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Sundown: Top Reform Rabbi Wants East J’lem Freeze

Plus Levy’s running, a Shabbat to observe, and more

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• Eric Joffie, the top American Reform rabbi, called for an East Jerusalem settlement freeze. [JTA]

• Jorge Puello, the alleged human-trafficker who claims to head the Dominican Sephardic community (but probably doesn’t, and may not even be Jewish), was apprehended in the Dominican Republic. [Fox/Failed Messiah]

• Steve Levy is officially running in the Republican primary for governor of New York. [Ben Smith]

• The newly expanded Jewish Museum London sounds really cool! [NYT]

• The UJA-Federation of New York announced new nominees to its presidency and board chairmanship. [UJA-Federation of New York]

• Guys! From tonight to tomorrow night is the National Day of Unplugging! (And not everyone’s on-board.) Or, as observant Jews call it, “Saturday.” [NYT]

Tear the phone out of the wall!

Turkish Leader’s Selective Memory

Why we must remember the Armenians

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Erdogan late last year.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

The Armenian genocide slaughter whatever-it-was (it was a genocide) is a touchy subject for Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as it is for many Turkish people. His button was pushed most recently by the U.S. House of Representatives’s passage of a resolution referring to the Armenian catastrophe of the early part of the 20th century as, for the first time, “genocide.” Most recently, Erdogan vowed that if such resolutions continued, he would deport 100,000 Armenians from his country. Specifically, these are those Armenians—the majority of Armenian residents of Turkey—who are not citizens, but rather visiting workers. (A status that, ironically enough, describes many Turkish people living in Germany and elsewhere.)

What dog do Jews specifically have in this fight? Leaving aside Erdogan’s penchant for making extremely questionable (to say the least) statements about Jews and particularly Israel, the histories of the Armenian genocide and the Jewish genocide—the Holocaust—are intertwined. Most famously, Hitler told his troops as they prepared to invade Poland, “Go, go kill without mercy. Who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians?”

In other words, if it is to be fully honored, the injunction to “Never Forget” must not apply to the Holocaust, or to the Jews, alone.

PM Erdogan’s Armenian Hostages [Hurriyet]

Worst. Jewish Organization. Ever.

A hateful notion of liberation

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One of us got an email from the group JONAH International directing us to their special Passover message. “With the holiday of Passover upon us and its important message of freedom,” it reads,

we need help to free others from their own personal “mitzrayim” (slavery). Those coming to us for assistance desire to be free of sexual confusion. The only people in a position to help us are those who know and understand the important work we do. And that’s you!! …
JONAH’s mission of helping men, women and their families break free from the chains of sexual confusion, including unwanted homosexuality, links directly into our past liberation from Egypt. The upcoming Passover celebration reminds us of the aspirations and struggles of those who yearn for physical, psychological and spiritual freedom.

The group also touts the success of its recent Noble Man Weekend.

This a blog: snark is like air to us. I don’t think I can be cute about this, though. I was raised to think of the Exodus as the defining story of liberation, and specifically Jewish liberation. Maybe my favorite part of the Seder is when we wish for the liberation of those Jews around the world still in need of freedom; my earliest Seder memories consist of my parents explaining to me about the condition of Soviet Jewry.

JONAH International is co-opting the joyful message of Passover for its own hateful purposes. It ought to be ashamed of itself.

Take Part In This Season Freedom! [Jonah International]

Tennessee Vols Advance

The team you should be ‘mad’ about

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Pearl (center) during the game yesterday.(Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

In a thrilling contest that went down to the last minute late last night, Bruce Pearl’s Tennessee Volunteers—Tablet Magazine’s official NCAA basketball team—held off the San Diego State Aztecs 62-59. Tomorrow, they face 14-seed Ohio, who pulled off a tremendous upset of the Georgetown Hoyas, in Providence, Rhode Island. Once again, they’re the favored team. Go Vols!

Kaplan’s Korner list the Jewish players in the tournament. One is obvious: Tennessee’s Steve Pearl, who shares both his last name and half his DNA with his coach. And it’s not shocking that the Cornell Big Red—RIGHT NOW playing Temple in a first-round game—have a Jew on their team (as does Temple!). But Duke’s Jon Scheyer—the runner-up for ACC Player of the Year—is of the Tribe? Maybe we should all root for Duke?

