Today on Tablet

Old-man sex, juvenile Seders, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, books critic Adam Kirsch reviews Adam Thirlwell’s new novel The Escape, casting him as a self-conscious successor to the Bellow-Roth mold. After another year of one, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall wonders if a seder with kids should be quite so focused on the kids. Mideast columnist Lee Smith profiles the quietly influential Dalia Mogahed, who heads up Gallup’s Center for Muslim Studies. The Scroll is back, rested, and ready to break bread with you.

Matzoh on the Road

Ohio with Girls in Trouble

(Girls in Trouble)

Alicia Jo Rabins is filing periodic dispatches for The Scroll while Girls in Trouble, her four-piece band that plays original art-pop songs about the women of Torah, tours the Midwest. The first installment is here, the second here.

After Pittsburgh, it was on to Youngstown, Ohio, where we played at a lovely new venue called the Lemon Grove. Thanks to our friend Susannah Perlman, we ended up at the Victorian home/vintage clothing treasure trove of Terese. We stopped by her home between soundcheck and the show; the following hour featured all five of us (the band plus Terese) running up and down the stairs, arms full of bejeweled party dresses, feathered caps, boxy leather jackets, and striped suits. Video evidence below. (more…)

Daybreak: The Obama Peace Plan?

Plus the road to a unilateral Palestine, and more in the news

Palestinian President Salam Fayyad over the weekend.(Musa Al Shaer/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Obama administration is seriously considering drawing up a U.S. peace deal and submitting it to both parties. It would link the Palestinian conflict to the Iran issue. [WP]

• “Self-empowerment” is the byword of Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s West Bank: he is planting trees, starting projects, and burning Israeli goods to encourage self-sufficiency and lay the groundwork for a potential unilateral declaration of statehood. [NYT]

• Prime Minister Netanyahu will attend President Obama’s nuclear summit in Washington, D.C., next week, but will not have a special meeting with the president. [Haaretz]

• A former Supreme Court judge ignited controversy in Israel by publicly condemning the gag order over the treason case against solider-turned-journalist Anat Kamm. [NYT]

• Jordanian King Abdullah II said his country’s relations with Israel were at a post-peace treaty low. Netanyahu’s stubbornness, he argues, requires Obama to be proactive. [WSJ]

• Happy end of Passover. Remember: be careful about the chametz you buy! [Ynet]

Sundown: Cheap Popcorn? What a Bargain!

Plus Fake Philip Roth, Googling Jews, and more


Tablet Magazine, including The Scroll, will be dark for Monday and Tuesday in honor of the yontiffs. Til Wednesday, have a good weekend and a happy rest-of-Passover.

• A Likud Knesset member plans to submit a bill that would set a ceiling for concessions prices at Israeli theaters. What, we should have to pay a week’s salary for a large Coke? [Guardian/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Philip Roth told an Italian journalist that he is disappointed in President Obama. Except he didn’t. Which means the journalist completely made it up. [The New Yorker]

• An awesome look at Israel’s new Holon Design Museum, which is, in an ironic twist, itself really well designed. [NYT Style Magazine]

• A panel of experts talks to Charlie Rose about the Dubai assassination of Hamas weapons man Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. [Charlie Rose]

• If you’ve ever tried to Google someone famous, then you may already know the joke. If not, you’ll want to see this. [Gawker]

• Jewish fantasy baseball. Naturally, the Brewers’ Ryan Braun goes first in the draft. This video is a bit raunchy, but also quite funny. Have a great Opening Day!

Roses Put Bibi in Thorny Situation

PM rejects U.S. Christian group’s solidarity flowers


Following the U.S.-Israel brouhaha over East Jerusalem construction, Christian conservative Janet Porter and her Faith2action—“the nation’s largest network of pro-family groups”—asked listeners to buy a dozen yellow roses each (at a price of $19.48 per bouquet, natch) for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as a show of support. And people ended up buying more than 800 flowers for the prime minister!

Did I say more than 800 flowers? I meant more than 800 dozen flowers! That’s … more than 9,600 flowers! At a cost of more than $15,584!

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, yellow roses convey “Joy, Gladness, Friendship, Delight, Promise of a new beginning, Welcome Back, Remember Me, Jealousy, ‘I care.’ ”)

Bibi’s mother no doubt taught him that such money shouldn’t go to waste. Yet a Netanyahu adviser reportedly said the prime minister could not accept the flowers, for fear of offending the Obama Administration at such a sensitive time.

So, basically, a massive geopolitical tension and millennia-old conflict has been reduced to an epic, crappy emo power ballad that might as well be called “My Roses Turned Away.” Which means that the weekend must be right around the corner.

