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Writer and Activist Leonard Fein Dies at 80

Longtime Forward columnist co-founded Moment magazine with Elie Wiesel

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(Leonard Fein)

Leonard Fein, prominent Jewish activist, author and thinker, died Thursday morning at the age of 80, the Forward reports.

A longtime columnist for the Forward, Fein was still writing for the publication as recently as last week. Fein was also responsible for several significant contributions to American Jewish life. While teaching political science, social policy and Jewish studies at Brandeis in 1975, Fein worked with Elie Wiesel to co-found Moment magazine, a publication of Jewish politics, culture and religion; he also served as the magazine’s first editor. In 1985 Fein founded Mazon, a national Jewish nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger in the U.S. and Israel, and in 1997 he founded the National Jewish Coalition for Literacy, a group that fights against illiteracy by organizing volunteer tutoring programs for at-risk children. (more…)

Last Call: Apply for a Fall Internship at Tablet

We’re hiring two paid, part-time editorial interns at our New York office

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Tablet is hiring two paid, part-time fall editorial interns. If you have experience in journalism and are familiar with the landscape of American Jewish life, we’d love to hear from you. (more…)

LA Memorial for U.S.-Born IDF Soldier Killed in Gaza Draws 1,000

Max Steinberg, 24, was killed in July during gunfire with Hamas in Gaza City

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Israeli soldiers carry the coffin of their comrade Max Steinberg, draped with Israel's national flag, during his funeral on July 23 2014 at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem. (MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images)

A Los Angeles memorial for Max Steinberg, the 24-year-old IDF soldier from Southern California who was killed last month in Gaza, drew a crowd of 1,000 as family, friends, and strangers gathered to honor the lone soldier, who had moved to Israel two years earlier. Steinberg was killed during the second week of Operation Protective Edge in July, when his unit, the Golani Brigade, exchanged heavy fire with Hamas gunmen in the Gaza City neighborhood of Shejaiya. The confrontation led to 13 Golani casualties, a major blow for the IDF and to the Israeli public.

Steinberg’s funeral in Jerusalem drew 35,000 people, many of whom were moved by his personal story: He went on Birthright in 2012, made aliyah one year later and joined the IDF. (more…)

Tiny French Hamlet is Called ‘Death to the Jews’

Simon Wiesenthal Center wants La-Mort-aux-Juifs to change its name ASAP

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La-Mort-aux-Juifs in France. (WSJ)

A tiny hamlet 60 miles south of Paris has a very strange name, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center wants them to change it. La-Mort-aux Juifs, which translates to ‘Death to the Jews,’ consists of a farm and three houses, and according to the Wall Street Journal has been so named since the 11th century.

Perhaps inspired by the Spanish town of Castrillo Matajudios’ (‘Camp Kill Jews’) recent vote to change its name in response to public pressure (they went with the rather uninspired ‘Hill of the Jews’), the LA-based Simon Wiesenthal Center has written to France’s Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve asking him to consider a new name for the hamlet. (more…)

The Little League Legend Who Lied

‘Kid Danny’ opens up in filmmaker Andrew Cohn’s new ESPN documentary

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Danny Almonte (C) and other members of the Rolando Paulino All-Stars Bronx Little League baseball team hold their keys to the city during a ceremony honoring the team August 28, 2001 in New York City.(Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Andrew Cohn’s new 30 for 30 short film, Kid Danny, which was posted today on Grantland, tells the story of Danny Almonte, a Dominican-born little league pitcher whose unstoppable slingshot arm helped his team from the Bronx reach the U.S. Little League World Series Championship in 2001.

Almonte was an absolute force on the pitcher’s mound, striking out 62 of the 72 batters he faced​, and pitching the first perfect game in Little League World Series competition since 1957. His team became known as the “Baby Bombers” for their proximity to the Yankees, and even received a key to the city from then-mayor Giuliani.

Along the way, however, Almonte’s record-setting performances raised questions about his age and ultimately his eligibility. (more…)

Has Mourning Gone Viral?

When celebrities die, tributes flood social media—and I can’t help but ‘dislike’

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(Shutterstock)

A tweet posted this morning noted that with the death of actress Lauren Bacall yesterday at 89, all of the icons mentioned in Madonna’s 1990 HIT “Vogue” are now deceased. I marveled at the vacuousness of this milestone, and the compulsion to pile on factoids to an ever-growing, crowd-sourced obituary. Maybe (hopefully) I misread the post’s tone, and it was in fact a cynical joke, serving up a bit of trivia to emphasize how trivial death can feel in the age of social media.