No, no we shouldn’t.

Jewps ‘Madness’ [Kaplan’s Korner]
Earlier: Go Vols!

Obama, Netanyahu Will Meet Next Week

And—ahem!—we predicted it

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President Obama yesterday.(Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Everyone is reporting it: now that President Obama has further postponed his trip to Asia, he will be in Washington, D.C., next week when Prime Minister Netanyahu is visiting for the AIPAC Conference. They will sit down together next Tuesday.

I’d like to pause and note that I called this on Twitter several days ago. So if you want tomorrow’s news yesterday the next time, do follow us.

Today on Tablet

King of the Jews, a Talmudic cult novel, and more

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Today on Tablet Magazine, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman profiles (must-read!) Alan Solow, the “King of the Jews” selected to lobby the administration on the basis of his close ties to Obama. Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff considers Milton Steinberg, whose As A Driven Leaf, set among the Talmudic sages, has become something of a cult artifact, and whose The Prophet’s Wife is being released posthumously this weekend. Etgar Keret reflects on love and admiration for his older brother. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz examines the phenomenon of the ba’al teshuva—the unobservant Jew who turns Orthodox. The Scroll undergoes multiple spiritual transformations each day.

‘Greenberg’ Gets Raves

With Ben Stiller as the shlemiel

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Stiller earlier this month.(Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

Greenberg, the new film from writer/director Noah Baumbach and starring Ben Stiller, comes out today. Considering it last week, Tablet Magazine’s Marissa Brostoff reported that while “there is little overt Jewishness” (except for the title!), Stiller’s protagonist fits squarely in the venerable tradition of the Jewish shlemiel. (Among other things, he writes letters to random famous people, a la Saul Bellow’s Herzog.)

Jewish or no, reviews pretty overwhelmingly suggest that it’s a recommended weekend activity.

• A.O. Scott of The New York Times calls it “the funniest and saddest movie Mr. Baumbach has made so far, and also the riskiest.”

• In the line that most makes me want to see it, the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman raves, “This is Stiller’s juiciest role since he cast himself as Zoolander, and here, he’s even more comically self-absorbed.”

• The Los Angeles Times’s Betsy Sharkey is one of the few unenthusiastic voices: “It’s sometimes difficult to figure out whether it’s [Stiller’s character] Roger or Baumbach who has lost his way.”

• “Greenberg pulls you in,” says Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers. “Even when you laugh, like in the climactic party scene, it hurts.”

• David Denby, of The New Yorker, concludes, “Honorably, the movie is not the usual rigid-arc fable of redemption. It insists that screwed-up people have a right to their oddities, but it also holds out the hope that they will learn a little bit about life and move on.”

Related: Look Out! [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: Bibi Wants More Building (of Trust!)

Plus Quartet backs state in two years, and more in the news

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• Prime Minister Netanyahu called Secretary of State Clinton to propose a series of “mutual confidence building” (“building”!) steps that Israel and the Palestinians could stage to “improve the atmosphere” and pave the way to talks. [NYT]

• U.S. envoy George Mitchell will head to the region after all, this Sunday. His trip last Tuesday had been cancelled as the United States awaited a satisfactory Israeli reply to its concerns. [LAT]

• The Mideast Quartet—made up of the U.S., the E.U., the U.N., and Russia—condemned settlements and, for the first time, endorsed a two-year timetable for a Palestinian state. [WSJ]

• The Israeli Air Force bombed six Gaza targets to retaliate for a rocket yesterday that killed a Thai worker in Israel. [WSJ]

• The Anti-Defamation League publicly criticized Gen. David Petraeus—a hugely popular figure—for linking (to whatever extent he did) the Palestinian conflict and the safety of U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Haaretz]

• A new poll finds that the majority of Israelis actually think President Obama has been fair with Israel in the past week. [Haaretz/Forward]

Sundown: Obama and Bibi, Together At Last?

