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Fellas: Heed the Millionaire Matchmaker

Daughter of professional Jewish yenta dispenses advice on Bravo

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(Millionaire’s Club)

Sunday is Valentine’s Day, when the world is divided into two categories: people who are basking in true love and people who are searching for it. If you’re in the first group, well, mazel tov! But if you’re in the second, then Patti Stanger, better known as the Millionaire Matchmaker, has some advice: if you’re not sure whether you really like someone, just see what your schmeckle has to say. (Or your knish!)

For those of you who haven’t seen her Bravo show, Stanger’s an L.A. transplant who’s taken the trade-craft her mother and grandmother practiced as shadchans at their New Jersey shul and applied it to the very rich and, frequently, very shallow people who pass through her office every week. But she’s no platitudinous fairy godmother, offering up worthy Cinderellas to lovelorn Prince Charmings; she’s Sophie Portnoy for hire. “Patti’s mom is quieter—she was that Jewish mom on the street who wanted to see the nice little Jewish girl get together with the nice Jewish boy and be happy,” Stanger’s right-hand man, Destin Pfaff, told Tablet Magazine the other day. “But Patti takes that nice Jewish boy who wants to be set up and says, ‘There must be something wrong with you, because otherwise you wouldn’t be single.’”

This is, by the way, the show’s secret genius: it’s not about watching people find love, it’s about watching millionaires discover that money doesn’t make them any less insecure than the rest of us. (Exhibit A: Justin Shenkarow, whom Stanger dubbed her “angry Hobbit” and who threw a thoroughly recognizable tantrum when Stanger visited his home with a wardrobe consultant: “You come into my fucking room and you tell me you have to open my closets? Who are you?” he snapped.)

Stanger gets away with eviscerating these guys because she exudes ethnic authenticity—which is to say, she talks back—and because everyone knows that, deep down, she really just wants them to be capable of finding happiness. “There are people who come in with this challenge attitude, like, ‘I challenge you to find someone for me,’” Pfaff said. “But these people just need a mirror in front of them to help untie some of those knots.”

Starting next Wednesday, we’ll be distilling Stanger’s wisdom weekly on The Scroll. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with an example of how not to behave this weekend: do not be like last season’s favorite, Dave Levine, a sex-toy mogul who told Stanger he was looking for a bisexual swinger who also had her own career and would be a good mother to his children; you know, someone he could take home to his Conservative family in Boston. Stanger’s analysis: “Ugh, Charlie Sheen.”

Video-Dating For the Frum Set

It’s like Skype, but rabbinically-approved

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Alone on Valentine’s Day? The caring folks at the Make-a-Shidduch Foundation (a shidduch is a match between potential marriage partners, the unfortunate sound of the word notwithstanding) have a new project that could help you find your soul mate, particularly if he or she lives too far away to travel for a blind date.

Shidduch Vision is a video conferencing program in which “studios” are set up in the homes of pre-screened “hosts” so that Orthodox singles who have been fixed up by a shadchan (matchmaker) can have video “dates.” There are currently studios in Chicago, Baltimore, and Lakewood, New Jersey, with more on the way. At $18 per 50-minute session, it’s more kosher than Skype, which Shidduch Vision creator Jeff Cohn says puts daters in dangerous online territory, where “you can look at any www site that you want.” It’s more flattering, too (Cohn told Tablet Magazine that a cosmetician in Baltimore has offered to do girls’ pre-date makeup for free).

One problem? As commenter A. Nuran on the site Frum Satire points out: “One of the ways we unconsciously maximize our chance of having healthy children is to smell if they are good candidates for breeding with us. This isn’t much of a concern in the general population. In small ones which don’t have a lot of genetic diversity it has significant health implications. Video shidduch dating throws that all out the window.” For some, then, Shidduch Vision just doesn’t the smell test.

