Joan Rivers Dies at 81

Legendary comedian was on life support, had been hospitalized last week

Joan Rivers on September 4, 2013 in New York City. (Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Joan Rivers died this afternoon, her daughter Melissa has confirmed. The groundbreaking comedian was 81.

Rivers was hospitalized last Thursday when she stopped breathing while undergoing throat surgery. She was temporarily put into a medically-induced coma, and then placed on life support. (more…)

Borscht Belt Ruins on Display in New York City

Photography exhibit shows the remains of the great Catskills resorts

Coffee Shop, Grossinger’s Catskill Resort and Hotel, Grossinger, N.Y. (Marisa Scheinfeld)

The iconic hotels of the Catskills today are not what they used to be. Places like Grossinger’s and the Pines Hotel, which haven’t operated in years, have literally decayed since their 1960s and 1970s heyday—and one photographer has the haunting photos that show the extent of the physical erosion of these institutions of 20th-century American Jewish culture.

Marisa Scheinfeld, a photographer raised in Sullivan County, N.Y., returned to the Catskills to explore what remained of the iconic hotels and resorts, finding veritable ruins where once-great establishments once stood. She published a slideshow of the haunting images on Tablet in 2012. An exhibit of her work, “Echoes of the Borscht Belt,” will be on display at the Yeshiva University Museum starting next week. (more…)

Jeter’s Last Home Game Is on Rosh Hashanah

Will Jewish fans head to Yankee Stadium on Sept. 25?

Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees singles against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on September 3, 2014 in New York City. (Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Derek Jeter’s final regular season home game as a New York Yankee is fast approaching, and for some Yankee fans, it’s a major event. But it happens to fall during another major event: Rosh Hashanah. The Sept. 25 game against the Baltimore Orioles falls on the second night of the High Holiday (which begins at sundown Sept. 24), and while for Jews who only observe the first day of Rosh Hashanah it’s not an issue, it does present a potential conflict for more observant Jews.

It’s a reverse Koufax—at least according to former Major League outfielder Gabe Kapler, who after seasons of being asked by reporters whether he would be sitting out games on Yom Kippur, is gleefully turning the tables, asking Jewish reporters if they’ll be covering the big game. (more…)

Watch Joan Rivers’ Best Stand-Up Comedy

The groundbreaking comedian died at 81 after a weeklong hospitalization

Joan Rivers visits 'Late Night With Jimmy Fallon' on February 15, 2013 in New York City.(Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

Joan Rivers died this afternoon after a weeklong hospitalization, during which she was placed in a medically-induced coma and then on life support. “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement. “Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.”

In that spirit, and in celebration of Joan’s legendary wit, here are five of her most memorable television appearances from the 1960s and 1970s. While Rivers may been best known in her later years as a TV personality and red carpet host, her career started with her smart, sharp stand-up comedy. Watching some of these clips, it’s remarkable how ahead of her time her jokes were. (more…)

Bernard Madoff’s Son Dies of Cancer at 48

Andrew Madoff’s death comes four years after older brother’s suicide

Bernard Madoff walks out from Federal Court after a bail hearing in Manhattan January 5, 2009 in New York City.(Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images)

The twisted Madoff family saga has taken another tragic turn. Convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff’s younger son, Andrew, has died of lymphoma, CNBC reports. He was 48.

Andrew’s attorney, Martin Flumenbaum, said he “died peacefully” at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and was surrounded by family. Funeral arrangements will be private.

Madoff was diagnosed with stage one lymphoma in 2003. (more…)

U.S. Journalist Steven Sotloff Murdered by ISIS

Captors reportedly didn’t know he was Jewish, held dual Israeli citizenship

In this handout image made available by the photographer American journalist Steven Sotloff (Center with black helmet) talks to Libyan rebels on the Al Dafniya front line in Misrata, Libya on June 02, 2011. Sotloff was kidnapped in August 2013 near Aleppo, Syria. (Etienne de Malglaive via Getty Images)

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, has murdered American journalist Steven Sotloff, releasing a video yesterday appearing to depict the kidnapped journalist’s beheading. It’s similar to a disturbing video that surfaced online two weeks ago, which showed the murder of journalist James Foley, and which led President Barack Obama to call ISIS a “cancer” that must be extracted.

President Obama confirmed the authenticity of the new video during a press conference in Estonia. “Overnight, our government confirmed that, tragically, Steven was taken from us in a horrific act of violence,” he said Wednesday. (more…)

Israel Claims Nearly 1,000 Acres in West Bank

Area designated ‘state land,’ paving the way for major settlement construction

The Israeli West Bank settlement of Efrat is seen on September 1, 2014. (AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Less than a week after Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire in Gaza, bringing an end to the summer-long war, international attention has shifted to the West Bank, as Israel claimed nearly 1,000 acres, designating the area “state land,” as opposed to privately-owned land.

The area’s new status paves the way for controversial Israeli settlement construction, a major obstacle for future peace negotiations. According to reports, Palestinians with ownership claims to the land have 45 days to register objections. (more…)

Hitler’s Childhood Home to Become a Museum

Nazi leader’s former residence in Austria will be a ‘House of Responsibility’

Plaque outside Adolf Hitler's childhood home in Austria. (Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this year, in an act of misguided apologism, the animal rights organization PETA petitioned to have the home of serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer turned into a vegan restaurant. While PETA’s ambitions never panned out, it seems the Austrian interior ministry shares a similar notion of irony: He approved an Austrian historian’s proposal to turn Adolf Hitler’s childhood home into a museum.