The War of the Roses [JPost]

Vatican Offical Compares Church Critics to Anti-Semites

Church, Jews both ‘victims of collective violence’

Pope Benedict XVI celebrating Easter yesterday.(Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty Images)

A senior Vatican official told the crowd at a Good Friday service over there that the widespread criticism of the Catholic Church over its alleged systematic cover-up of clerical pedophilia put him in mind of anti-Semitism. “I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole word,” said the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household, quoting a letter from a Jewish friend. “The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt, remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.”

(“The more shameful aspects”? As opposed to the less shameful aspects??)

“They know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms,” he also said.

OK, so before we take totally legitimate and rightful umbrage, Cantalamessa was not saying that the critics’ case against the Church was exactly as unfounded (or founded, if that’s your thing!) as anti-Semites’ case against the Jews. He acknowledged the problem of “violence against children, of which unfortunately also elements of the clergy are stained.” Cantalamessa’s caveat was with these critics’ notion of collective responsibility: Just as an anti-Semite falsely and maliciously believes that all Jews are somehow responsible for the behavior of a single Jew, he is apparently arguing that these critics falsely and maliciously believe that the whole Church is responsible for the acts of certain bad-apple priests.

Where Cantalamessa is outrageously wrong, of course—and not a little offensive—is that while anti-Semites believe that most Jews are involved in a global conspiracy to control events, the Catholic Church actually is a global, coherent agglomeration that in the past decades has in multiple places and taking orders from the top of the hierarchy moved to cover up, paper over, and otherwise tacitly sanction pedophilia.

Like the Church, Jews know what it feels like to be victims of collective persecution. Unlike the Church, Jews don’t know what it feels like for their victimhood to be deserved.

UPDATE: Apparently, if you can read Italian, then you’d know that this article reports that “certain Catholic circles” believe that much recent criticism of the Church comes from a “New York ‘Jewish lobby.’ ”

At Vatican Service, Persecution of Jews Is Invoked [NYT]

Moishe the Knight

An old Jew tells a joke


A Passover-themed one today!

Of Passover and Cookie Dough

A rabbi weighs in


My post yesterday arguing that cookie dough ought to be considered kosher for Passover—in fact, that eating cookie dough, the perfect example of unbaked bread, should be encouraged Seder eating—was not, as commenter Elaine cleverly suggested, an April Fool’s joke. However, it was deliberately provocative, and it wasn’t fully serious (but not fully un-serious, either!).

To clear the air, I called up Rabbi Charles M. Feinberg of Adas Israel, the Conservative synagogue in Washington, D.C., which is the chosen congregation of both the Israeli Embassy and my family. Rabbi Feinberg confirmed that, indeed, normal cookie dough, even eaten as cookie dough, is not Pesadik. “Because the dough is sitting together, there’s a minimal amount of leavening,” he explained. This would probably apply even if you mixed the flour and water but then ate it—without baking it—in under 18 minutes. “The rabbis defined it in this way,” he added, “that’s part of what Judaism became, part of the old tradition. It’s in the Talmud, and that’s the basis for most of our observance.” Well, phooey.

Earlier: It Oughta Be Kosher!

Today on Tablet

Breaking Passover in style, the ‘linkage’ problem, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Lara Rabinovitch brings the good word of Mimouna, the yeasty end-of-Passover festival celebrated by Moroccan Jews, complete with a recipe for yummy-sounding Mufleta. Senior Writer Allison Hoffman talks to the Christian Washington, D.C., journalist who holds a Seder for (mostly) his co-religionists. David P. Goldman (a.k.a. “Spengler”) argues that U.S. neoconservatives, particularly Jewish ones, are both overly obsessed with and misinterpreting General David Petraeus’s observation that U.S. military missions in the Middle East and Central Asia are affected by the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. From a cruel haftorah depicting God’s harsh punishment against one who touched the Ark, Liel Leibovitz draws a relatively simple lesson: “Life is unfair.” The Scroll has made peace with life’s unfairness but wonders why it can’t be unfair in its favor more often.

Israel’s Semi-Secret Espionage Case

Journalist held under gag order

Say nothing.(Soulbounce)

Tablet Magazine is based in New York City, and not in Israel. Which is why we can write that Israel is charging a journalist with espionage and treason related to her allegedly photocopying classified documents while she was a solider and then leaking them to Haaretz. JTA’s Ron Kampeas reports that the case is under a gag order in Israel.

Anat Kam was a journalist for a small paper that was until recently owned by Haaretz. Authorities are thought to believe that she leaked documents that revealed, according to a 2008 Haaretz report, that the IDF planned to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling that barred the assassination of terrorists who could be safely arrested. (Oddly, or perhaps not, the military censor did permit the publication of the story.)

The rub is that gag order (which Haaretz is appealing). Why does it exist? If someone over there knows, well, they’re not saying. There has been no Israeli reporting on the case—including the harsh 14-year sentence being sought—and therefore little overall reporting on it.