Related: Hard to Match [Tablet]

Tablet Writer on ‘Guardian’ Podcast

Hoffman discusses Rabbi Leib Tropper

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In honor of Valentine’s Day, “Sounds Jewish,” the Guardian’s Semitic-themed podcast, today tackles the Rabbi Leib Tropper scandal. Tropper is the Monsey, New York-based ultra-Orthodox conversion guru disgraced by allegations, in part broken by Tablet Magazine, that he attempted to trade conversion for sex. And the fun part is, podcaster David Solomons invited none other than our very own Allison Hoffman onto the program.

So give it a listen! Allison, Solomons, and Jewish Chronicle editor Miriam Shaviv discuss Tropper from roughly the 1:25 mark to 11:45.

And may your Valentine’s Day be less ironically celebrated than by discussing Leib Tropper.

Sounds Jewish: Valentine’s Day Special [Guardian]

Related: Sex, Lies, and Audiotape [Tablet Magazine]

Refaeli, Ginzburg Grace ‘SI’ Swimsuit Issue

Also some Nazi controversy, but who really cares?

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The offending photo of Ms. Morton.(Haaretz)

The most uncontroversially awesome thing in the world—the annual Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (really, what’s not to love? okay, we know there is an argument against it, but come on)—has managed to court controversy anyway with an online-only photo of Genevieve Morton next to a WWII jet, complete with (as you can see) swastikas.

We could focus on that. Or we could focus on the fold-out that 2009 cover model Bar Refaeli got, or the appearance of Refaeli’s fellow Israeli model, 19-year-old Esti Ginzburg. Come on, people. Let’s keep our eyes on what’s important.

UPDATE: To be clear, the Nazi flags represent kills that particular plane made. Each one, in other words, represents at least one dead Nazi. What, we should be upset about this?

Nazi Swastika Adorns Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue [Haaretz]

Today on Tablet

Trouble JTS, preparing for Valentine’s Day, and more

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff reports that the in-debt Jewish Theological Seminary is merging its traditionally separate cantorial school into its rabbinical school; some worry that the shuttering expresses a larger trend of decline in Conservative Judaism. Contributing editor Daphne Merkin muses on how she learned (or didn’t learn) how to flirt, with interlocutors from her father to high school boys and beyond. David Sax says he is anticipating a decidedly unromantic Valentine’s Day: it’s difficult to plan too much for that night when you and your significant other are already planning your wedding. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz reminds Tea Partiers that, when it comes to April 15th, “it’s not about taxation or representation but about responsibility, the kind of strong personal commitment that drives people not to for-profit festivals of malice and merchandise but to work for the common good.” The Scroll, on the other hand, kind of likes the sound of these for-profit festivals of malice and merchandise.

Sullivan Responds to Wieseltier’s Israel Charges

As does everyone else with an Internet connection

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Andrew Sullivan.(Creative Commons)

Predictably, New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier’s broadside against blogger Andrew Sullivan over Israel has prompted lots and lots (and lots) of responses, including from Sullivan himself. They all seem to agree with the following propositions: Wieseltier may not explicitly call Sullivan an anti-Semite, but that is the unavoidable implication of his argument (and, indeed, because of that Wieseltier should have said as much in order to be on the record about it); and, Andrew Sullivan is no anti-Semite. After that, they begin to disagree.

In a response to the responses, Wieseltier states, “I did not propose that he is an anti-Semite. I did propose that the scorn and the fury that characterizes his discussion of Israel and some of its Jewish supporters is wholly unwarranted.” As it happens, two years ago, over a similar contretemps, Wieseltier explicitly asserted that Sullivan is not an anti-Semite. (I’m inclined to give Wieseltier the benefit of the doubt: as I said last time, if Wieseltier wanted to write, ‘Andrew Sullivan is an anti-Semite,’ he could have, and since everyone took it that way anyway, it is not clear what Wieseltier stood to gain from refraining; therefore, it stands to reason that he does not think he is one.)