This museum may indeed be the only reasonable fate for the house in Braunau am Inn, Austria, which Hitler’s parents sold soon after he was born. According to Haaretz has since World War II served as a library, bank, school, home for the disabled, and pub. (more…)

SodaStream Considering Leaving West Bank

CEO says boycott threats aren’t the reason behind potential factory move

The Israeli SodaStream factory in the Mishor Adumim industrial park, next to the West Bank settlement of Maale Adumim. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

SodaStream, the Israeli home carbonation system maker whose operation of a factory in a West Bank settlement has drawn criticism and calls for boycott, is reportedly considering moving the controversial plant and consolidating operations at the company’s new plant near Beersheba, JTA reports.

According to CEO Daniel Birnbaum, any potential move would be for financial reasons (the company gets a government subsidy at the Beersheba plant) and wouldn’t be a response to pressures from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, which has zeroed in on SodaStream as a prime target. Birnbaum reportedly brushed off boycott threats—which, in the case of their recently-shuttered U.K. store, took the form of daily protests—as a “nuisance” in an interview with an Israeli financial publication. (more…)

French Girls Arrested in Synagogue Bomb Plot

Two teens behind suicide bomb plot part of ‘network of young Islamists’

Interior of the Great Synagogue of Lyon, France. ("Wikimedia Commons)

Two teenage girls have been arrested for plotting to blow up a synagogue in Lyon, France, JTA reports. The suspects, who are 15 and 17, reportedly planned the suicide bombing exclusively online, connecting through social media, and hadn’t ever met.

A Central Directorate of Homeland Intelligence source told France’s JSS News the two teens, who are Muslim, were “part of a network of young Islamists who were being monitored by security services.” (more…)

Poland’s Jewish Festival Circuit Is Extensive

There were more than 40 events this year celebrating Jewish culture

Krakow, Poland. (Kaetana /

You’ve probably heard of the Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, a week-long event featuring workshops, panels, and concerts that’s been occurring annually since 1990. And perhaps you’ve even heard of the Warsaw Jewish Film Festival, or Oswiecim’s Life Festival, which Eric Clapton headlined this year. But have you heard of the Silesian Jewish Festival, or the Following IB Singer festival in Lublin, or the Festival of Three Cultures in Zduńska Wola? How about the Festival of Klezmer Music and Tradition in Kazimierz Dolny or the Baltic Days of Jewish Culture in Gdańsk?

There’s a lot going on in Poland these days, and now there’s an exhaustive list of every annual event having to do with Jewish culture (or music, or film, or books…). From Wroclaw and Poznan, Bialystok and Lódz, local organizations this past year put together events big and small—44 of them, to be exact—that paint a dynamic, curious, engaged picture of modern Poland. (more…)

Adrien Brody Is Harry Houdini in New Miniseries

Two-night television series premieres Labor Day on the History channel

Adrien Brody in 'Houdini.' (Colin Hutton)

The History channel is taking a break from what still really seems like nonstop World War II documentaries to air its brand new miniseries, Houdini. Taking a page from Netflix and Amazon, the channel is shaking up the airwaves with a two-part project of its own—essentially a really long movie—starring Adrien Brody as legendary magician Harry Houdini.

The film follows Houdini’s rise to fame, from performing on the Coney Island boardwalk to private audiences with Kaiser Wilhelm and Czar Nicholas II. It also features his friendship with Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle. (more…)

H&M Selling ‘If Not Now, When’ T-Shirts

Hillel the Elder’s 2,000-year-old rabbinic quote is basically the new YOLO

H&M's 'If Not Now, When' T-shirt. (H&M)

Hillel the Elder, the rabbinic sage whose ancient teachings continue to influence modern Jewish thought, can add another important cultural touchpoint to his resume. Clothing conglomerate H&M, a company known more for its inexpensive, runway-inspired wares than its philosophical forays, has plastered Hillel’s famous quote, “If not now, when?” onto a $9.95 tank top.

The best part is that, according to (former Tablet intern) Hannah Dreyfus at the Jewish Week, the shirts are insanely popular, and H&M can’t seem to keep the Babylonian-chic item in stock. (more…)

A Guide For the Purrplexed

How Maimonides explains the Hello Kitty controversy

Hello Kitty balloon at the 2009 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in Manhattan. (gary718 /

Forget her name: Hello Kitty is no cat. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times earlier this week, an anthropologist curating a major upcoming Hello Kitty exhibition revealed that the beloved feline icon—according to its creators, Japanese cute conglomerate Sanrio—was never really a kitten, looks and all be damned. Instead, she was “a cheerful and happy little girl with a heart of gold,” who just happened to look an awful lot like an adorable, white Japanese bobtail.

You can only imagine how the Internet, our unending cat compendium, reacted to the news. But the critics are missing the point. (more…)

Police Find Body of Missing N.J. Yeshiva Student

Israeli police rule out criminality in death of 23-year-old last seen hiking

Jerusalem forest. (Wikimedia)

Israeli police have found the body of Aaron Sofer, a hiker missing since Friday, Reuters reports. The 23-year-old yeshiva student from Lakewood, N.J. was hiking with a friend in the Jerusalem forest when the two lost contact, and the friend reported him missing soon after.

Police don’t suspect a criminal motive in Sofer’s death. (more…)

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