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All the Food News You Can Stomach

Catered Seders, phoney matzah, and more

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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

‘THE SCENE MUST BE DRAMATIC’

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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):

ANY TIME TWO CHARACTERS ARE TALKING ABOUT A THIRD, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.

DO NOT WRITE A CROCK OF SHIT. WRITE A RIPPING THREE, FOUR, SEVEN MINUTE SCENE WHICH MOVES THE STORY ALONG, AND YOU CAN, VERY SOON, BUY A HOUSE IN BEL AIR AND HIRE SOMEONE TO LIVE THERE FOR YOU.

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’

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(epodunk)

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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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]

It’s Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s!

And we suggest Jewish-themed flavors

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Oh yes, it’s today. Find the nearest Ben & Jerry’s here and get your ‘scream.

Meanwhile, why don’t founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield encourage the company to honor their roots by offering a Jewish-themed flavor? Or five? Tablet Magazine staffers came up with the following suggestions (some of which have better chances than others):

Promised Land: Malted-milk flavored ice cream with honey swirls.

Jewcy Fruit: Berry ice cream with bits of (swallow-able) fruit-flavored gum.

Shaved Shabbat: Horchata-flavored ice cream with shaved ice.

A Great Miracle Happened Here: Potato ice cream with apple swirls.

The Big Tzimmes: Carrot ice cream with prune and apricot ‘core’.

Bubbelicious: Chicken broth-flavored ice cream with matzoh ball nuggets.

A Sweet New Year: Honey ice cream with cinnamon-apple swirl.

Macaroon Lagoon: Coconut with chocolate chips and fudge swirls.

Meshuggah Cookie: Sugar cookie-flavored ice cream with pieces of sugar cookie and rainbow sprinkles.

Find the Afikomen: Chocolate-dipped matzoh in a ginger ice cream.

The Exodus: Strawberry (red sea) on two sides, vanilla up the middle.

Gefilte Phish Food: Chocolate ice cream, caramel, marshmallow, and tiny chocolate carp, pike, and whitefish.

Got any others? Leave ‘em in the comments!

America’s New Health Care System

Should look more familiar to Israelis

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The health care signing today.(Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The U.S. health care system just became a lot more like Israel’s. This morning, President Obama signed the health care bill—formal title: Affordable Health Care for America Act—into law in a White House ceremony. Though it does not provide universal health care, it requires most Americans to have health insurance (and offers subsidies, discounts, and an expanded Medicaid for those who would have trouble affording it); it is expected to extend insurance to over 30 million uncovered Americans. Israel does have universal health care: all citizens are required to enlist in one of four health maintenance organizations. (The situation in the Palestinian territories is, unsurprisingly, a lot more complicated.) The state backs the HMOs, and there is a health insurance tax. There are, however, no death panels.

Obama Signs Landmark Health Care Bill [NYT]

AIPAC Delegates Hit the Hill

Groups see Congress, not administration, as most crucial

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Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, yesterday.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Why does AIPAC hold its annual policy conference in Washington, D.C.? It’s not just to make it easy for politicians to show up for its plenary sessions and gala dinners! This morning, a few thousand delegates, who have spent the two days focusing on various threats to the Jewish state—Iran, the Goldstone Report, daylight between it and the United States—are taking their umbrellas and fanning out across Capitol Hill to do what lobbyists do: lobby.

AIPAC’s machine is, of course, legendary. And its traditional wheelhouse is the two legislative chambers. Despite the fact that the group’s new president, Lee Rosenberg, was among Obama’s most active supporters, he pointedly told delegates the other night that, given the state of affairs between the administration and Israel, “It is Congress, the bedrock of American support for Israel, which must act.”

Act on what? On Iran sanctions, for starters. That’s the issue that tops a set of talking points staffers handed out to delegates yesterday afternoon in training sessions. What else? Obama requested $3 billion of assistance in the new foreign aid bill: given the economy, it could use some shoring from the pressure it will inevitably receive from all sides.

The delegates—most of whom have lobbied their members of Congress before, on these exact issues—seemed most anxious about how to respond if members asked about “the situation.” (The diplomatic one, not the Jersey Shore one.) One longtime legislative lobbyist for a left-leaning Jewish group told me that, at the end of the day, “This Congress isn’t going to move without the administration.” (Want evidence of that? Look no further than the fight to get the health-care legislation passed.) Accordingly, AIPAC staffers advised their charges to reassure members of Congress that the episode was “regrettable” but that they, at least, were not in conflict with the administration.

