Get Into Girls in Trouble

Friend of Tablet set to go on tour


Faithful Vox Tablet listeners know that musician Alicia Jo Rabins heads the band Girls in Trouble, which performs her indie-rock song cycle about Biblical women. The band is about to set off on a month-long tour, which will take them to Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and many points in between, before landing them back at Cake Shop, on the Lower East Side, in late April. (For full dates, see here.) I mention this because this won’t be the last you hear of Rabins and Girls in Trouble on The Scroll before the tour is through.

Meanwhile, do enjoy Rabins’s take on this week’s Parsha. Gives you a good sense of what her music’s like. And I would challenge you to find a more pleasant way to spend four pre-Shabbat minutes.

Parshat Vayakhel from

More Torah cartoons at

Related: Female Trouble

‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’ Comes to NYC!

Bravo’s resident Yenta on the next season

Stanger earlier this week.(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Game-changer: For the next season of The Millionaire Matchmaker, host Patti Stanger is taking her show, currently Los Angeles-based, to the Big Apple. (Allison Hoffman recaps each episode every Wednesday on The Scroll.) “Yeah, New York is harder,” she tells New York’s Vulture blog. “Yes, you walk and you get sweaty, and you’re in the freezing cold with your parkas—how is he going to see the sea of assets?” Stanger intends to get around this obstacle by thinking outside the box—or, in this case, the borough. “You go to the fucking suburbs! You go to Westchester, you go to Long Island, you go to Jersey, you look around! Guys in Jersey buy fucking $4 million houses! My sister met her husband at Cold Spring Harbor. What happened to the outskirts of New York?”

God help us when she finds out about Brooklyn.

Vulture Is Undressed by ‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’ [Vulture]

Earler: The Scroll on ‘The Millionaire Matchmaker’
Fellas: Heed the Millionaire Matchmaker

Lebanese Academic Suffers Friendly Fire

Violated boycott to oppose occupation


A Palestinian academic in Lebanon named Sari Hanafi—he teaches at the American University in Beirut—has come under fire for collaborating with two Israeli scholars on a book, in violation of a formal academic boycott of Israel’s academy and cultural institutions.

Here’s what’s odd. The two Israeli scholars are anti-Zionist. The book in question is called The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule. And the book contains, according to the academic, “a detailed analysis of the ways in which Israel deploys technologies of power and systems of control to maintain its stranglehold over the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It is a book that concentrates on the illegality of the occupation regime.”

Fellas! The whole “strange bedfellows” thing works best if you let them stay the night!

Boycott and Madness [NOW Lebanon]

Foxman Bashes Israeli Announcement

Yes, you read right

Abraham Foxman.(Life)

In the journo-business, we call this Man Bites Dog: The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman is blaming Israel for the “disaster”—his word—that was the announcement of new East Jerusalem construction during Vice President Joe Biden’s visit. According to Foxman, whether or not Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knew the announcement was coming is beside the point: “It is the government of Israel that justifiably is held accountable for converting an optimal moment in U.S.-Israel relations into a moment of crisis.”

In his article, Foxman establishes that the announcement “couldn’t have been worse.” And he says—in apparent revision of what he told Haaretz earlier this week—that he fully understands the administration’s anger.

By the end, we are back in Dog Bites Man territory. Foxman concludes: “Ultimately, Palestinian unwillingness to compromise for peace and to stop the hate are the real obstacles to peace.”

After Biden’s Israel Contretemps, Stepping Back [Huffington Post]

Today on Tablet

The latest Woody Allens, a very taurine haftorah, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff discerns in a new novel and a new film the latest evolutionary stage of the schlemiel. For his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz graciously lent his space to a bull, and it pretty much goes from there. Maybe The Scroll needs more of a farm-animal presence?

Another Year, Another List of Rich People

Ellison, Bloomberg top Jews on ‘Forbes’ list

Larry Ellison, really into yachting last month.(Jaime Reina/AFP/Getty Images)

The big news from Forbes’s annual list of the world’s billionaires is that Planet Earth has a new richest man: Carlos Slim Helú, the Mexican telecommunications magnate who now owns a substantial minority share of The New York Times. He weighs in at $53.5 billion. Muchas felicitationes!