In Sullivan’s response, he adopts a more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone, bemoaning the loss of what was once a strong friendship (both parties admit that there are personal grounds for this conflict in addition to substantive ones) before denying Wieseltier’s (implied) charge of anti-Semitism. He writes:

I’m sorry if Leon immediately saw my distinction between some neocons and many non-neocons as some kind of reference to ancient persecution. But what am I to do if I am trying to describe my support for J-Street over AIPAC on these matters, or for the younger generation of American-Jewish writers as opposed to their elders? Is this analysis something no non-Jew is allowed to even discuss, for fear of offending?

And while noting some caveats, Sullivan does roughly align himself with Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, whose basic thesis is that a powerful Israel Lobby works, mostly successfully, to steer U.S. policies vis-à-vis Israel in (right-wing) directions inimical to the U.S. interest.

He concludes:

At his most generous, Wieseltier accuses me of moronic insensitivity. Well, I do not think Leon thinks I am a moron. Am I insensitive? At times, I’m sure I am. I’m a writer who doesn’t much care for political correctness, of policing discourse for every single possible trope or code that someone somewhere will pounce on as evidence of bigotry. I’ve gone out of my way as an editor and writer to stir things up—on race and gender and culture and sex—and I have never been one to worry excessively about the sensitivity of others. I think I have offended and enraged far far more gay men and evangelicals than I ever have Jewish-Americans, for example. I’m a South Park devotee, for Pete’s sake.

Beyond Sullivan’s rejoinder, and Wieseltier’s rejoinder to the rejoinder (oh, look: Sullivan has now responded even to that!), a ton of other pundits and bloggers weighed in. The Atlantic Wire has an excellent links gallery in case you want to read everything. Several that are especially worth your time follow:

• Jonathan Chait notes that Sullivan once was rabidly, uncomplicatedly pro-Israel, and argues: “On the Middle East, Andrew falls prey to a habitual tendency to see the world divided between children of darkness and children of light. … I don’t think that Andrew’s transformation from overwrought hawk to overwrought dove is driven by, or has brought about, a different view of Jews. It seems instead to be the shattering of a brittle worldview and its replacement by a new worldview, equally brittle.”

• Matthew Yglesias sees the piece as symptomatic of larger problems at the magazine that published it: “Like most of TNR’s very worst work, it suffers deeply from schizophrenia about the idea of flinging around baseless charges of anti-Semitism. On the one hand, the charges are baseless so the writer hesitates to fling them around. On the other hand, flinging baseless charges of anti-Semitism is the essence of the magazine’s commentary on Israel.”

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg, while denying that his (Atlantic colleague) Sullivan is anti-Semitic, agrees with the sentiment of Wieseltier’s article, and points out, “What is relevant is that [Sullivan] sometimes uses his blog to disseminate calumnies that can cause hatred of Jews, and of Israel.” He also argues:

Sullivan doesn’t know that much about the Middle East. … The politics, contradictions, and motivations of Netanyahu’s approach to Obama do not interest Andrew. Netanyahu’s apparently self-evident evilness is what interests Andrew. Extremists on both sides of the issue want the Middle East to be simple, but it’s not. The Middle East is a tragedy precisely because the Israelis have an excellent case, and the Arabs also have an excellent case. This essential fact has often escaped Andrew’s attention.

• Blake Hounshell, of Foreign Policy, finds both Sullivan and Wieseltier’s writings “weird and sloppy,” and makes this valuable point: “Sullivan’s criticism of Israel ought to worry defenders of the Jewish state, then, because he is a bellwether for a broader shift in American media and society that has happened over the last few years.”

That last comment seems impossible to refute. The question of whether Andrew Sullivan is anti-Semitic, or even wrong, is far less relevant than the question of how many in America are apt to agree with his analysis of the Mideast situation, which is decidedly uncharitable to the Israeli side. Debaters’ points may win these little kerfuffles, but will they be enough to stem that “shift”?

