Could Handler or Stewart Replace Letterman?

Maybe it’s time for a Jewish comedian on late night television

David Letterman. (Jeffrey R. Staab/CBS)

Well, in the most decisive ending to a long running feud since Henry Tudor pluced the crown of England out of that hawthorn bush on Bosworth field, David Letterman is retiring from Late Show, just a few months after his rival Jay Leno finally packed it in.

It’s the end of an era for the longest-serving late-night host in history (his tenure on television has encompassed virtually my entire life) and the announcement of his leaving has brought, along with at least three of the four flaming horsemen of the apocalypse, the usual flurry of speculation as to just who might fill his shoes. (more…)

Did Sandy Koufax Lay Tefillin During the 1965 World Series?

Unraveling Jewish baseball’s urban legend about the southpaw and the Rebbe

Sandy Koufax.(AP)

While sports fans barely agree on anything, it is almost universally accepted that there have only been two truly great Jewish stars in Major League Baseball: Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax. Greenberg was one of baseball’s greatest sluggers who played primarily for the Detroit Tigers in the 1930’s and 40’s, and Koufax, who played for the Dodgers (in Brooklyn and then Los Angeles) from 1955 through 1966. Koufax was arguably the greatest left-handed pitcher of all time.

While neither Greenberg nor Koufax was known to be particularly observant, both made historic decisions that have had tremendous religious and cultural significance for generations of American Jews. During the middle of a pennant race in 1934, Greenberg famously sat out of a game that fell on Yom Kippur. Then, 31 years later, Koufax missed his slated spot in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series versus the Minnesota Twins because it conflicted with Yom Kippur.

While much ink has been spilled on the events that took place on those famous holy days, There’s a lesser-known story of what happened to Koufax on the day after Yom Kippur, when a devoted baseball fan and disciple of the Lubavitcher Rebbe connected with the southpaw. (more…)

Pollard’s Potential Release Divides U.S. Jews

Objections to the convicted spy being a bargaining chip in flagging peace talks

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Prisons Correctional Complex where convicted Israeli spy Jonathan J. Pollard is housed, on April 1, 2014 in Butner, North Carolina. (Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

Jonathan Pollard’s release, which is reportedly newly on the table as a way to revive the flagging Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, has sharply divided American Jews. Pollard, the former naval intelligence analyst convicted of spying for Israel, has been in prison in the United States for nearly three decades, and his case has long been a controversial case among both Jews and the wider international community.

Indeed, when Tablet called for Pollard’s release in an editorial in January, it was not as a peace process hail mary. He remains the only person in American history to receive a life sentence for the crime of spying in a case involving a friendly country, and the only person convicted of such a crime to be sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. (more…)

At 62, Deaf Man Will Celebrate His Bar Mitzvah

A unique learning process helped Joel Scott Strauss fulfill his lifelong goal

Joel Scott Strauss, 62, prepares for his bar mitzvah this weekend. (Rhonda Hodas Hack)

Bar mitzvah boys routinely spend months preparing for their ceremonial inaugurations into the Jewish adult community. For Joel Scott Strauss, the process has taken 62 years.

Strauss, a resident of Suffern, N.Y., has been deaf for most of his life. On Saturday morning, April 5, he will celebrate his long-awaited bar mitzvah during morning services at the Orangetown Jewish Center in Orangeburg, N.Y. (more…)

Rabbi Shave-a-Thon Raises Nearly $600,000

73 rabbis shaved their heads in a pediatric cancer research fundraiser

Rabbis Scott Weiner, Ben David, Eric J. Siroka, and Paul Kipnes get their heads shaved in Chicago on Tuesday, April 1. (Photo courtesy of Julie Pelc Adler)

The 73 rabbis who shaved their heads this week as part of a campaign to raise money for pediatric cancer research went all out, together donating more than $570,000 to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

The male and female participants in the Shave for the Brave fundraiser did the deed on Tuesday at the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis convention in Chicago, JTA reports. (more…)

French Court Issues Fine Over Quenelle Salute

The cost of posting photos online featuring the controversial gesture: $4,130

People perform a 'quenelle' salute on January 9, 2014 in western France. (JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP/Getty Images)

The quenelle, the viral anti-Semitic gesture formerly known as a harmless meat-filled pastry, is apparently still trendy in France. The ‘reverse Nazi salute’ popularized by controversial comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala is still being given—and photographed, and put online—and now it’s landed one man in court.

A French court fined a 28-year-old Moroccan man $4,130 for posting photos online of himself giving the salute in front of Grand Synagogue in Bordeaux, JTA reports. It’s believed to be the first criminal conviction relating to the gesture, and an indication that the French government is taking more seriously the gesture’s role in contributing to the country’s increasingly casual climate of anti-Semitism. It’s also the surest sign the quenelle has officially jumped the shark. (more…)

Court Orders Katz’s Deli Knockoff to Fix Name

‘Katz & Dogz’ food truck will now be known as ‘Deli & Dogz’

Katz's Delicatessen on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, 28 June 2007. (STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Katz’s Delicatessen, that iconic New York City pastrami institution, has more than just a new egg cream-scented candle to celebrate. A New York City court ruled that an unrelated food truck billing itself as ‘Katz & Dogz’ must change its name to sound less like its affiliated with the deli. They also have to scrub the searching question, “Are you ready for the Reuben Orgasm?” from the side of the truck, GrubStreet reports. (more…)

Orthodox Jewish Women Get in on Zumba Craze

But Rabbis aren’t thrilled with the female-only dance class’ suggestive moves

A scene from a standard Zumba class. (Jersey Fit Life)

Tablet contributor Lucette Lagnado, who is currently working on a book for the Nextbook Press Jewish encounters series, reports on a hip-hoppin’ new trend: Orthodox Jewish women doing Zumba, the high-energy dance fitness craze sweeping gyms across the country. “With lives guided by Do’s and Don’ts, few of these women are Livin’ La Vida Loca, she writes in the Wall Street Journal, “though in class they do at least get to dance to it.”

