Remembering the Triangle Fire

99th anniversary today

Rendering of the building, from which 50 women jumped to their deaths.(Wikipedia.)

Today is the 99th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. In 1911, 146 garment workers—primarily Jews and Italians—died in a fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, just east of Manhattan’s Washington Square, because management had locked the doors. The worst U.S. workplace disaster until 9/11, it prompted an outcry and paved the way, ultimately, to wider acceptance of workers’ rights.

The Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition has an event at Washington Square’s Judson Memorial Church at 6:30 this evening.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire: An Indelible Memory, Etched In Chalk [Forward]

Today on Tablet

It’s Greek to us, charoset balls, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, authors, artists, and a boxer offer personal pages to the Haggadah (it’s really cool!). What makes that night different from all other nights? Judith Shulevitz, author of the newly published The Sabbath World, casts an analytic glance at the rituals and finds Greek at their heart. Joan Nathan discusses charoset before divulging the recipe she’ll use this year: charoset balls whose provenance dates to the 13th century. The Scroll would like to remind you that charoset is good and all, but the Hillel sandwich requires only horseradish.

British Intelligence Opposed Expulsion

Diplomats forced move over Dubai killing

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.(Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

In deciding to expel an Israeli diplomat and issue a travel advisory to citizens traveling to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the diplomats in Britain’s Foreign Office were in favor (and won out), while officials in Britain’s security service were opposed. The moves were taken, of course, in protest of the faked British passports used in the (likely Mossad-backed) assassination of a Hamas weapons procurer in Dubai. Australia, whose passports were also forged, is likely next to act.

So what does this mean? It means that, barring further sensational evidence that it was indeed the Mossad who killed Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, you probably just saw the extent of adverse political consequences to the assassination for Israel. And even if there are further wrist-slaps, there are not going to be fundamental break-downs in Israeli alliances over this: no matter how much the diplomats want it, other countries’ intelligence services clearly understand, first, that covert assassination of state enemies on foreign soil is something of the way business is done; and, second, that they need cooperation with Israeli intelligence at least as much as Israeli intelligence needs cooperation with them.

A top Israeli diplomat had the most telling line: “The British really did the minimum required on their part over the passports,” he told Haaretz. In other words, if positions were reversed, this figure would have wanted to do the same thing—after all, he’s a diplomat.

U.K. Officials Were Split Over Expelling Israeli in Dubai Row [Haaretz ]
Related: Israeli: Mossad Hit Didn’t Upset Intel Ties

Daybreak: Nuclear Sanctions, Watered Down

Plus Elijah’s cup and Gilad’s chair, and more in the news

Gilad Shalit.(The Jerusalem Life)

• The United States has proposed less severe U.N. sanctions to try to get Russia and China onboard. [WSJ/Kurdish Globe]

• Meanwhile, an AIPAC-backed letter calling for harsh and unilateral Iran sanctions has been like a magnet for congressional signatures. [Ben Smith]

• The U.S. and Israeli administrations are constructing “the blueprint”: a list of everything that must be settled as preconditions to peace talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu will need his cabinet’s approval; U.S. envoy George Mitchell, who met with Netanyahu yesterday, will take it to the Palestinians. [WP]

• Sid Fleischman, winner of the Newbery Award for best children’s novel for 1986’s The Whipping Boy, died at 90. [NYT]

• Israel’s chief rabbi called on citizens to save a chair at their seders for Gilad Shalit, the captured Israeli soldier. [Ynet]

Sundown: A Different Perspective on Obama-Bibi

Plus bat mitzvah dancing, and more


• Everyone seems to be worried about declining U.S.-Israel relations … except the Palestinian Authority, which worries they haven’t declined enough. [Ynet]

• Someone else will have to be New York’s next Jewish senator: former Bush speechwriter Dan Senor isn’t running this year. [Ben Smith]

• Speaking in Berlin, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni urged international economic and political sanctions against Iran. [Haaretz]

• “With a heavy heart,” columnist Yossi Alpher backs Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s plan to unilaterally declare sovereignty. [JPost]

• In a meditative essay, Leon Wieseltier argues against Jewish building in East Jerusalem (specifically Sheikh Jarrah). [TNR]

• Oh, so this is what it’s like to be a bat mitzvah motivational dancer. [Slate]

Did you guys know Joy Division had a song called “Passover”? I sure didn’t!

Sound and Fury, With Nothing Signified So Far

Things are tense between Obama and Bibi

President Obama yesterday.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

This we know: Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Netanyahu entered the White House and met with President Obama in the Oval Office from 5:34 to 7:03; he then met with aides in the Roosevelt Room; requested a follow-up meeting; and President Obama, returning from the family quarters, met with Bibi in the Oval Office again from 8:20 to 8:55. Beyond that, we’re like Kay at the end of The Godfather when they close the door on her. Neither side has released a statement about the meeting, which is rare and suggests that even basic tenets could not be agreed upon.