The day before, I went online in the evening, after hours of having been Internet-free, and learned in a rush of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide. Then I learned how many people I follow were huge devotees of his—fans whose depths of fandom I had never before suspected. Have I been blind to their passions? Perhaps it was a thing too sacred for them to even utter? On Facebook and Twitter, their tributes streamed endlessly. (more…)

The Wall Street Journal Needs a Linguistics Lesson

Hundred percent, as the Orthodox say

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(Shutterstock)

It’s always worth reading John McWhorter, because unlike many opinion writers, whose primary expertise seems to be that they can always manufacture an opinion (in 700 words, and on time), McWhorter, who holds a Ph.D. in linguistics, actually has a useful scholarly background, a real expertise that matters in what he writes. Last Thursday he wrote a column in the Daily Beast that should have been titled, “McWhorter schools Noonan.” Instead it was called, “For a President Today, Talkin’ Down Is Speaking American.”

The background is that Noonan, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, had attacked President Obama for dropping his g’s and generally sounding too folksy, which she believes undermines the dignity of his office. Now, she never wrote this column about George W. Bush, one of the great g-droppers of all time. But fortunately when she directed her armchair linguistics toward our darker-hued president, McWhorter was there to call her out, noting that by dropping g’s, and by using some black vernacular expressions—“folks” for “people” is one example—Obama is in fact being typically American, shifting between formal and informal registers. (more…)

Orthodox Jewish Tourist Assaulted in Switzerland

Attacker yelled ‘Juden Raus’ at man visiting Davos with his wife and four kids

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View of Davos, Switzerland. (© Davos)

Add Switzerland to the list of countries in Europe where Jews have been targeted in recent months. A 26-year-old from Antwerp, Belgium, visiting Davos with his wife and four children, was assaulted by a man who yelled “Juden raus” are him while his family watched from inside a car, JTA reports.

The victim, identified only as A. Wachsstock, was walking toward his car, where his wife and four children were waiting for him, when a man in his sixties began hitting him and shouting anti-Semitic profanities, including “Juden raus,” or “Jews, get out” in German.

Wachsstock entered his car with lacerations on his right hand from the assault and drove away, Tachles reported. The man’s family witnessed the assault.

(more…)

Israel Expands Law of Return to Include Interfaith Gay Couples

Non-Jews can now make aliyah with their Jewish, same-sex spouses

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Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Shutterstock)

The intersection of Religion and State in Israel often seems permanently mired in the status quo. However untenable that status quo may seem, it usually will not budge without severe prodding. But sometimes—as in the decades-long effort to have the state recognize civil unions—even such prodding bears little fruit. That’s why a decision announced yesterday by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar came as something of a surprise: In a letter to the Population and Immigration Authority, Sa’ar ordered that the granting of citizenship to the non-Jewish spouses of women and men who are themselves eligible for aliyah to Israel would also apply to same-sex couples.

Aliyah—immigration to the Jewish State—is governed by the Law of Return. Enacted in 1950, it is the gateway to Israeli citizenship. Though its original scope was exclusively limited to Jews, since 1970 the law has been expanded to grant aliyah rights to all children and grandchildren of Jews (implicitly eschewing the traditional stance that Judaism is matrilineal—that is, conferred only by Jewish mothers, rather than fathers), and to the spouses (or partners) of Jews. (more…)

Fabulous, Formidable Lauren Bacall Dies at 89

The captivating queen of Old Hollywood was a Jewish girl from Brooklyn

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Lauren Bacall after the last ever haute couture show of French designer Yves Saint Laurent on January 22, 2002 in Paris. (JEAN-PIERRE MULLER/AFP/GettyImages)

Okay, when I wrote yesterday how I feel like all I ever write anymore is obituaries, I was kidding. Apparently, someone didn’t get the joke, because less than an hour after those very words were published, it was announced that the legendary actress Lauren Bacall passed away at the (blessedly) ripe old age of 89. I was devastated, naturally, and immediately called my friend Michael.

