the songs: “Some Hebrews,” “Little Pascal Lamb,” “You Gotta Make a Living,” and, of course, the title number.

Everything’s Coming Up Moses [Tablet Magazine]

Cantor’s Bullet a Stray

Jewish Republican wasn’t targeted

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Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) last month.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Remember how the campaign office of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) was shot at? And remember how he then said he had been targeted because he is Jewish (the only Republican Jew in the House or Senate, in fact)? Yeah, not so much. According to police, the bullet that went through an office window early Tuesday morning was a stray bullet from unrelated gunfire; in fact, the office contains no outward indication that it is Cantor’s.

The whole thing has taken on political undertones, as Cantor responded angrily to some Democratic lawmakers who have received death threats since the health-care law was passed. “Any suggestion that a leader in this body would incite threats or acts against other members is akin to saying that I would endanger myself, my wife or my children,” he said.

Police Say Gunfire That Hit Cantor’s Office Was Random [WP.com]
Related: U.S. Congressman Cantor: I’ve Been Threatened Because I’m Jewish [Haaretz]
Earlier: Cantor’s Richmond Office Shot At

Getting Psyched for Matzoh Balls

How do you like yours?

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Our friends at JDub Records alert us to the new video from the Macaroons for their song, “Matzoh Ball.” It’s really something of a delight. And it opens onto the age-old question, never more appropriate than right now: Do you prefer your matzoh balls soft, hard, or somewhere in between? This is why we have a comments section, people!

New Video: Matzah Ball (Don’t Kick It) [JDub Records]

It’s Not Easy Being Casspi

My brief encounter with Israel’s first NBA player

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Casspi after Wednesday’s game(Andrew Russeth.)

Wednesday at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the Nets pulled out a victory—a convincing one, in fact—over the Sacramento Kings, bringing their record to 8-63. They have 11 more games this year; if they win none of them, then I will have witnessed the final victory of the worst team in the history of the National Basketball Association.

But I wasn’t there to see history happen. I was there to see Omri Casspi, the Kings’ rookie forward, who is the first Israeli ever to play in the NBA. Casspi (CASS-pee), not yet 22, is already a mini-juggernaut: private meeting with NBA Commissioner David Stern; Sports Illustrated profile; Nike ad. The whole megillah, as we like to say.

I don’t buy the theory that Jews (and really Jewish men) are especially obsessed with Jewish athletes to compensate for deep-seated insecurities: Jews know they can play sports (Hank Greenberg, Mark Spitz); and win a war in spectacular fashion (1967); and even, failing those, succeed without any trace of virility (Woody Allen). I think it’s more just the old-fashioned hobby of Jew-spotting. And that’s why I was there: following the New York Knicks’ successful Jewish Heritage Night, which they held when the Kings came to Madison Square Garden, Wednesday night at the Izod Center was Jewish Family Night. I would get to meet Casspi, as well as featured guests Dmitriy Salita (boxer—and Tablet Magazine contributor!) and Dolph Schayes, the legendary (and actually really good!) American Jewish NBA player in the 1960s.

But Casspi’s more than Jewish: He’s Israeli. The Israeli Tourism Ministry was the event’s sponsor. The flags that the conspicuous number of observant Jews in the stands flew bore Stars of David, not and Stripes. Wednesday night was about a more specific brand of Jewish pride. A brand I’m not sure I understand. (more…)

Today on Tablet

The Seder sausage-making, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Joshua J. Friedman puts together an interactive collage so you can teach yourself just how disparate texts and sources came together to form today’s Seder ritual. Liel Leibovitz notes that this week’s haftorah takes a stand for observing the spirit of the law over fetishizing orthodox stricture. The Scroll takes the same stand against strict rules and conventions: it is, after all, a blog.

Daybreak: Opening the Cabinet

Plus Petraeus denies ‘linkage,’ and more in the news

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Petraeus testifying last week.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with his seven closest Cabinet members today to discuss responding to the U.S. demand that he limit building in East Jerusalem. [NYT]

• The U.S. also reportedly told Israel to hand over more West Bank land—including the Abu Dis area adjacent to Jerusalem—to Palestinian control. [Ynet]

• A new poll finds that 9 percent of Israeli Jews believe the Obama Administration is “pro-Israel,” while 48 percent think it “pro-Palestinian.” [JPost]

• Palestinian Authority police have a tricky needle to thread: They must gain credibility over those whose laws they enforce, even while ultimate sovereignty belongs not to them but to the Israeli military. [LAT]

• Gen. David Petraeus further said that reports prior to his testimony last week significantly overstated how much he has linked the Palestinian conflict to U.S. national security interests elsewhere in the region. [JTA]

• A candidate in a Democratic Congressional primary outside Philadelphia has returned money donated by J Street and asked the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group to withdraw its endorsement. [JTA]

