Coach Pearl and his team Saturday; #22 is son Steve.(Elsa/Getty Images)
Coach Bruce Pearl’s University of Tennessee Volunteers—Tablet Magazine’s official college basketball team—advanced to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet Sixteen round Saturday with a convincing win over underdog Ohio. Almost as importantly, the true Big Dog in Tennessee’s region, overall number-one Kansas, was defeated, in a stunning, thrilling upset, by Northern Iowa. Which means the Vols’ route to the Final Four just got a little bit easier …
… except first they will have to beat two-seed Ohio State, the Big Ten champion. The game goes down Friday night at 7 E.S.T., in St. Louis. Can you even wait that long?
That didn’t take long: this morning, there was a small to-do at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., over the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group J Street, which established itself explicitly to counterbalance the far more powerful AIPAC. Hadar Susskind, J Street’s policy director, was being interviewed at the gathering by a Haaretz reporter when, according to the reporter, none other than Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz “broke in to the conversation with a verbal onslaught against the group.”
Arguing that J Street “shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel,” he accused them of prioritizing certain policy positions over others to cast Israel in a negative light. Noting that he, like J Street, opposes settlements, he nonetheless maintained, “But I spend 80 percent of my time supporting Israel.”
In response, Susskind told the reporter: “We have disagreements with AIPAC that I don’t want to minimize. But we are all on the same side.”
Not sure AIPAC itself will be thrilled to hear about this kerfuffle. For one thing, it thinks of itself—correctly—as significantly more prominent and influential than J Street, and wants its annual conference to showcase, well, itself, rather than its upstart alternative. For another thing, among AIPAC’s top messages at the conference is getting sanctions against Iran passed: a policy point on which AIPAC and J Street actually agree.
There is an upstart Yiddish theater company on the East Side, and it has ruffled the feathers of the much more established Yiddish theater company. What, you should be surprised by this?
The New York Times has the story. You have the Folksbiene group, which has been around for almost a century, and still insists, to some extent, on doing things the old-fashioned way—the old productions, acting troupes dominated by big burly men with big burly beards. And you have the upstart New Yiddish Repertory Company, which started only two years ago, and does things clearly outside the purview of traditional Yiddish companies. There has been talk of Folksbiene taking New Yiddish Rep under its wing; negotiations are mediated in part by Jack Lebewohl, the owner of the Second Avenue Deli. Of course, that’s now on Third Avenue in Murray Hill, which is as good a commentary on the evolution of old Lower East Side culture as you could find.
One of New Yiddish Rep’s productions is The Big Bupkis, the one-man-show from non-Jewish Yiddo-phile Shane Baker. Marissa Brostoff profiled him for Tablet Magazine a few months ago.
Today in Tablet Magazine, Marjorie Ingall profiles Margaret and H.A. Ray, the German Jews who created Curious George (and the man in the yellow hat). To kick off our coverage of Passover, which begins early next week, we offer everything you need to know about the holiday, as well as a special Vox Tablet podcast featuring Managing Editor Gabriel Sanders and his one-year-old (almost two!) Ezra. As he does every week, Josh Lambert notes forthcoming books of interest. And The Scroll is pleased that it can get health care on its own, now that blogging is not a pre-existing condition.
This year’s annual AIPAC Policy Conference, which kicked off yesterday in Washington, D.C., promises to be one of the most watched and important ones ever. Not only does it have the highest attendance (more than 7500 people will attend), but it follows upon probably the greatest crisis in U.S.-Israel relations—the very thing AIPAC is dedicated to cultivating—in over three decades. Because it’s so important, and because it lies squarely within what we hope is our wheelhouse—Israel’s impact on U.S. politics—we will have plenty of coverage of the goings-on here at The Scroll, including dispatches from Senior Writer Allison Hoffman, who is there. And we will have even more coverage of it on our Twitter.
For now, here’s what people have been saying about the conference, and what happened on the first day.
• Secretary of State Clinton reassured the crowd that the administration has a “rock solid” commitment to Israel and its security. She also noted, “It is our responsibility to give credit when it is due and to tell the truth when it is needed.” [AP/WP]
• In his remarks, new AIPAC President Lee Rosenberg declared, “allies should work out their differences privately.” [Capital J]
• A profile of “Rosy,” the new president, who made his bones in the jazz recording industry and was a major Obama campaign fundraiser. [Arutz Sheva]
• The opening ceremonies featured zero mention of the recent spat, instead focusing on celebrating Israeli technological innovation and highlighting the Iranian threat. Hoffman emails in to report that “the images were all about friendship,” with pictures of Obama with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with President Shimon Peres. [Forward]
• AIPAC will lobby Congress for “crippling sanctions” targeting Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (which the administration doesn’t necessarily want). [Ben Smith]
• Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a potential 2012 Republican presidential candidate, was eagerly making the rounds. [Capital J]
• A panel dicussed the proximity talks and the promise of future direct negotations. [Capital J]
• Jeffrey Goldberg accuses AIPAC of “presenting an oversimplified vision of the Middle East.” [Atlantic.com]
President Obama and Vice President Biden, late last night.(Alex Wong/Getty Images)
• It’s officially on: Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama will meet Tuesday at the White House. It’s going down because Bibi agreed that forthcoming proximity talks can address substantive, in addition to procedural, issues. [WSJ]
• Clashes with the IDF resulted in four Palestinian deaths over the weekend, raising tension in the West Bank. [LAT]
• Lee “Rosy” Rosenberg, the new AIPAC president, kicked off the group’s annual conference with a call for “allies” to “work out their differences privately.” Much more on the conference at 10 am. [Capital J]
• As the diplomatic spat begins to fade, both the U.S. and Israel, unsurprisingly perhaps, think they won. [NYT]
• Visiting Ramallah, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a total settlement freeze. [NYT]
• The House of Representatives passed the Senate’s health-care reform bill, meaning it will become law. [WP]
Said the National Jewish Democratic Council:
This action culminates a 100-year effort to ensure that the people of the United States have the same type of access to health care as citizens of nearly every other industrialized nation. We are confident that when historians look back on this day, they will equate the passage of this bill with such monumental legislative achievements as the passage of Social Security in the 1930’s. This bill also reflects the clear groundswell of support in the American Jewish community—both among individuals and organizations—for the change in our health care system that’s so desperately needed today.
• 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 Armenian genocideslaughter 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.
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.
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?
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 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.
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 Timescalls 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,” saysRolling 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.”
• 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]
• 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]