But you want to know where the Jews—say, those in the top 50—are. The short answer is: They’re down.

• The richest Jew, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, fell from fourth to sixth, and from $22.5 billion to … well, to $28 billion, but obviously you’d rather have the higher ranking than the extra $5.5 billion.

• New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg dropped further, from 17th to 23rd, and from $16 billion to $18 billion (no way you could trade me six slots for $2 billion). (more…)

Daybreak: Talks Remain Proximate

Plus come back Sunday for the West Bank, and more in the news

Gates yesterday.(Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

• Despite everything, Israel expects the proximity talks will in fact launch, and soon. [JPost]

• The IDF indicted two soldiers in military court for allegedly getting a Palestinian boy to open a suspected booby-trapped package during last year’s Gaza conflict. [LAT]

• To head off buzzed-about rioting, Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered a 48-hour full closure of the West Bank. [Ynet]

• In Saudia Arabia, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Gulf countries will pressure China to support anti-Iran sanctions. [Reuters/Haaretz]

• Egypt continues to clamp down on Hamas after sealing its Gaza border. [Haaretz]

• West Bank Palestinians commemorated the 32nd anniversary of the deadliest terror attack in Israeli history. [NYT]

Sundown: Israeli Diplomat Claims All Jerusalem

Plus Hillary to AIPAC, should Bar ditch Leo?, and more

Bar and Leo, last month.(Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

• Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon argued that, whether or not the East Jerusalem announcement’s timing was unfortunate, Israeli development there is legitimate: “Jerusalem has always been out of the question.” Ladies and gentlemen, your second-ranking Israeli diplomat! [Haaretz]

• One day after endorsing the Goldstone Report, the E.U. parliament demanded that Hamas immediately release Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier who also holds French citizenship. [JTA]

• Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will speak at the annual AIPAC Conference later this month. Should be interesting, given recent events. [Ben Smith]

• An Israeli book called The Confessions of Noa Weber won the award for Best Translated Novel of 2010. [Jewcy]

• Scholar Martin Kramer, who has come under fire for proposing the end of Gaza pro-natal subsidies, argues his case in a “Q&A” with various Hamas interlocutors. [Sandbox]

• Lehavi, an Israeli group that works to get Jews to break up with non-Jewish significant others, has called on Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli to ditch Leonardo DiCaprio. [Gawker]

Why Do Jews Argue So Much?

Inquiring Tablet commenters want to know!


Liel Leibovitz’s dispatch from Antigua—where he arrived visa-less, and was soon suspected of being Mossad—has provoked a number of comments on the site. Not all of them friendly! And some of the vitriol over a relatively light-hearted article prompted “Victoria” to wonder the following:

I am a very recent (like a week ago) convert to Judaism, and as such I am still learning about the culture, customs, people, society, etc. So, it is in the spirit of learning that I ask this question:

Why are the people who responded to this story so angry with it and the author? I read the comments and I understand the commentors think the author is obnoxious and arrogant, but it seems there is another underlying reason for the hostility. Why?

Oh, “Victoria”: consider this your welcome to the club!

Related: Paradise Lost [Tablet Magazine]

As Biden Departs, ‘Proximity Talks’ Still On

But how much longer can Israel pull off its game?

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Biden, leaving for Jordan.(David Furst/AFP/Getty Images)

Raise your hand if you’ve heard the old saw—sometimes attributed to Abba Eban—that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity? (I’ll raise my hand. I once heard it from Danny Ayalon, then Israel’s ambassador to the United States, from the bimah at my Washington, D.C., synagogue during Yom Kippur.) In the wake of the Israeli Interior Ministry’s announcement of plans to build 1600 new homes in East Jerusalem just as Vice President Biden had arrived to pave the way for “proximity talks,” an unnamed conservative American Jew wrote to blogger Ben Smith, “Israelis have now reached a level where that old cliché of ‘never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ can now apply to them at least as much as the Pals.”

