The iGrogger

Obviously, there’s an app for that


Purim approaches: it falls this year on Sunday, February 28th. And in case you find yourself grogger-less when it comes time to drown out the name of the Purim story’s villain, you can get the job done for only 99 cents: Grogger Factory lets you download a traditional Jewish noisemaker to your iPhone (complete with 3D spinning action!),  complete with several different sounds to choose from. We recommend the loudest, to make sure that absolutely no one can hear the name Ha————

Grogger Factory

Casspi Just Does It

Israeli baller stars in Nike ad


A crucial step on the road to NBA superstardom is getting your own shoe commercial (it comes a bit before getting your own shoe). Like clockwork, here is Omri Casspi starring in a new, moving Nike ad that puts Casspi’s status as the first Israeli player in the NBA front and center.

Oh, and check out his dunk on the New York Knicks’s Danilo Gallinari from a few days ago in the Rookie Challenge.

Earlier: Omri Casspi Steps Out

Related: Omri Casspi Is Ready For Primetime [Tablet Magazine]

‘My Sharona’ Singer Dies

Sharona is real, and is Jewish

Yes, that is actually Sharona.(Canada, eh?)

Do you remember the song “My Sharona”? Of course you do. Don’t be bashful: it was the number one song of 1979 (and, as the New York Times’s Dave Itzkoff shows, it’s been ubiquitous ever since). So, a moment of silence for Doug Fieger—the rhythm guitarist and lead singer of the Knack, and co-writer of his band’s gigantic hit—who died Sunday at 57. And then a moment to remember that Sharona was Sharona Alperin, Fieger’s 17-year-old girlfriend, who—incredibly!—really is the one who graces the single’s cover, and who (like every member of the Knack) is Jewish.

Alperin now works at Sotheby’s, “helping entertainment professionals find their dream homes.” You get exactly one chance to guess her Website’s address.

Doug Fieger Dies at 57, Singer of ‘My Sharona [NYT]
Doug Fieger, Penned ‘My Sharona,’ Dies at 57 [JTA]

Related: Our ‘Sharona’ [ArtsBeat]

Today on Tablet

Mardi Gras Jieuxs Krewes, Nazis courting Muslims, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, we celebrate Mardi Gras with Justin Vogt’s look at the Krewe du Jieux and the Krewe du Mishigas, both designed to humorously rectify longstanding official Jewish exclusion from the New Orleans festivities. (A slideshow confirms the craziness.) Book critic Adam Kirsch discusses how the Nazis put an anti-Zionist twist on their anti-Semitic ideology (while downplaying its more explicitly biological elements) in the hopes of making converts, or at least allies, in the Muslim world. This week’s Email of Zion—the missive your uncle just sent you, or is about to—features Pilar Rahola, a non-Jewish Spanish leftist who stands up for Israel. The Scroll is neither leftist nor Spanish nor non-Jewish: discuss.

Freud-Owned Hitler Painting For Sale

One Jew who may have helped the Führer out

Freud, whose cigar in this instance is just a cigar.(FiledBy)

Mullock’s Specialist Auctioneers have an interesting specimen for sale: a watercolor painting of a pastoral church, with two intriguing names on it.

On the back, implying the one-time owner: “Sigmund Freud, Vienna.”

Signed on the front, implying the painter: “A. Hitler, 1910.”

Both were in the Austro-Hungarian capital at the same time, which means they may have known each other.

The artifact will start at 10,000 British pounds. But still: a painting by Hitler owned by Freud? In several senses of the word, that’s priceless.