Something Much Sadder [Andrew Sullivan]
The Trouble with South Park [TNR]

Earlier: Wieseltier vs. Sullivan

Daybreak: The Territories Get Very Slightly Bigger

Plus mumps, Salvadoran sex trafficking, and more in the news

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• Per court order, the IDF is rerouting a portion of the West Bank security barrier, placing 170 additional acres in the Territories. The nearby Palestinian village, Bilin, has been a lodestar of anti-barrier protest. [LAT]

• Mideast envoy Tony Blair will take a more active role alongside envoy George Mitchell in helping facilitate peace talks. [Ynet]

• More on the mumps outbreak among Orthodox Jews in the Tristate Area. The 1500-plus cases are mostly religious males in Brooklyn, particularly boys and adolescents; the outbreak originated at a religious camp upstate and has spread to New Jersey and also Quebec; most of those who got it did receive the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine. [NYT]

• The suspended deputy mayor of Jersey City, New Jersey, became the first person to be convicted in the corruption scandal broken by informant Solomon Dwek. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

• A bizarre story: the Yonkers, New York-born “president” of the Dominican Republic’s Sephardic community is giving legal advice to ten Americans who allegedly tried to unlawfully ferry almost three dozen children out of Haiti; but El Salvador police now accuse him of trafficking in Central American women. He denies the charge. [NYT]

• Israeli officials are reportedly banking on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s believing their internal inquiry into IDF conduct during the Gaza War is adequate, in order that efforts to establish an independent probe will peter out. [JPost]

Sundown: U.S. Says Iran ‘Anything but Peaceful’

Plus the mumps hit, meowing in Auschwitz, and more

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• The U.S. State Department asserted that Iran’s nuclear program is “anything but peaceful.” [Haaretz]
• Influential Chicago Rabbi Asher Lopatin (he has counted Rahm Emanuel as a congregant) is starting a community in Israel as part of an effort “to build a new type of religious Zionist.” [Chicago Tribune]
• Over 1500 cases of the mumps have been reported among Orthodox Jews in New York and New Jersey, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The outbreak started at a boys’ summer camp. [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]
• In one of his letters, the late J.D. Salinger, recalling a visit to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, expressed “the faint hope that some kindly old Hasid from the eighteenth century” would invite him to his house for tea or matzoh ball soup. [NYT]
• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Robert Pinsky—author of Nextbook Press’s The Life of David—is giving Yale’s Schwebel Memorial Lecture in Religion and Literature next Thursday. [Yale Institute of Sacred Music]
• This is a story about a cat who hangs around Auschwitz. [Reuters/Vos Iz Neias?]

‘Ajami’: Maybe At A Theater Near You

Where to see Israel’s Oscar nominee

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Need weekend plans? You may want to try to check out Ajami, the Israeli film in the running for Best Foreign Film Oscar. At least, that is, if you live in or near New York City; Montclair, New Jersey; Providence, Rhode Island; Boulder, Colorado; or Portland, Oregon. The film opens in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Washington, D.C., next weekend, and in the following weeks will be showing on screens in Boston, Philadelphia, and elsewhere.

In the New York Times, critic A.O. Scott praised the film: “There is no finger-pointing here, and no group hugging either. Instead there is a sharp sense of just how deep and wide the schisms are, not just between Jews and Arabs but also between Christians and Muslims, rich and poor, farmers and city dwellers, men and women, young and old and so on.”

And Tablet Magazine’s Liel Leibovitz called Ajami “bustling, messy, kinetic, and loud.” He added: “There’s always something going on, and always someone at hand to threaten or amuse you, to offer you a strong cup of coffee or a blow to the face.”