Such is the understandable despair setting in. In fact, as Biden leaves the country (he heads for Jordan), the proximity talks will apparently still happen (over the Arab League’s reported protestations). Although, the New York Times reports, disagreements remain even on those: the Palestinians see them as focusing on borders and the like—on the substance of what peace would look like—while the Israelis see their ideal end result as merely putting the two sides in the same room together. The Israelis, in other words, appear more content to take things slowly than the Palestinians do.

Which begs the question: is time on Israel’s side? Demographically, of course not: every day that passes, the Palestinians attain a higher percentage of people between the river and the sea. And politically? Israel’s main supporter, the United States, seems (justifiably) as close to wit’s end as ever. The Jerusalem Post puts it best: Biden’s speech in Tel Aviv today (transcript here), while overwhelmingly about the importance of maintaining America’s and Israel’s close ties, was also “a get-your-act-together lecture from a frustrated parent to a beloved but occasionally errant child.” In private, Biden was apparently much more direct: “This is starting to get dangerous for us,” Biden, long known as a top American friend of Israel’s, told Prime Minister Netanyahu (my bold). “What you’re doing here undermines the security of our troops who are fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That endangers us and it endangers regional peace.”

Both the Palestinians and the Israelis have an unfortunate tendency to miss opportunities for peace. But it seems increasingly clear that the Israelis, more than the Palestinians, have fewer of those left.

Analysis: Biden’s Get-Your-Act-Together Lecture [JPost]

Was Einstein a Zionist?

The Relativity papers, on exhibit in Jerusalem

Einstein.(Wikimedia Commons)

The papers that show Albert Einstein’s development of the General Theory of Relativity are not on display in Germany, where he was born, or in the United States, where he lived the last part of his life, but in Israel. As part of its 50th anniversary celebration, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities is exhibiting the papers for a few weeks in Jerusalem—they’re there because Einstein’s wife, Elsa, donated them, with her husband’s endorsement, to Hebrew University upon its 1925 opening.

The exhibit’s location opens onto the broader question of how Einstein—very possibly the most famous and influential Jew of the 20th century—felt about Israel, both before and after its inception. “Einstein’s relationship to Israel was complex,” the Times’s Ethan Bronner writes. “A self-described universalist, he became a Zionist when he witnessed anti-Semitism in Europe. Chaim Weizmann, Israel’s first president, was a key influence on him. Walter Isaacson, who wrote a 2007 biography of Einstein, said by telephone that Einstein wanted Jews to move here but did not back a separate Jewish nation-state until after it was declared in 1948.”

Last year, Tablet Magazine book critic Adam Kirsch pushed back against a book, Einstein on Israel and Zionism, that argued that the great physicist was lukewarm toward the Zionist project at best. Einstein “was an unwavering supporter of the Yishuv, and he spent a great deal of effort making speeches and raising money for Jewish institutions in Palestine,” Kirsch writes. “But he was also a principled cosmopolitan and anti-nationalist, and he was chagrined by the growing antagonism between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East.”

Rewrite of Physics by Einstein on Display [NYT]
Related: Relatively Speaking, A Zionist

British Teacher Terrorizes Students

Worst. Holocaust. Lesson. Ever.


Um, don’t really know what else to do with this, so am just going to quote liberally from the Daily Mail article (h/t: Ynet):

A group of stunned primary schoolchildren began crying when their teacher told them during a bizarre Holocaust game that they were to be taken away from their families.

The pupils, aged 11, became upset after a number of them were segregated and told they were being sent away or might end up in an orphanage.

The ordeal was meant to give the youngsters at the Lanarkshire school an insight into the horrors faced by Jewish children during World War II. …

One girl said her classmates began crying when Mrs. McGlynn told them she had a letter from the Scottish Executive saying nine children had to be separated from their classmates.

She told the shocked youngsters those who were born in January, February and March had lower IQs than other children, ‘due to lack of sunlight in their mother’s womb’, and that they had to put yellow hats on and be sent to the library.

The mother added: “When I asked why on earth they thought it was appropriate to deliver a role play situation to the children in this way, Mrs Stewart informed me that they didn’t inform the children beforehand.

“This was because they wanted the children to experience an “accurate emotional response” to this scenario in order for it to be reflected in their story writing.


