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Uproar Over Holocaust Pope’s Road to Sainthood

But at least Benedict’s been to Yad Vashem!

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Over the weekend, the German-born Pope Benedict XVI moved Pope Pius XII one step closer to sainthood, prompting immediate outrage from Jewish groups who contend that Pius, who was Eugenio Pacelli before being elected pontiff in 1939, didn’t do enough to prevent the Nazi slaughter of Jews (let alone its persecution of Catholic priests). Rabbi David Rosen, a member of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate, scoffed at the church’s repeated assertions that Pius’s silence in the face of the Holocaust can be explained by his desire to protect thousands of Jews who were in hiding.

Benedict, who is already booked for a visit to Rome’s synagogue in January, responded earlier today with a mollifying speech about, yes, the Holocaust: specifically, about his visit earlier this year to the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel. “The visit to the Yad Vashem has meant an upsetting encounter with the cruelty of human fault, with the hatred of a blind ideology that, with no justification, sent millions of people to their deaths,” he said. Human fault: another way of saying that not everyone’s a saint.

Pope Says Visit to Holocaust Memorial ‘Upsetting’ [AP]

Carter Asks Jews To Forgive His Sins

Shouldn’t he be fasting, too?

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Jimmy Carter, who has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians, has asked the American Jewish community for an “al Het”—the ritualistic forgiveness that Jews request of and receive from God on Yom Kippur.

We must recognize Israel’s achievements under difficult circumstances, even as we strive in a positive way to help Israel continue to improve its relations with its Arab populations, but we must not permit criticisms for improvement to stigmatize Israel. As I would have noted at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but which is appropriate at any time of the year, I offer an Al Het for any words or deeds of mine that may have done so.

Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League called the seasonal message the “beginning of reconciliation.” Unrelatedly—maybe—Carter’s grandson, Jason, is running to represent a significantly Jewish suburb of Atlanta in the Georgia State Senate.

Carter Offers Jewish Community ‘Al Het’ [JTA]

Earlier: Carter’s Grandson Running in Jewish District

How the Swiss Minaret Ban Could Hurt Jews

U.N. watchdog warns ‘non-Muslim minorities in the Mideast’

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Muslims protest the Swiss ban in Bern earlier this month.(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

The head of U.N. Watch, a gadfly of the world body, pointed this weekend to what he argues are unintended and destructive consequences of Switzerland’s ban on the construction of new mosque minarets. Emboldened by the Swiss law, argues Executive Director Hillel C. Neuer, the Algeria-led U.N. Human Rights Council is seeking to change an international treaty in order to allow Islamic governments to quash dissent that falls under “defamation of religion.”

Paradoxically, the most intolerant Islamists are likely to be strengthened by this act of bigotry, not weakened. Acts of intolerance by Western countries provide justification for banning religious freedom in Muslim countries. … What a pity that Switzerland’s minaret folly—which, at the least, discourages religious expression by individuals—may end up hurting non-Muslim minorities in the Mideast as well as liberal Muslims.

The argument echoes that of many European Jewish leaders, who expressed disappointment at the Swiss. Meanwhile, a new poll suggests that a referendum for a similar ban would likely pass in the United Kingdom and would face a fighting chance in the United States.

A Swiss Ban on Minarets [NYT]
How to Interpret the U.K. ‘Ban Minarets’ Poll [New Statesman]

Earlier: Europe’s Jews Oppose Swiss Minaret Ban

Sudanese Official Compares Climate Pact to Holocaust

Also, foxes speak out for hens’ rights

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The U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen revealed a very real, legitimate divide between the developed world, which favors aggressive action to curtail harmful emissions, and developing nations, who oppose strict, universal standards. There is looking out for one’s own interests, however, and then there is Lumumba Stanislas Dia-ping, Sudan’s delegate to the conference. He described the Copenhagen Accord, the basic agreement that was reached, as “a solution based on values, the very same values in our opinion that funneled six million people in Europe into furnaces.” Thanks so much for the input, Sudan.

Sudan Delegate Compares U.S.-Led Climate Proposal to Holocaust [Haaretz]

Today on Tablet

Children’s music you won’t mind

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Today in Tablet Magazine, on the weekly Vox Tablet podcast parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall celebrates 2009’s best Jewish children’s songs. Josh Lambert’s look at forthcoming books of note includes an anthology that collects the work of noted early comic artist Milt Gross. And The Scroll is back after a restful weekend, so be sure to check in.