“Oh my God,” I shrieked, before he had even said as much as hello. “Do you remember that time we went to Joel Grey’s book party and Lauren Bacall was there and that publicist came up to us and was like, look, whatever you do, do not attempt to speak to, or touch, Miss Bacall.”

“Of course,” he said, “and I really hope you still have that picture on your phone that you took from all the way across the room.” He sighed sadly. “All the fabulous old ladies are gone now.” (more…)

AP Journalist and Translator Among Five Killed in Gaza Explosion

Were accompanying engineers as they neutralized ordnance from the conflict

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A Palestinian man mourns the death of his relative outside the morgue in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza strip on August 13, 2014.(ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

An Associated Press video journalist and his Palestinian translator were killed in Gaza Wednesday, along with three police engineers, in an ordnance explosion in the northern town of Beit Lahiya. The AP reports that Simone Camilli, 35, and translator Ali Shehda Abu Afash, 36, were working on a story about the aftermath of the fighting in Gaza, and were accompanying the engineers as they neutralized explosives and munitions debris remaining from the month-long conflict.

Camilli is the first foreign journalist killed during the Gaza operation. (more…)

Defining the ‘One Land, Two State’ Solution

The editors of a new book about the conflict respond to a Commentary review

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View of Jerusalem's Old City on July 18, 2014.(AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP/Getty Images)

Seth Mandel, in his Commentary review of excerpts published in Tablet last week from our newly published edited volume, One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States, raises several important issues. We welcome this opportunity to discuss some key elements of the ideas laid out in the book. Obviously an abbreviated excerpt can only briefly cover the contents of the volume and we encourage people to consider detailed arguments in the book to make a full evaluation of the arguments we discuss. (more…)

Remembering Robin Williams, King of Playing

The comedian and effusive entertainer was also a first-rate dinner companion

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Robin Williams speaks onstage during the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on September 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

So many important and wonderful people have died this year (your Hoffmans, your Stritches) that it’s starting to seem that I mostly write obituaries for people I have long loved from afar. But the death of Robin Williams yesterday morning, in what seems to be a tragic suicide, I feel particularly personal. People of my generation grew up with Robin Williams. His frenetic humor, the dizzying runs of free-association, resonated across all ages; as children, we might not exactly get all the references, but we knew we were in the presence of a virtuoso.

He was the King of Playing. We watched his films for kids (can you watch the end of Mrs. Doubtfire without crying? I can’t, and my parents aren’t even divorced) and his films for adults; we howled with joy when we caught a glimpse of him during a Nick at Nite rerun of Mork and Mindy and realized that, too, was Robin Williams. Our Robin Williams. Our favorite uncle, our silly big brother, our captain, our genie. He existed before we did, and somehow, that made him even more magical. (more…)

Mel Brooks Misses the Bagels in Vilna

But other than that, the comedy legend is pretty happy in Los Angeles

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Mel Brooks speaks during a 'Salute To Sid Caesar' at on July 16, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.. (Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

Comedy icon Mel Brooks was born in Brooklyn in 1926, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t miss the old country. Specifically, Vilna (though his mother’s family was from Kiev, and his father’s family was from Danzig.)

In an entertaining interview with Tablet contributor Taffy Brodesser-Akner in Town and Country, the father-son duo of Mel and Max Brooks sound off about Los Angeles, where Brooks has lived since directing Blazing Saddles in the 1970s. The younger Brooks, born and bred in L.A., is an author and screenwriter. He spoke to Vox Tablet in 2012 about his second zombie novel, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. (more…)

The Letter From Camp Lives On

Even in the age of email, the genre of ‘Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah’ endures

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(Shutterstock)

If there was any concern that modern technology would mark the end of missives from camp, the fear seems to have been unfounded. Kids may be glued to their smartphones during the school year, but the letter from camp is not only surviving, it’s thriving.

“Quite honestly, we are finding that kids are writing just as often as any other year of camp,” said Louis Bordman, senior director of the Union for Reform Judaism’s Eisner camp in Great Barrington, Mass, which requires campers to write two letters home a week during their rest periods. The rule gets them writing, but how much and what the campers writes, Bordman explains, is up to the campers themselves.

“Depending on what’s going on, I’m finding that kids are telling their parents [about] the friends they have made, or the things that are going on.” he explained. “Certainly, when they are not feeling up to par, they want their parents to know so they do that quite rapidly as well.” In other words, they know how to write a “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” letter. (more…)

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