Plus Tzipi Livni, two nations turn their frustrated eyes to you, and more

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• President Obama further postponed a trip to Asia, meaning he’ll be in town early next week, when Prime Minister Netanyahu is as well. Will they break bread? [Laura Rozen]

• Visiting Moscow, Secretary of State Clinton asked Russia to delay finishing a nuclear plant it’s building for Iran. [Haaretz]

• Jeffrey Goldberg points out that if Kadima leader Tzipi Livni had agreed to join Netanyahu’s coalition, this would be a much more moderate government and last week’s mess probably wouldn’t have happened. [Jeffrey Goldberg]

• One writer points out that Netanyahu has no back-channel point man for dealing with the American administration—which may sound ordinary, but is in fact unprecedented for an Israeli prime minister. [Haaretz]

• An interview with Tablet Magazine contributing editor Judith Shulevitz on her new book, The Sabbath World. [The Jewish Star]

• “I just flew back from the Middle East, and boy are my arms tired!” is not the joke Vice President Biden made last night. Instead he said, “I just got back from five days in the Middle East. I love to travel, but it’s great to be back to a place where a boom in housing construction is actually a good thing.” [Haaretz]

Everything’s Coming Up Moses!

Come see Tablet’s Passover musical

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Come one, come all—or at least as many as can fit into the Laurie Beechman Theatre—next Thursday, March 25th, for the debut performance of Everything’s Coming Up Moses. The (mostly) original musical, presented by Tablet Magazine, comes from the truly unique brain of contributing editor Rachel Shukert. There’s no possible way I could improve upon the description the Beechman gives:

Lift the staff! Part the sea! We got nothing to do but be free! Everything’s Coming Up Moses is a musical retelling of the Exodus as seen through the larger-than-life journey of Moses, the original pushy stage mother. Through an irresistible blend of Broadway razzle-dazzle, old-fashioned show biz moxie and soon-to-be musical classics like Some Hebrews, Mose’s Turn and of course, the title number, Moses tirelessly shepherds the Children of Israel to the Promised Land—whether they like it or not.

With Broadway stars Seth Rudetsky as Moses, Matt Cavenaugh as Pharaoh, and special guest (and contributing editor) David Rakoff as God!

It’s going down at the Beechman, on 42nd St. and 9th Avenue in Manhattan. There is a $15 cover, plus a $15 food/beverage minimum (what, you should starve?). For reservations, call 212.695.6909.

Comment on Israel Is Free

Which is maybe why there’s so much of it!

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Netanyahu earlier this week.(Jim Hollander - Pool/Getty Images)

Opinions! Everyone seems to have one. Can you believe, for example, that some people actually prefer vanilla to chocolate? And other people actually liked Avatar? And then there’s that whole whatever-you-want-to-call-it between Israel and the United States right now. People have opinions on that too! Here are some notable ones:

• Tablet Magazine Mideast columnist Lee Smith thinks (as he wrote on The Scroll) that President Obama’s lashing out at the Israelis only makes him look weak. [Slate]

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg sees in the Israeli government’s incoherence—first announcing the settlements, then apologizing for doing so—evidence that Prime Minister Netanyahu has lost control of his weak coalition. Previously, Goldberg reported that Obama is trying to shake that coalition up further so that moderate Tzipi Livni can become prime minister. And we should listen to him: he is, after all, quite close to his fellow Tablet Magazine contributing editor Barack Obama. [Atlantic]

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy praises the Obama administration’s “tough love” for Israel. [Haaretz]

• Prominent Palestinian official and intellectual Mustafa Barghouti sees America as a “hostage” to “the last colonial system in modern history.” [LAT]

• Aluf Benn predicts that both Obama’s and Netanyahu’s reputations will take hits by the end of all this. [Haaretz]

• Fred Kaplan sees Obama’s harsh stance as ultimately more supportive of Israel than the most ardent pro-Israel cheerleading could ever be. [Slate]

• Oh, and Netanyahu’s brother-in-law thinks Obama is an anti-Semite. A Kenya-born one, no doubt. [Laura Rozen]

Tablet Wins Digital ASME For Best Podcast

You like us, you really like us!

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Excuse the excitement and bragging, but we just got a text from our editors attending the Digital American Society of Magazine Editors awards ceremony, and: our Vox Tablet podcast series has won the National Magazine Award for Best Podcast! This is our first ASME win. A special congratulations to Senior Editor Sara Ivry and Audio Executive Producer Julie Subrin.

We will now be good sports and digitally shake the hands of the other excellent nominees: Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, and IEEE Spectrum.