Laura Rozen and Ben Smith report—echoing what Allison Hoffman wrote yesterday—that Netanyahu’s intense focus on lobbying Congress is solid evidence that the White House is not buying whatever he’s trying to sell.

And what may have further complicated what went on behind those closed doors was the unserendipitously timed announcement of, yup, more Jewish building in East Jerusalem. “This is exactly what we expect Prime Minister Netanyahu to get control of,” a senior U.S. official reportedly said. “The current drip-drip-drip of projects in East Jerusalem impedes progress.” The White House has requested “clarification” of these plans. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Ehud Barak announced that the government had taken steps to ensure that surprise housing announcements didn’t happen again. Of course, he said that a few hours before this latest one.

And I haven’t even yet mentioned Iran, which Israel, at least, considers the real paramount issue. Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh reports that Obama had been all set to turn his Administration’s attention away from the settlements (and indeed the peace process) and toward Iran … and then announcement-gate happened. Not clear how accurate this report is—after all, U.S.-sponsored “proximity talks” were, and technically still are, in the offing—but there you have it.

So, a few known knowns, several known unknowns, and probably even a few unknown unknowns. Just another day in the special relationship.

After Meeting, Deafening Silence [Politico]
It’s Iran, Stupid
Earlier: AIPAC Delegates Hit the Hill

Sabbath: The Ecumenical Discussion

Tablet contributing editor discusses new book


Tablet Magazine contributing editor Judith Shulevitz is participating in an online discussion about her new book, The Sabbath World, over at Slate. Her interlocutors are Union Theological Seminary Professor Mary Boys and Slate writer Dahlia Lithwick. They’re on their fifth entry already and still going strong. Check it out!

Shulevitz was the guest on our Vox Tablet podcast last week. Check that out, too!

The Sabbath World Book Club [Slate]
Related: Day of Rest [Tablet Magazine]

All the Food News You Can Stomach

Catered Seders, phoney matzah, and more


Maybe it’s the upcoming holiday, but there has been a recent spate of Jewish food news lately. Let’s take a look!

• Savoy, the Manhattan restaurant that trail-blazed the currently haute local-food movement, is leading a trend of seders-in-restaurants with a Sephardic-themed affair next week. [Forward]

• Ooh, and here are several more NYC restaurants with some great seder offerings. [Grub Street]

• Iranian seders sound awesome. [NYT]

• A restaurant called Traif—“Specializing in pork, shellfish, and love”—is opening in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, not far from a huge Hasidic enclave. [Bang it Out]

• Kosher wine that’s actually, y’know, good. [NYT]

• Untouchables-style, Israeli police raided a warehouse containing seven tons of matzoh with fake kosher certificates. [AP/Google]

• Many folks know that The Last Supper was actually a Passover seder. Well, it probably wasn’t. [Biblical Archaeology Review]

• Gatorade has started getting Orthodox Union kosher certification and is actively marketing to the yeshiva set. [The Jewish Star]

David Mamet Tells You How To Write


Mamet and his wife, Rebecca Pidgeon, last year.(Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

If you harbor dreams of one day writing television shows, or perhaps just watching them, then your official lunch-break reading is David Mamet’s advice to the writers of the show he created, the canceled CBS drama The Unit. It’s tough, hypercritical, and of course profane, but also fair, not un-admiring, and just plain brilliant. Did I mention that Mamet also wrote The Wicked Son, a Nextbook Press book?

One highlight (his bold and all-caps):




But, really, read the whole thing.

And, sure, why not:

David Mamet’s Master Class Memo to the Writers of The Unit [Movieline]
Related: The Wicked Son [Nextbook Press]

Finally, an Actual Mensch!

This week on ‘Millionaire Matchmaker’


Every Wednesday, Senior Writer Allison Hoffman recaps the previous night’s episode of the glory that is Millionaire Matchmaker. For previous Matchmaker coverage, click here.

As we recently noted, Patti Stanger—La Matchmaker herself—is moving the show to New York. After watching last night’s episode, we think we know why: She’s worked her way to the top of L.A.’s douchebag totem pole, and now it’s time to go.

This week’s d-bag is Will Ratner, a reasonably good-looking 27-year-old who is spinning his wheels—Mercedes rims, if you must know—while he waits to inherit $40 million from the family business. (Is he related to the San Diego Ratners, Jewish garmentos who a made a fortune manufacturing Navy uniforms during World War II? Or maybe the Cleveland Ratners? Or none of the above?) Unlike Patti’s last dauphin, oil heir Jason Davis, Ratner comes across as more or less functional—he neither has a monkey nor talks about farting, for example. Will had a girlfriend, whom he really loved, and who stood by him while he explored the full range of L.A. careers: sports agent, investment adviser, restaurateur. But, you know, as he grew more successful, hotter women started hitting on him, and eventually, well, he had to start sleeping with them. But now he tells Patti he does not want to be at 35 the man he is at 27. Though it is hard. “Women want to get with me all the time, but I usually turn them down,” he says. “I can sacrifice a 10 bimbo for an 8 with a brain.” “Does the term a-hole mean anything to you?” Patti inquires. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Daniel fries a potato, Abrams fries Obama, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, famed chef Daniel Boulud looks to another holiday when devising a Passover recipe for us: the fried potato pancake, after all, is pesadik. Esther Schor, author of Nextbook Press’s Emma Lazarus, discusses how to invite the famous Jewish poet of liberation to Seder. Reporting from the AIPAC Conference in Washington, D.C., Mideast columnist Lee Smith profiles Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration official who has emerged as the leading neoconservative critic of President Obama’s Mideast policies. And The Scroll gears up for Passover.