Family Matters [Tablet Magazine]
An Israeli Tale of Communal Mistrust, Without the Finger-Pointing [NYT]

Earlier: ‘A Serious Man,’ ‘Basterds,’ and ‘Ajami’ Nominated

Columnist: U.S. Should Negotiate With Hamas

Cohen compares group to the PLO of yore

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http://www.charlierose.com/view/clip/9990(Charlie Rose)

On the heels of a debate Tuesday night where he argued that the United States should maintain a normal, rather than special, relationship with Israel, columnist Roger Cohen has a provocative piece in tomorrow’s International Herald Tribune essentially recapitulating his central point: that, even as President Obama decries settlements, in effect the United States is supporting the settlement policy that will eventually lead to the end of the Zionist dream, as a two-state solution becomes completely unfeasible.

Maybe most notably, Cohen suggests some form of U.S. engagement with Hamas, in much the same way that it was willing to engage with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah before it had ceased to call for the destruction of Israel. Cohen writes:

Obama needs to work harder on overcoming Palestinian division, a prerequisite for peace, rather than playing the no-credible-interlocutor Israeli game. The Hamas charter is vile. But the breakthrough Oslo accords were negotiated in 1993, three years before the Palestine Liberation Organization revoked the annihilationist clauses in its charter. When Arafat and Rabin shook hands on the White House lawn, that destroy-Israel charter was intact. Things change through negotiation, not otherwise. If there are Taliban elements worth engaging, are there really no such elements in the broad movements that are Hamas and Hezbollah?

It is important to understand the rebuttal to this; it was offered, at the debate, by former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Itamar Rabinovich. He disputed this comparison: Fatah could be reasoned with, he argued, because it was, at bottom, driven by secular nationalism, whereas Hamas may not be reasoned with because it is, at bottom, driven by religious fundamentalism.

Still, the title of the op-ed is “Hard Mideast Truths,” and that one—that the road to peace goes through Hamas—is surely among the hardest.

Hard Mideast Truths [IHT]

Earlier: NYT Columnist, Former Ambassador Stage Debate

Quote of the Day

The $177 bagel sandwich (and soda)

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“Anything can go on a bagel. We can put the whole menu on a bagel.”

—The proprietor of a lower Manhattan deli. A New York City councilman under indictment for money-laundering and other charges has been accused of inflating a $7 receipt for a bagel sandwich and soda to $177.

If you had $177 to buy a bagel sandwich, what would you want on it? Besides cream cheese, obviously.

ADL, J Street Condemn UC-Irvine Incident

Ambassador Oren’s reception largely unprecedented in U.S.

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It’s worth pausing again to digest the treatment Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren received during a speech he gave Monday at the University of California, Irvine. He was interrupted multiple times, reportedly by members of the university’s Muslim Student Union, with shouts of “Killers!” “How many Palestinians did you kill?” and “Propagating murder is not an expression of free speech!” (as Jonathan Chait noted, Oren did not murder anyone during his speech).

The Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman condemned the incident (in an email), as well as the strikingly similar incident, also on Monday, in which Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon was shouted down with like-minded epithets at Oxford University: “Anti-Israel activists on our campuses are increasingly resorting to undemocratic, bullying, confrontational tactics in order to silence Israeli officials and the expression of pro-Israel views.”

J Street had this to say (also in an email):

While appropriate and respectful protests are a legitimate and important part of the conversation on campus, anti-Semitic, racist, disruptive, and inflammatory actions and language are simply unacceptable.

In particular, we were profoundly offended by the anti-Semitic rhetoric used by a student to attack Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon during a recent talk at Oxford University. We were also deeply disappointed to hear about attempts to interrupt Ambassador Michael Oren’s remarks at the University of California, Irvine, with heckling aimed at drowning out the Ambassador’s speech.

UC-Irvine Chancellor Michael Drake, who was present at the speech, said afterwards that he was embarassed by the welcome Oren got.

Meanwhile, roughly a dozen students were arrested after Oren’s speech, prompting the Muslim Public Affairs Council to request an investigation—they argue that it is unclear what if any laws the students broke.

Muslim Students Shout ‘Killer’ During Oren’s L.A. Speech [Haaretz]
Muslim Group Wants Investigation Into Arrests During Oren Lecture [AP/Vos Iz Neias?]