The classes are women-only, and inappropriate lyrics are painstakingly edited out of the pop and hip hop songs played (Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” is a favorite, with its Klezmer-lite sound, though it probably took extra time to sanitize). Still, some rabbis aren’t exactly thrilled with the gyrating dance trend, which they argue violates Jewish modesty principles. (more…)

Apply for Tablet’s Immersive Summer Workshop

An intensive week of Jewish journalism, expenses paid


If you’re reading this, you like us, or, at the very least you revel, as we do, in the glorious past and the boundless future of Jewish journalism. If that’s the case, have we got a summer for you: This June, as part of the Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture, we’re thrilled to present Tent: Journalism, a week-long, immersive series of workshops that will introduce you to some of the finest practitioners of the craft, cover the storied history of Jewish newspapers from Eastern Europe to New York, and give you plenty of opportunity to explore, report, and write with the guidance of our editors, all with generous stipends covering room, board, and a few terrific treats. (more…)

Israel Museum Shows Off its Fashionable Side

Centuries of clothing worn by Jews across the world on display in new exhibit

Image from 'Dress Code: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe.' (Israel Museum)

A large collection of Jewish clothing from across the world worn during the 18th to 20th centuries is currently on display in a new exhibit at Jerusalem’s Israel Museum. Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe examines cultural influences on Jewish dress over time, displaying more than 100 items of clothing as windows into Jewish history.

James S. Snyder, a director at the museum, emphasized the universal relevance of the exhibit. (more…)

Drake is the Ultimate Jewish Teenage Boy

He even wrote a song about his best friend and The Hunger Games


I spent all weekend with 190 Jewish teenagers at the BBYO Lone Star Region convention, which was very fun and brought back, a la Rochelle Rochelle, many strange and erotic memories. (With undying love, et cetera, et cetera.)

They were a great group of kids, but being around them also forced me once again (that is, when I wasn’t trying to figure out how to sneak into the Miss Texas Wheelchair Pageant, which was taking place in the same hotel) to confront the enduring mystery over which I once spent countless, occasionally tearful, hours puzzling: just what darkness, or lack thereof, lurks in the heart and mind of a moderately teenage boy? (more…)

Supreme Court Grounds Rabbi’s Airline Lawsuit

Rules against kvetchy customer who lost frequent flier status over complaints

(Northwest Airlines)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg of Minnesota, the Northwest Airlines customer who accused the company of unreasonably revoking his Platinum Elite frequent flier membership because he complained too much.

Rabbi Ginsberg’s story begins in 2008, when Northwest cited Ginsberg’s excessive protests and demands as grounds for terminating his membership. Outraged that Northwest was punishing him for his customer service complaints, Ginsberg charged the airline was breaking their contract with him as an effort to cut costs in anticipation of a merger with Delta Airlines. (more…)

Obama Stops For a Sandwich at Zingerman’s

His order at the iconic Ann Arbor deli: a Reuben

Hail to the Reuben chief, placing his order at Zingerman's. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama visited Ann Arbor, Michigan today, where he spoke at the University of Michigan. With the school’s men’s basketball team noticeably absent from this weekend’s NCAA Final Four tournament, the students could use some cheering up, but that’s not why Obama was there. He was discussing his plan to increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour by 2016, but first he needed lunch.

He stopped at Zingerman’s, that bastion of Midwestern deli culture, with U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, a Democratic congressman from nearby Bloomfield Township. According to the deli’s Twitter feed, which has been abuzz since lunchtime, Obama ordered the #2: a Reuben. (more…)

Section of Warsaw Ghetto Wall Coming Down

Officials say the decaying wall near the Umschlagplatz will be restored

A different fragment of the former Jewish Ghetto wall is pictured on April 11, 2013, in Warsaw, Poland. (JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Three weeks before the 71st anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the city of Warsaw has begun demolition on a ghetto wall near the Umschlagplatz, the place where Jews awaited deportation to the Treblinka concentration camp, JTA reports. Officials have said the brick wall, which is decaying and being removed to clear out overgrown vegetation, will be restored.

Historians are unsure whether this particular wall is an original built during the ghetto’s construction, which started in 1940. Still, while the ghetto borders are largely symbolic today, marked in some places throughout the city by plaques installed into the ground, the site retains its significance. Warsaw’s new Museum of the History of Polish Jews was intentionally built on the site of the former ghetto, just across from Nathan Rapoport’s iconic monument to the ghetto fighters. (more…)

Muslim Countries Ban Aronofsky’s ‘Noah’

Bahrain, Qatar, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates won’t show the film


A number of Muslim countries have banned the screening of Darren Aronofsky’s Noah, citing the film’s depiction of a prophet, which is prohibited in Islamic tradition. Bahrain, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates banned the film in early March, and Indonesia followed suit last week, The Washington Post reports.

The film is based on the Hebrew Bible story of Noah and the flood, and stars Russell Crowe in the title role. A version of the story is told in the Quran, in which the main character is the prophet Nuh. Though the Quran does not explicitly ban representations of the prophet Muhammad, Islamic scholars established a prohibition on portraying all Islamic prophets for fear they might become objects of worship, which by extension could be considered be a form of idolatry. (more…)

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