Instead, via blogger Richard Silverstein (one of the few reporters who is following the case), we have Maariv’s take on the situation: “Due to a gag order we cannot tell you what we know. Due to laziness, apathy and blind faith in the defense establishment we know nothing at all.”

Israel Gags News of Soldier Turned Journalist Under Arrest [JTA]

Daybreak: Burnt Cheese in Gaza

Plus informal U.S.-Hamas talks, Palestine next year, and more in the news

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.(Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP/Getty Images)

• The Israeli Air Force launched several missiles into the Gaza Strip today, destroying munitions sites and a cheese factory. Only light casualties were reported. [Reuters/NYT]

• Several ex-diplomats with somewhat close ties to the Obama Administration have met with Hamas on unofficial bases. Some see this as evidence of a willingness to engage. [WSJ]

• The Israeli government thought up new steps it could take to “build confidence” to satisfy the Americans following the crisis over East Jerusalem. [JPost]

• Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad estimated Palestinian independence will come next year. [Haaretz]

• President Obama chatted up Chinese leader Hu Jintao for an hour on the phone to get him to come around on Iran sanctions. Hu still made no public commitments. [Ynet]

Sundown: Kerry Praises Syria, Assad

Plus Brooklyn matzah brei, the Yiddish-gefilte link, and more


• After meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus, Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, reports that the country “is an essential player for bringing peace and stability to the region.” [Haaretz]

• Really interesting revelation: How your ancestors prepared their gefilte fish probably correlated with which dialect of Yiddish they spoke. [Forward]

• France and Israel’s “break-up”: a model for the United States and Israel’s? [NYT]

• Mile End, Brooklyn’s Montreal-style deli, is serving up matzo brei. [Twitter]

• A consideration of Raul Hilberg, whose histories of the Holocaust inspired Hannah Arendt (much to his chagrin). [The Nation]

• (Jewish) singer Amy Winehouse’s single “Rehab” … in Yiddish:

The Poodle and the Great Dane

An old Jew tells a joke


On most days, starting today, The Scroll is going to run a video from the folks at Old Jews Telling Jokes. If you’re unfamiliar with this delightful essay, just know that it has the most accurate name in the history of the Internet.

Today: Steve “Shecky” Platt tells the one about the poodle and the Great Dane.

It Oughta Be Kosher!

This Passover, help yourself to some cookie dough

Cookie dough (presumably not Pesadik).(Flickr)

Look, this isn’t going to be one of those rants about corn syrup. Every person who’s ever had to keep kosher for Passover has at some point wondered why things with corn syrup in them—which is to say, things made with corn (which, if you believe Michael Pollan, is pretty much everything)—are not Pesadik. Well, because corn has been known to go into the making of bread, and corn used to be tilled in the same soil as wheat, which also made bread, and bread, and bread-like things, should not be eaten during Passover. Because what you are supposed to be doing is re-enacting—indeed, you are re-living—the experience of those Jews who could not wait for their dough to rise and so ate matzoh while fleeing from slavery, etc., etc. If you want to throw corn into the prohibited pile along with bread and pizza and the like, then OK. Anything to get Coca-Cola to produce Coke with real sugar once a year.

Cookie dough—normal cookie dough, not special, kosher-for-Passover cookie dough—is another matter, though. It is of course chametz, since it invariably contains flour or wheat or something used to make cookies, and said materials invariably were made wet for over the 18-minute limit. To be honest, most cookie dough, particularly of the store-bought variety, probably contains corn syrup, too. And don’t tell me about corn syrup—I know all about corn syrup.

But, c’mon! Think this through! Cookie dough should be kosher for Passover. It is the very definition of what ought to be kosher for Passover: would-be bread that specifically hasn’t been baked. It is the precise sort of thing you would grab for a nosh if you didn’t have enough time to prepare properly—because, maybe, oh, I dunno, you were fleeing Pharaoh! Eating cookie dough on Passover? It shouldn’t just be countenanced—it should be encouraged! We should be slathering it onto the afikomen for dessert!

This is all by way of saying I had some cookie dough ice cream last night. And you should know I made a sacrifice in doing so: I specifically and deliberately did not eat cookies-and-cream ice cream—which I prefer!—because, after all, it’s Passover, and once we were slaves, and now we are free.

A Permanent Remembrance

Holocaust survivors sit for stunning portraits

The entrance to Auschwitz.(Wikimedia Commons)

A Polish photographer has taken highly stylized, low-lit portraits of Holocaust survivors—while there are still Holocaust survivors around to photograph. The New York Times’s Lens blog has 10 and an accompanying post.

“What I find striking about the Nazi camps statistics is their impersonality, the namelessness of the victims,” the photographer, Maciek Nabrdalik, tells the Times. “This series is an attempt to give them faces and to breathe individuality and humanity into the detached historical accounts.”

Check these out.

One Last Sitting for Holocaust Survivors [Lens]

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