Primary Schoolchildren in Tears After They Are Told They Will Be Removed From Families as Part of Holocaust ‘Game’ [Daily Mail]

Today on Tablet

Frank Lloyd Wright’s shul, a Jewish Indian goddess, and more

Frank Lloyd Wright.(Wikimedia Commons)

Today in Tablet Magazine, Michelle Goldberg traces how a French Sephardic woman named Mirra Alfassa became the “de facto goddess” of the southern Indian town of Pondicherry. Ian Volner considers the Beth Sholom synagogue in Philadelphia’s suburbs, for which, 50 years ago, Frank Lloyd Wright sought to design “a properly Jewish-American architecture, in a postwar world where America was more and more the center of Judaism.” The newest installment of Steve Stern’s The Frozen Rabbi is here, as it is every day. And speaking of things that are here every day: don’t forget The Scroll.

America, The Befuddled Matchmaker

Well we do the best we can!

Patti Stanger, another befuddled matchmaker.(GLAAD)

Where does Israel’s announcement of 1,600 new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem leave the United States? Where does it leave American Jews? America put immense pressure on both sides to agree to “proximity talks”—which center around its envoy, George Mitchell—even though neither side’s preconditions had been met; and soon after the U.S. vice president arrives in the area, Israel flaunts the fact that the Palestinians’ most coveted precondition—a temporary freeze on construction in East Jerusalem—remained unfulfilled.

Israel’s interior minister says the announcement’s timing was unfortunate and not intended to offend. Even if that last part is true, it made the Palestinians look stupid for agreeing to the talks (it also made them look like the victims of Israeli bullying); it made it seem that Israel was passive-aggressively expressing unseriousness about the talks; and it made the Americans appear, simply, foolish.

Even so, Biden’s condemnation was notable. One expert put it well to Haaretz: “If Netanyahu is at all serious about talks with the Palestinian Authority, this will be just the beginning of his coalition woes. Meanwhile, the Israeli bilateral relationship with the United States has just become much more difficult. It is hard to remember a time when a senior U.S. official used the word ‘condemn’ to describe the actions of any ally.”

The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and Americans for Peace Now of course sided with Biden. J Street, with typical savvy—J Street’s savvy being the one thing its admirers and detractors seem able to agree about—let Biden do the talking: “J Street joins Vice President Biden in condemning … As Vice President Biden said … We echo Vice President Biden’s call.” The “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group seems to be betting that when it actively evangelizes for its positions, it does more alienating than persuading. Instead, it is positioning itself to be there, waiting, when (it believes) the facts on the ground usher Americans, and particularly American Jews, into its camp.

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman told Haaretz that the announcement’s timing was poor but that Biden lacked tact: “The condemnation should have been issued by the State Department in Washington. … Biden undermined the central purpose of his trip to Israel—strengthening the friendship and cooperation between Israel and the U.S.” Meanwhile, no mention of the announcement appears on AIPAC’s Website. The silence is conspicuous, but is it wise? Joe Biden is known as a talker, and American Jews can surely hear him, even across a couple continents.

How Did U.S. Groups React to Biden’s Condemnation of Israel? [Haaretz]

Earlier: Biden Bashes Settlement Announcement

Daybreak: Honesty Between Friends

Plus the talks must go on, Iranian dissenters, and more in the news

Biden giving his speech at Tel Aviv University today.(Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

• Vice President Joe Biden gave his big speech in Israel, after tweaking it in response to the East Jerusalem construction announcement. The speech was mostly warm, with Biden explaining, “Only a friend can deliver the hardest truth.” [JPost]

• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pledged to stick to the proximity talks, even after the construction announcement. [NYT]

• The Arab League secretary-general said Abbas wouldn’t start the talks now, due to the construction announcement. Hrmm. [JPost]

• The E.U. parliament formally supported the Goldstone Report’s findings, to strong Israeli criticism. [Haaretz]

• Consensus among high-level Israelis is shifting away from military action against Iran and toward supporting the Islamic Republic’s homegrown opposition. [WSJ]

• Secretary of Defense Robert Gates arrived in Saudi Arabia to drum up support for harsh sanctions against Iran. [NYT]

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