And feel free to give a listen to those podcasts we submitted to the nominating committee. In case you haven’t heard, they’re award-winning!

“Remembrance Day”: Gregory Warner reports from Rwanda on commemorating the country’s 1994 genocide, with Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day as a template.

“The Queens of Bollywood”: Eric Molinsky discusses the early days of India’s Bollywood movie factories, when most of the leading ladies—from Rose Ezra to Ruby Myers—were Baghdadi Jews.

“Blessed Bluegrass”: Jon Kalish profiles Orthodox bluegrass musician Jerry Wicentowski, whose observance prevents him from weekend gigs, but not from virtuosic guitar work.

Earlier: Tablet is a National Magazine Award Finalist!

Did Anne Frank Tell Stories at the Camp?

Controversy over new memoir

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(AnneFrank.org)

A new memoir by a Bergen-Belsen survivor reports that her fellow prisoner distracted young children at the German concentration camp by regaling them with fairy tales. Berthe Meijer’s Life After Anne Frank casts Frank’s actions as of a piece with her remarkable (and remarkably precocious) story-telling abilities.

But now Hannah Pick-Goslar, a childhood friend of Frank’s who also survived Bergen-Belsen, has come forward to dispute the memoir’s account. “In that condition, you almost died,” she told a reporter. “You had no strength to tell stories.”

I guess I’d like to know whether this is true or not. But please let’s not lose sight of the Diary, which really does justify its considerable hype. I’m constantly amazed by how many people have never actually read it. If you’re one of them, then have I got a book recommendation for you!

Below: Jeff Mangum of Neutral Milk Hotel plays his song, “Holland, 1945.”

Memoir’s Glimpse of Anne Frank Draws Skepticism [AP/NYT]
Anne Frank Told Fables To Children [AP/HuffPo]

What Petraeus Actually Said

General thinks Israel is merely one factor in region

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Gen. Petraeus testifying yesterday.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

According to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Vice President Biden did not, as some had alleged, tell Prime Minister Netanyahu that Israeli settlements endangered U.S. troops. But what about the venerable General David Petraeus, who heads the U.S. military’s Central Command (which is responsible for Central Asia and most of the Middle East)? He reportedly requested that the Palestinian territories be added to CENTCOM’s purview, on the grounds that events there were intimately linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We don’t need to guess what exactly Petraeus thinks, because he was quite candid yesterday before a Senate committee. He disclosed that adding the territories to CENTCOM has been discussed but never formally requested. And he argued:

The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the [area of responsibility]. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel. Arab anger over the Palestinian question limits the strength and depth of U.S. partnerships with governments and peoples in the AOR and weakens the legitimacy of moderate regimes in the Arab world.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support. The conflict also gives Iran influence in the Arab world through its clients, Lebanese Hezbullah and Hamas.

In other words: Everything is connected, but Petraeus does not perceive the Palestinian conflict as having an overwhelming effect on other conflicts.

Military journalist and historian Max Boot confirms that Petraeus never made this request. Speaking to a military source, Boot reports that Petraeus really does believe what he told the committee and that he does not think the settlement question creates the U.S. military’s biggest challenges over there. “In other words,” Boot concludes, “the current crisis in Israeli-U.S. relations cannot be laid at the American military’s door.”

Is General Petraeus Behind Obama’s Dressing Down of Israel? [Contentions]
The Petraeus Briefing: Biden’s Embarassment Is Not the Whole Story [Foreign Policy]
Petraeus Throws Support to Mitchell Peace Efforts [Laura Rozen]
Earlier: Did Biden Link Israel to the Troops’ Safety?

Today on Tablet

Islamic Zionism, davening in Barbados, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Sheik Abdul Hadi Palazzi, the head of a prominent Italian Muslim organization, shows that the Quran establishes Jewish sovereignty in the Holy Land—that, yes, “Allah is a Zionist.” You’re darn right there is a Barbados Jewish community: Alexander Gelfand reports. Eddy Portnoy remembers 1920s Yiddish poet Shmuel Nadler, who turned Communist, was publicly denounced by his brother, and was eventually captured and killed in Vichy. On the subject of Vichy, The Scroll would recommend The Sorrow and the Pity, but it’s currently not in the mood to see a four-hour documentary about Nazis.

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