And Netanyahu? He’s also heading to the Hill for his own meetings this morning, before he goes to see Obama privately at 5:30 this afternoon.

Earlier: The Jews and their City. And Their Umbrellas.

Today on Tablet

A very Gettysburg Passover, Egypt to Israel in ‘56, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Dara Horn traces the similarities between Civil War re-enactment culture and the rituals of Passover—and finds more than you might think! Patrick Huguenin is our poor non-Jew who learns a kosher-for-Passover recipe in time for Seder. Books critic Adam Kirsch praises the new novel From the Four Winds, which depicts the little discussed “Exodus” of Egyptian Jews to Israel after the 1956 war. The Scroll has never been to a Civil War re-enactment, but has watched the great South Park about one.

The Jews and Their City. And Their Umbrellas.

At the AIPAC Conference with Netanyahu

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Netanyahu speaking last night.(Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Later today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sit down with President Obama for the first time since November. The two leaders will presumably continue the conversation Netanyahu started yesterday in meetings with both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. But Netanyahu’s comments last night here in Washington, D.C., to the more than 7,500 people attending the annual AIPAC convention, suggest he isn’t ready, at least publicly, to back off his right to keep building in Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem is not a settlement,” Netanyahu said, earning roaring applause for a line that was tested by other speakers earlier in the day. “It’s our capital.” To drive the point home, Netanyahu trotted out a story that he is, judging by the fact that he has told it before, pretty fond of: it’s the tale of the 2,800-year-old signet ring, which the prime minister keeps in his office, that has the name “Netanyahu” etched into it. This time, he embellished the story with a reference to Israeli President Shimon Peres, whose namesake was a brother of the first Benjamin, and roamed around Biblical Judea too. “The connection between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel cannot be denied,” Netanyahu reasoned. “The connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem cannot be denied.” (more…)

Daybreak: In D.C., Bibi Backs J’lem Building

But Obama is more powerful than ever; and more in the news

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Shalit’s father, Noam, yesterday.(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Image)

• “Jerusalem is not a settlement,” Prime Minister Netanyahu declared to the AIPAC Conference, defending Israeli building; “it is our capital.” More on Bibi’s speech at 10 am. [NYT]

• An IDF soldier was killed in friendly fire. His fellow troops were engaged in halting three Palestinians trying to cross over the Gaza border. [NYT]

• The parents of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit begged the U.N. Human Rights Council to pressure Hamas to release their son. [JPost]

• President Obama is in a stronger position to negotiate with Netanyahu than he was even 48 hours ago, due to the passage of health care reform. They meet at the White House tonight. [Politico]

• Britain is expelling the Mossad’s representative there in protest of the forged British passports allegedly used in the (probably Mossad-backed) assassination of a Hamas weapons man in Dubai. [Haaretz]

• The mayor of Jerusalem helpfully noted that the 1600 announced homes in East Jerusalem is just the tip of the iceberg: there are, he said, plans to build 50,000 homes in a united city over the next two decades. [Arutz Sheva]

Sundown: Liam Neeson’s Autograph Sold Separately

Plus the Jewish harmonica player, and more

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Sacha Baron Cohen earlier this year.(Charley Gallay/Getty Images for PCA)

• Schindler’s List—like, Oskar Schindler’s actual list—is on-sale for $2.2 million. [Page Six]

• The European Union formally condemned Israel’s “settlement activities” and requested a full freeze (and a top E.U. diplomat bewailed the Gaza blockade in an op-ed). [JTA]

• A top Hamas official criticized the launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, saying it distracts from and even lends justification to Israeli building in East Jerusalem. He suggested they’re being launched by groups seeking to undermine Hamas. [Ynet]

• The famed harmonica in movies such as Shane and High Noon? Those parts were played by Jerry Adler, a Baltimore-born Jew who recently died at 91. Incredibly, the one even more famous harmonica player from that era was also a Jew: Adler’s brother, Larry. [NYT]

• Sacha Baron Cohen and longtime girlfriend Isla Fisher—who converted to Cohen’s Judaism several years ago—were married in a Jewish ceremony in Paris. [JTA]

• A Seder, with robots:

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