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…)

N.F.L. Announcer Suspended After Jewish Joke

San Diego Chargers commentator will sit next game out after ‘cheap’ joke

San Diego Chargers play at the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA. (justasc /

San Diego Chargers radio analyst Hank Bauer won’t be offering his usual color commentary during tonight’s preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals. The football team suspended the longtime on-air presence for one game after an audio recording of him making a joke about Jews being cheap made the rounds online.

“Although we know Hank had no ill-will behind his remarks, we agree the comments were inappropriate,” the team said in a statement. “Per Clear Channel’s decision, Hank will not be broadcasting Thursday night’s game.” (more…)

Why I’m Unsubscribing From the New York Times

Leading Reform rabbi cites newspaper’s one-sided coverage of Gaza war

Copies of the New York Times sit for sale in a rack July 23, 2008 in New York City. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

I am a lifelong Democrat, a political liberal, a Reform rabbi, and for four decades, until last week, a New York Times subscriber. What drove me away was the paper’s incessant denigration of Israel, a torrent of articles, photographs, and op-ed columns that consistently present the Jewish State in the worst possible light.

This phenomenon is not new. Knowledgeable observers have long assailed the Times lack of objectivity and absence of journalistic integrity in reporting on Israel. My chronic irritation finally morphed into alienation and then to visceral disgust this summer, after Hamas renewed its terrorist assaults upon Israel and the Times launched what can only be described as a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State. (more…)

The Yale Chaplain Who Doesn’t Get Jews

If Jews make Israeli policy, do Wasps run England?

Queen Elizabeth II on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Father Bruce, could you get a message to the Queen for me?
I know you can. For on Monday, The New York Times ran a letter to the editor by you, Father Bruce M. Shipman, Yale’s chaplain to Episcopal students, in response to an Aug. 21 op-ed about rising anti-Semitism. The op-ed, by Tablet contributor Deborah E. Lipstadt, focused on the troubling incidence of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe—to which you replied:

The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank. (more…)

Joan Rivers Hospitalized in New York City

Update: 81-year-old comedian in medically-induced coma, ‘resting comfortably’

Joan Rivers on January 31, 2014 in New York City. (Rob Kim/Getty Images)

Joan Rivers was rushed to the hospital after she stopped breathing while undergoing vocal chord surgery at a local clinic, TMZ reports. The 81-year-old comedian was admitted to Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. (more…)

Roman Vishniac Archive Now Available Online

Digitized archive features iconic images of pre-war Jewish life in Europe

Marion, Renate, and Karen Gumprecht photographed with their family in Hamburg. (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Karen Komar)

Roman Vishniac’s photographs are some of the most well-known images of pre-war Jewish life in Europe. Now, an extensive archive of his six decades of work is available online, the fruits of a partnership between the International Center for Photography, which holds the Vishniac archive, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

According to a statement from the Museum, the digitized archive includes all of Vishniac’s 9,000 negatives—most of which have never before been printed or published. (more…)

Mumbai Chabad Reopens Six Years After Attack

Rabbi and his wife killed during 2008 rampage that left more than 150 dead

Workers give the finishing touches to the synagogue inside Nariman (Chabad) House in Mumbai on August 26, 2014.(INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images)

On November 26, 2008, Pakistani militants descended upon Mumbai from boats, besieging the city in a three-day rampage that left more than 100 people dead. Gunmen targeted hotels, a hospital, and restaurant in the Indian finance capital, and took Mumbai’s Chabad center, known as the Nariman House, hostage, ultimately killing the rabbi, Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife, Rivka Holtzberg, and four visitors who were staying at the house.

Nearly six years later, the center has officially reopened, the AP reports. Chabad rabbis gathered at the restored six-story building, which will house Mumbai’s first memorial to the victims of the 2008 attacks, to commemorate the reopening. (more…)

The Maccabeats Have a New Song About Israel

It’s called ‘Home,’ and its release is extremely well-timed


The Maccabeats are back with their latest video, “Home,” a mash-up of 12 songs about… home. The home they are referring to, of course, is Israel—the video begins in New York, and crescendos with Skylar Grey’s “I’m Coming Home,” which they sing as they arrive in Jerusalem.

It gives Grey’s song, which has used to score events as diverse as Carmelo Anthony returning to New York and LeBron James returning to Cleveland, a bit of music video gravitas: the group sings the line “I know my kingdom awaits” as the Western Wall comes into view. (more…)

Ceasefire Brings an End to Gaza Conflict

After 50 days of fighting, Israel and Hamas agree to Egypt-mediated truce

An elderly resident of Gaza City's Shejaiya neighbourhood, which was one of the hardest hit by the fighting between Hamas militants and Israel, walks in a street lined by destroyed homes early on August 27, 2014. (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

After 50 days of fighting between Israel and Hamas, an open-ended ceasefire went into effect Tuesday night at 7 p.m., all but ending Operation Protective Edge. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo agreed to a ceasefire with the stipulation that they will hold more comprehensive talks in a month.

As in past rounds of this summer’s conflict, scenes of rejoicing and celebratory gunfire in the streets of Gaza instantly filled TV screens in Israel, where a feeling of confusion about what the fighting accomplished remained. (more…)

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