U. Wisconsin Students Offended by Song

The titular ‘Coastie’ has a particular religion

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“What’s a Coastie?” asks a new song out of the University of Wisconsin. While the broadest possible answer is, simply, a person from one of the coasts (as opposed to an in-state Cheesehead), the more particular answer, as the song puts it, is an “East Coast Jewish honey.” The conceit is that the rapping duo is trying to woo a passing “Jewish American Princess,” who is “blowing daddy’s money” while wearing “North Face with the Uggs” (frankly, the lyrics are very seven years ago). The tune has become controversial, with many Jews who matriculate there (14% of the university’s roughly 30,000-strong undergraduate population is Jewish) taking offense. Madison faces more than the typical town-vs.-gown conflict; the in-state/out-of-state divide extends into the student body itself. And where there are outsiders of any kind, there are usually, and conspicuously, Jews.

‘Coastie Song’ Stirs Up U. of Wisconsin Campus [NYT]

Daybreak: A Decision on Gilad Shalit

Plus ‘Work Will Set You Free’ set free, and more in the news

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• Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet will vote today to approve or reject a prisoner-swap deal for captured soldier Gilad Shalit. [WSJ]
• A memo leaked yesterday reveals Israeli army plans to demolish construction that took place in Israeli settlements during the current freeze, which could include evictions. [JTA]
• The “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign stolen from Auschwitz last week was found in northern Poland (the camp is in the country’s south). It was cut into three pieces. [NYT]
• The Washington Post notes that Israeli leaders—even religious ones—stridently condemned the arson of a West Bank mosque earlier this month. [WP]
• Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood process of Pope Pius XII, the controversial Holocaust-era pontiff. [Haaretz]
• The legal strategy of pursuing war-crimes charges against Israeli leaders in UK courts—which resulted in last week’s warrant against Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni—is reportedly masterminded by Hamas. [JTA]

Sundown: How Do You Say ‘Palestinian State’ in Spanish?

Plus Brooklyn and Justice Department menorahs, and more

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• The Spanish foreign minister announced his country will press for Palestinian statehood when it takes over the E.U. presidency on January 1st. [JTA]
• A Chabad-sponsored menorah at an entrance to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park has prompted a heated discussion on the legality of religious displays on city property. [NYT]
Newsweek’s ace investigative reporter Michael Isikoff asked Attorney General Eric Holder at a holiday party why his Department of Justice had only five lit candles (plus the shamash) on Hanukkah’s sixth night. [Vos Iz Neias?]
• The anonymous buyer of a Rembrandt for over $33 million last week turns out to be casino mogul Steve Wynn (né Weinberg). He once accidentally put his elbow through a $48 million Picasso. [NYT]

Circumcised Sex As Good or Better … For The Woman

New study tells Jewish men what they totally already knew

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Most scientific examinations of sexual pleasure and circumcision have focused on how the man’s experience is affected. But a new study in the journal BJU International (pun implied) considered women, and found there is not a significant difference in a woman’s sexual pleasure between when the man is sporting the theater version and when he is screening the director’s cut, with all the deleted scenes included. In fact, though a majority of the 455 Ugandan women who participated in the study reported no difference, nearly 40 percent claimed that sex with their partner actually got better post-op. Next time, you ladies will have to think of a different excuse.

Sex Equally Satisfying with Circumcised Men: Study
[Reuters]

Meet Your 2009 Major League Dreidel Champion

You don’t need to be Jewish to be a great spinner

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Congratulations to John Heywood—spinning name: Jonny Hei-z (“Hei” as in Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin)—who won the honor last weekend in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, despite the arguable disadvantage of not being Jewish. Heywood told Tablet Magazine that the competition, which is run by friends of his, rates how long spinners can keep their dreidel spinning, rather than which letters their dreidels land on. Moreover, the tournament is decided via a March Madness-style bracket, so it’s all about performing under pressure: Heywood eked out victory even though his (admittedly impressive) 16-second high was not the best of the night. “This is my first year doing it—I’m a rookie spinner,” he said, adding: “I’m the first non-Jew to win—I found it funny. I think it’s great that everyone can be involved. I had friends who were Jewish growing up, so we had dreidels around.”

Adelson Denies Israeli Political Involvement

Philanthropist likes Birthright as bulwark against intermarriage

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Adelson in Hong Kong last month.(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is arguably the most important person in the world of Jewish philanthropy. The one-time third-richest man in the world (the stock in his company, Las Vegas Sands, has fallen, pushing him down to 25th) has donated millions to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Shalem Center, and particularly Birthright. Adelson is also the owner of Israel HaYom, Israel’s second-largest daily. And, as a New Yorker profile last year illustrated, he holds solidly right-wing views on the Palestine question. JTA’s Fundermentalist blogger scored an interview with him. A few notable answers follow.

How has your stance on Israel evolved over the years?
… I met my wife 21 years ago, and I became cemented more and more to the State of Israel. She is Israeli. Her children are Israeli, and we have all become one big family. I have gotten involved because I spent an awful lot of time there. I am a strong Zionist, and I do what it takes for the support of the State of Israel.