Sundown: Rep. Cantor Points to His Heritage

Plus Bibi’s missing counter-offer, and more

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WTF?(Flickr)

• Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), whose Richmond campaign office was shot at earlier this week, said he has received threats because he is Jewish. [Haaretz]

• President Obama won’t approve the end-of-Passover prayer, “Next Year in Jerusalem,” until both sides agree on the exact wording. These things are complicated. [Frum Follies]

• A columnist faults Prime Minister Netanyahu for not offering an alternate concession in order to stave off U.S. pressure over East Jerusalem settlements. [Haaretz]

• U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates asserted that the stalled peace process does affect “U.S. national security interests in the region,” though not necessarily directly. [Ynet]

• “WTF (What the Fish) is Gefilte!” A Passover conversation with Russ & Daughters. [Bon Appetit Daily]

• Because everyone else has linked to it, here’s a Hasidic band covering Lady Gaga. [The Gloss]

Artist Paints Israel, Sees Apartheid

South African’s skewed vision of conflict

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Dumas’s ‘Wall Wailing’(David Zwirner/Radius Books)

Among the Obama Administration, the United Nations, and the Middle East Quartet, Israel has taken its share of lumps lately. But last week a brickbat came from an unexpected source: the highly-successful South Africa-born artist Marlene Dumas.

Dumas, the 56-year-old subject of a retrospective shown at both L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art and New York’s Museum of Modern Art two years ago, is now exhibiting a new body of work titled “Against the Wall” at the David Zwirner Gallery complex in Manhattan’s Chelsea. The show and its handsome catalogue, which features a number of paintings centered on Israel’s security fence, is a visual and verbal polemic against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

Dumas has never visited Israel. Instead, she relied on photographs clipped from newspapers and magazines to limn her portrait. This led to strange choices, chief among them two large paintings, Wall Weeping and Wall Wailing, which show Arabs lined up at gunpoint, Jack Bauer-style, against Jerusalem’s Western Wall. When, one wonders, would Israeli soldiers do such a thing? It turns out that the image has been based on a photograph shot in the immediate aftermath of the Six Day War that Dumas found in Time magazine.

The entire show depends on the assumption that Israel—despite, or maybe even because of, its religious character—practices apartheid. “White South Africa used the Bible more than all of the time,” Dumas writes. “Everybody used it to justify anything. Love your neighbors but pray that you don’t have to touch them.”

Earlier in her essay she writes: “At this stage of my life, I paint the pictures and then I read the books.”

The best advice we can offer is that she reverse the practice.

Peace Process at Standstill

Did Obama apply pressure at the wrong time?

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I’ll have more on What’s Next before the weekend, but for now there are two must-read pieces on where things stand between the United States and Israel, and between the two countries’ leaders. If things have seemed a bit different over these past couple weeks, that’s because it’s all really new, and, as Jeffrey Goldberg puts it, it’s “big stuff.”

Writing in Politico, Laura Rozen and Ben Smith—who have been all over this whole story from the beginning—do some valuable reporting that suggests, ultimately, that both sides can be faulted for respectively lacking coherent strategies.

Netanyahu, observers said, has refused—out of distrust—to signal to Obama how far he’s willing to go in final-status negotiations. That caginess deepens the distrust.

“If last night they shared that strategic vision, that’s what will repair the relationship,” said Makovsky. “There’s no sign of that, but of course we don’t know.”

Out of distrust and, one should add, out of common sense: If you reveal how much you are willing to concede before negotiations begin, you are putting yourself at a substantial disadvantage.

The Obama Administration saw the original housing announcement—immaculately juxtaposed with Vice President Biden’s arrival—as a golden opportunity to try to advance the externally desired goal of a full settlement freeze. But while the notion of applying extreme pressure to Israel to get concessions, while certainly opposed by the right, is at least debatable, it is looking more and more like the Administration was objectively unwise to apply that pressure now rather than later. Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl, a onetime Jerusalem bureau chief, argues as much:

U.S. pressure on Netanyahu will be needed if the peace process ever reaches the point where the genuinely contentious issues, like Palestinian refugees or the exact territorial tradeoffs, are on the table. But instead of waiting for that moment and pushing Netanyahu on a point where he might be vulnerable to domestic challenge, Obama picked a fight over something that virtually all Israelis agree on, and before serious discussions have even begun.

In doing so, the Administration may have unwittingly sabotaged the very peace process it was sponsoring. Remember: Both it and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wanted a full settlement freeze; Israel compromised by offering a West Bank freeze, paving the way to the proximity talks. Now, with the U.S. request for a full freeze, Abbas has virtually no choice but to walk away even from the proximity talks without one: “How could he do otherwise?” Diehl notes bitterly. “The Palestinian leader cannot be less pro-Palestinian than the White House.”