Earlier: Israeli Minister, Historian Welcomed in Britain

Charlie Wilson (He of His War) Dies

Congressman, played by Hanks, was staunchly pro-Israel

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Charlie Wilson.(Sam Houston State University)

Charlie Wilson, the Texas congressman made famous by the book and then movie Charlie Wilson’s War, died yesterday at 76. A Democrat who was nonetheless to the right of most Republicans on foreign and defense issues, Wilson will always be most known for his tireless, one-man efforts—documented in the Mike Nichols-directed, Aaron Sorkin-penned film—to persuade the U.S. Congress to fund the radical Islamist mujahedeen who were resisting Soviet rule in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Wilson’s work here had a more-than-negligible impact in terms of hastening the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War; it also produced the historical irony (which Wilson was concerned about before almost anyone else) of U.S. funding in the 1980s of Osama bin Laden and some of his friends.

But today, Wilson may also be remembered as one of the best friends Israel ever had in the U.S. Congress. “I think that there were no Jews in his constituency, but he was a true friend,” said former Israeli diplomat Zvi Rafiah, referring to the east Texas district Wilson represented. “His support for Israel was based on his belief that we are a brave people, a sort of David to Goliath.” It was also based on his anti-Soviet hawkishness, and his belief that Israel was a crucial strategic Cold War ally. “Of special importance to the Jewish community was his staunch support for Israel,” the National Jewish Democratic Council said in a statement yesterday.

Rafiah—who is a prominent character in the movie; he’s the Israeli with ties to the arms industry there that Wilson and the CIA guy visit in Jerusalem—recalled that Wilson was the only congressman to request a briefing at the Israeli Embassy on the Yom Kippur War during its earliest, darkest days. “At the moment a ceasefire was declared, he immediately came to visit Israel and he came many times afterward,” Rafiah said. “Israel owes him a great deal.”

Charlie Wilson, Texas Congressman Linked to Foreign Intrigue, Dies at 76 [NYT]
Ex-Congressman and ‘Friend of Israel’ Dies at 76 [Haaretz]
Ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson Dies at 76 [JTA]

Today on Tablet

All about the 19th arrondisement

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Today in Tablet Magazine, following yesterday’s podcast about Paris’s remarkably diverse 19th arrondisement, Léa Khayata reports from that neighborhood, describing the human stories while tracing the roots of the recent upsurge in anti-Semitic incidents in France. The Scroll will have an easier time getting to work today.

Daybreak: A Same-Named Killing

Plus Iran’s big day, U.N. sanctions near, and MoHouse in the news

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• A Palestinian Authority police officer killed an Israeli soldier, in an area of the West Bank controlled by Israel. Twist #1: the Israeli was a Druse. Twist #2: the victim’s name was Ihab Khatib, the killer’s name was Mahmoud al-Khatib; they are unrelated. [NYT]
• Today Iran observes the anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Anti-regime protests and official suppression of them are expected. To follow along, we suggest checking this New Republic liveblog, Twitter, and other news sources (including, as events warrant, The Scroll). [WSJ]
• If Russia remains on board, China will not prevent harsher Security Council sanctions on Iran: so, reportedly, say senior U.N. officials. [Haaretz]
• Palestinian families’ petitioning of the United Nations prompts the New York Times to report on the dispute—amply covered in Tablet Magazine—over the new Museum of Tolerance that is planned for a Jerusalem site containing a Muslim cemetery. [NYT]
• An article profiles Moishe House (“MoHouse!”), an Oakland, California-based nonprofit that subsidizes urban group houses on the condition that they periodically hold Jewish-themed events. “Picture Real World—the MTV series—with challah.” Tablet Magazine already has. [NYT]
• If it feels like there has been less domestic political news this week, that’s probably because the federal government is closed for the fourth straight day today, as this winter’s snowfall in Washington, D.C., has officially set a new record. [WP]

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