Maimonides Worked Here

Egypt (quietly) restores 1000-year-old school

The restored site.(NYT)

A fine New York Times dispatch casts the restoration of an old Cairo synagogue and even older Jewish religious school as a symbol of the tension between Egypt’s political peace with Israel and its population’s deep-seated antipathy toward the Jewish state. Egypt spent nearly $2 million on the shul, only to mute awareness of the fact, and only to bar the news media from the re-opening. Weird.

But what’s really cool is just what the school was: It’s where Maimonides, the Rambam, worked! The synagogue was built in the 19th century in honor of the Rambam; the religious school is where he worked in the 1100s. I asked Sherwin Nuland, author of Nextbook Press’s Maimonides, for his thoughts. “For centuries after the death of Maimonides,” Nuland told me, “it was common for sick Jews to spend the night in this synagogue, in the hope that the great Rambam would heal them.” And they can again. If they’ve heard about it.

A Synagogue’s Unveiling Exposes a Conundrum [NYT]
Related: Maimonides [Nextbook Press]

Daybreak: They Talked, But What Did They Say?

Plus Russia, China get tougher with Iran, and more in the news

Netanyahu exits the White House last night.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

• Prime Minister Netanyahu spent over three hours at the White House, consisting of a 90-minute meeting with President Obama; a conferral with aides; and then a requested second meeting. Uncharacteristically, the White House released no statement. [WP]

• A news analysis concludes that Israel’s diplomatic isolation is increasing and that the U.S. Administration is less enthusiastic about the countries’ special relationship than ever before. [WP]

• While official responses were muted, informally, Israeli officials and politicians were extremely pissed at Britain’s expulsion of a diplomat in connection with the fake passports in the Dubai assassination; British intelligence, noted one, “know how things work.” [JPost]

• Russia and China are trying hard to convince Iran to accept a U.N.-backed nuclear fuel plan. [Haaretz]

• Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts), who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee, told Netanyahu he favors putting the building announcement dispute behind everyone. [Foreign Policy]

• Israel’s U.N. ambassador complained about Libya and Iran’s apparent bids to join the Human Rights Council; Libya in particular will likely land a spot. [JPost]

Sundown: Britain Kicks Israeli Diplomat Out

Plus Shimon Peres’s ‘sex appeal,’ and more in the news

President Shimon Peres earlier this week.(Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

• Great Britain expelled an unnamed Israeli diplomat. According to Foreign Secretary David Miliband, this was to protest the alleged misuse of fake British passports by “a state intelligence service” in the assassination of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. [NYT]

• Bonus! Last paragraph of the same article notes that South African authorities reportedly couldn’t come up with footage of the assassins in a Johannesburg airport because said footage has been “mysteriously wiped.”

• 86-year-old Israeli President Shimon Peres said of the Negev Desert, “This is an attractive area. If I wasn’t a politician, I would even say it had sex appeal.” [Ynet]

• The Arab League head wants to cultivate closer ties with Iran. [Haaretz]

• Rep. Henry Waxman (D-California) said it was appropriate that health care passed when it did: “The meaning of the seder is that no one should be left behind.” [JTA]

• Mark Bittman tells you how to make olive oil matzah. [NYT]

AIPAC Round-Up: Israel to NATO?

Plus, Chuck wants his money back!

Schumer and Netanyahu earlier today.(Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Image)

Other highlights of #AIPAC2010! For Allison Hoffman’s dispatches, see here, here, and here.

• AIPAC unveiled a comprehensive campaign to decrease Israel’s isolation, mainly by securing its membership to various international bodies—including NATO. [Forward]

• Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) claims Prime Minister Netanyahu owes him $1,800. Seriously. [Capital J]

• A little-noticed but interesting contention in Secretary of State Clinton’s address: that the new democratization of communication wrought by the Internet means Israel can’t as effectively control its message. [Ben Smith]

• Alan Solow (who Allison Hoffman profiled last week) focused, in his address, on Iran sanctions and international de-legitimization of Israel. [Capital J]

• Peace group CODEPINK took credit for the false press release claiming that AIPAC advocated a full settlement freeze. [CODEPINK]

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