Where do you stand with AIPAC these days?
I believe in AIPAC.

Do you still stand behind Netanyahu now that he has come out in favor of a two-state solution?

I am not against a two-state solution if it is on the right terms. But I don’t think the right terms will ever be achieved.

In Israel, your political involvement is well known …
What political involvement? I am not involved politically in Israel. Period. And everybody thinks I started the newspaper Israel HaYom purely to benefit Bibi. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not “Bibi-ton.” It is not a newspaper started for and operated for Bibi. And this is the propaganda of our competitors to say to their customers, “Don’t take Israel Hayom seriously because all it is is a promotion for Bibi. …”

Have you found any [reports on Jewish organizations] that appeal to you?
Sure. The most important one that we do is Birthright Israel. The study by Brandeis just came out to show that the rate of intermarriage here is 58 percent. Only 42 percent of the American Jews married within the Jewish religion. Today about 76 percent [of Birthright alumni who have tied the knot married] within the religion. … How much more can one contribute to Jewish continuity?

Sitting Down with Sheldon Adelson [JTA]

Related:
The Brass Ring [The New Yorker]

Two Jews, One Argument

Franken and Lieberman get testy in the Senate

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Some people have not yet forgiven the Connecticut senator for his health-care reform betrayal, apparently. Note Sen. McCain coming to his right honorable colleague’s defense following the contretemps; at which point, Sen. Levin cannot help but chime in, too.

Israeli Casspi Stars in First NBA Start

Also, Philly high school squad target of anti-Semitic chants

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Casspi at a Tel Aviv press conference in June.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty)

Omri Casspi, the Sacramento Kings rookie who is the first Israeli to play in the NBA, got his first start Wednesday. And he came through: he scored a career-high 22 points, grabbed five rebounds, and sunk a crucial late-game three-pointer, which ended up being the difference in the Kings’ 112-109 won.

In other Jewish basketball news, at a game between Upper Darby and Lower Merion High Schools in the Philadelphia suburbs, students from Upper Darby, which has far fewer Jews than its Main Line rival, taunted their opponents with chants of, “Warm up the ovens,” “You’re so Jewish, get your yarmulke,” and “We’ll write you letters when you’re in Auschwitz.” Lower Merion responded by blowing them out, 51-27. One Lower Merion alum told Tablet Magazine this morning: “The surprising thing is not the taunting, it’s that we won.”

Casspi Wows ‘Em in First-Ever Start [Haaretz]
Philly Students Dunked After Holocaust Taunts [JTA]

Earlier: Omri Casspi Is Ready for Primetime

Today in Tablet

Solomon’s baby and a Hanukkah song you haven’t heard

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz sees this week’s haftorah—in which King Solomon invents his patented cut-the-baby-in-half method of conflict resolution—as a parable for the self-destructive consequences of the impulse to revenge. From our archives, Julie Subrin’s podcast explores the origins of the popular Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) Hanukkah song “Ocho Kandelikas.” And today is the last day that you can read The Scroll during Hanukkah 2009/5770, so don’t miss out!

‘Washington Post’ Columnist Discovers Shabbat (Sabbath)

Apparently some Jews do this every Friday?

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“Last week I was invited to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner, which observant Jews hold every Friday night,” Sally Quinn, the long-time Washington Post columnist, begins her latest. “After three enlightening years of moderating The Post’s online feature ‘On Faith,’ you would think, I should be totally comfortable going to any religious event. But to tell the truth, I was nervous.” Actually, what you would think is that Quinn, a Beltway hobnobber for decades (she’s been married to legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee for 30 years), would have been to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner before. Or would at least be able to discuss the experience with some sophistication.

But the column is notable for its astonishing naivete. “I used my phone-a-friend lifeline. Should I bring something to cover my head? ‘Not necessary,‘ he said. Would a nice set of lavender soap be an appropriate gift? ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘They’re not going to eat it.’” Honestly: how did Quinn not know that lavender soap is consumed only on Shemeni Atzeret? Shabbat (Sabbath) is for rose-scented bars. “I knew enough not to wear red and green,” she boasts. Is that because of Christmas, or because of the Palestinian flag? Because either way, it’s probably not a big deal. Finally, “I was also told by another Jewish friend not to expect any wine. ‘Drink before you go,‘ he advised.” So what she is telling us is she arrived hammered. That would explain her column.

“The dinner turned out to be delightful,” Quinn concludes (and who would have guessed?). “There was plenty of delicious California kosher wine, red and white … The food was spectacular—the best matzoh-ball soup I ever ate. And the conversation was lively and spirited, to say the least: We debated whether this was a Christian nation!” More than we thought, apparently.

Sally Quinn’s The Party: The Shabbat Dinner [WP]

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