Deep Chill in U.S.-Israeli Relations [Politico]
Obama and Netanyahu: Pointless Poison [PostPartisan]

Cantor’s Richmond Office Shot At

A rising star, the House’s only Jewish Republican

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Cantor today.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

No news beyond the basic facts of it yet, but the campaign office of Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) in Richmond was shot at Monday morning; the bullet went through a window. Cantor, the House Minority Whip, is the only Jewish Republican in the House or the Senate. Several Democratic legislators have received death threats in the wake of the health care law’s passage, which they supported; Cantor, of course, was staunchly opposed.

Cantor Says Campaign Office Was Shot At, Accuses Dems of Exploiting Threats [Fox News]

Remembering the Triangle Fire

99th anniversary today

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Rendering of the building, from which 50 women jumped to their deaths.(Wikipedia.)

Today is the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. In 1911, 146 garment workers—primarily Jews and Italians—died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, just east of Manhattan’s Washington Square, because management had locked the doors. The worst U.S. workplace disaster until 9/11, it prompted an outcry and paved the way, ultimately, to wider acceptance of workers’ rights.

The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition has an event at Washington Square’s Judson Memorial Church at 6:30 this evening.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: An Indelible Memory, Etched In Chalk [Forward]

Today on Tablet

It’s Greek to us, charoset balls, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, authors, artists, and a boxer offer personal pages to the Haggadah (it’s really cool!). What makes that night different from all other nights? Judith Shulevitz, author of the newly published The Sabbath World, casts an analytic glance at the rituals and finds Greek at their heart. Joan Nathan discusses charoset before divulging the recipe she’ll use this year: charoset balls whose provenance dates to the 13th century. The Scroll would like to remind you that charoset is good and all, but the Hillel sandwich requires only horseradish.

British Intelligence Opposed Expulsion

Diplomats forced move over Dubai killing

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British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.(Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

In deciding to expel an Israeli diplomat and issue a travel advisory to citizens traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the diplomats in Britain’s Foreign Office were in favor (and won out), while officials in Britain’s security service were opposed. The moves were taken, of course, in protest of the faked British passports used in the (likely Mossad-backed) assassination of a Hamas weapons procurer in Dubai. Australia, whose passports were also forged, is likely next to act.

So what does this mean? It means that, barring further sensational evidence that it was indeed the Mossad who killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, you probably just saw the extent of adverse political consequences to the assassination for Israel. And even if there are further wrist-slaps, there are not going to be fundamental break-downs in Israeli alliances over this: no matter how much the diplomats want it, other countries’ intelligence services clearly understand, first, that covert assassination of state enemies on foreign soil is something of the way business is done; and, second, that they need cooperation with Israeli intelligence at least as much as Israeli intelligence needs cooperation with them.

A top Israeli diplomat had the most telling line: “The British really did the minimum required on their part over the passports,” he told Haaretz. In other words, if positions were reversed, this figure would have wanted to do the same thing—after all, he’s a diplomat.

U.K. Officials Were Split Over Expelling Israeli in Dubai Row [Haaretz ]
Related: Israeli: Mossad Hit Didn’t Upset Intel Ties

Daybreak: Nuclear Sanctions, Watered Down

Plus Elijah’s cup and Gilad’s chair, and more in the news

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Gilad Shalit.(The Jerusalem Life)

• The United States has proposed less severe U.N. sanctions to try to get Russia and China onboard. [WSJ/Kurdish Globe]

• Meanwhile, an AIPAC-backed letter calling for harsh and unilateral Iran sanctions has been like a magnet for congressional signatures. [Ben Smith]

• The U.S. and Israeli administrations are constructing “the blueprint”: a list of everything that must be settled as preconditions to peace talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu will need his cabinet’s approval; U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who met with Netanyahu yesterday, will take it to the Palestinians. [WP]

• Sid Fleischman, winner of the Newbery Award for best children’s novel for 1986’s The Whipping Boy, died at 90. [NYT]

• Israel’s chief rabbi called on citizens to save a chair at their seders for Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier. [Ynet]

Sundown: A Different Perspective on Obama-Bibi

Plus bat mitzvah dancing, and more

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• Everyone seems to be worried about declining U.S.-Israel relations … except the Palestinian Authority, which worries they haven’t declined enough. [Ynet]

• Someone else will have to be New York’s next Jewish senator: former Bush speechwriter Dan Senor isn’t running this year. [Ben Smith]

• Speaking in Berlin, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni urged international economic and political sanctions against Iran. [Haaretz]

• “With a heavy heart,” columnist Yossi Alpher backs Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to unilaterally declare sovereignty. [JPost]

• In a meditative essay, Leon Wieseltier argues against Jewish building in East Jerusalem (specifically Sheikh Jarrah). [TNR]

• Oh, so this is what it’s like to be a bat mitzvah motivational dancer. [Slate]

Did you guys know Joy Division had a song called “Passover”? I sure didn’t!

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