Hitler Painting That May Have Belonged to Freud Put Up For Auction [Haaretz]

Daybreak: Bibi and Dmitry

Plus skirmish over Lebanon, Palestinian sex scandal, and more in the news


• Prime Minister Netanyahu met Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow to push for further Iran sanctions. [WP]
• Netanyahu also asked Medvedev to tell Hamas that his previous offer for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit—a deal Hamas did not accept, leaving talks at an impasse—would not be improved upon. [Haaretz]
• Lebanese soldiers fired anti-aircraft guns at Israeli Air Force planes flying over central Lebanon. There were no casualties, but the incident exacerbated already high tensions on that border. [AP/Ynet]
• While calling for further sanctions against the Revolutionary Guard, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Iran’s religious rulers were in danger of being replaced by a Guard-led “military dictatorship.” [LAT]
• A strange case gets stranger: the 11 suspects in the Dubai killing of Hamas’s chief weapons procurer held various European passports, and were likely not acting under Israeli orders (or at least direct Israeli orders), according to the police chief there. [WSJ]
• On Valentine’s Day, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas suspended his chief-of-staff; the aide was caught on video allegedly accepting sex for political favors. [NYT]

Sundown: Senator Mort Zuckerman?

Plus Palestinian Na’vi, the archaeological is political, and more


• Billionaire media and real estate mogul Mortimer Zuckerman is considering a run for Kirsten Gillibrand’s U.S. Senate seat from New York. Though a Democrat, he would probably run as a Republican or independent. The owner of the New York Daily News, Zuckerman is a major pro-Israel activist; he used to chair the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. [NYT]

• How a right-wing settlers group has used an archaeological dispute to solidify Jewish presence in an area of East Jerusalem. [Time]

• Check out this excerpt from Farm 54, a new graphic novel about growing up in rural 1970s Israel. [Words Without Borders]

• No way we can top this headline: ‘Man Broke Into Synagogue Dressed Up in the Rabbi’s Clothes and Stole Booze.’ [CBS 12/Vos Iz Neias?]

• Police in the Jewish areas of the West Bank receive “abusive” calls from Palestinians. 30,000 to 40,000 of them. Per month. [JPost]

• Palestinians protesting the West Bank settlement barrier have taken to painting themselves blue in reference to Na’vi, the cruelly colonized creatures in the movie Avatar. [AP/HuffPo]

Omri Casspi Steps Out

Israel’s first NBA player is only going to get bigger


Prediction: after this weekend, Omri Casspi—the Sacramento Kings forward who is the first Israeli to play in the NBA—will be a little bit more of a household name.

Back home (in Sacramento, not Tel Aviv), they’re starting to realize that the rookie is actually really good:

He has been a starter, been benched, forced his way back into the rotation. He throws down two-handed dunks that rattle backboards, then snarls for effect. He asks to defend Kobe Bryant and LeBron James, and surprisingly, doesn’t embarrass himself.

He is emboldened by his growing celebrity, and by the perception that he is better than advertised, certainly better than most players drafted 23rd.

The league is taking note: he got a private meeting with NBA Commissioner David Stern; the New York Knicks cannily used a Kings visit to stage their Jewish Heritage Night—the results of which were “Omri Casspi” chants and a Kings win. Oh, and yes: a Sacramento-area couple named their newborn Omri.

Also notable: before a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Casspi shook hands with Hamed Haddadi, who hails from Iran. “This is something we decided before the game,” Casspi told one reporter. “If we can make anything small, a shake of a hand and we can be friends and give a hand for peace, then we do it.”

Coming off the Knicks game, which may have been his most high-profile yet, Casspi has a big weekend ahead of him: it’s NBA All-Star Weekend, and Casspi plays tonight in the Rookie Challenge (in which top rookies play top second-year players).

Seriously, if I know anything about how the media works, you can bank on the combination of the Knicks game and All-Star Weekend generating real media attention (although he already got a Sports Illustrated profile!). There’s also the fact that the guy is averaging 12 points, five rebounds while not always starting, and he’s only going to get better.

Finally, Casspi seems to have a good head on his shoulders and to understand the obligations that, without any real effort or even, necessarily, willingness on his part, have been thrust upon him: “There is a lot of responsibility to being the first,” he told one interviewer. “I am not only representing myself, but I am representing basketball in Israel. I am also representing my country and the Jewish people in the States.”

Oh Baby, Is Casspi An Impact Player [Sacramento Bee]
Knicks Lose the Game and the Crowd [NYT]
Conversation with a King
Profile: Omri Casspi [Jewish News of Greater Phoenix/Kaplan’s Korner]

Related: Omri Casspi Is Ready For Primetime [Tablet Magazine]

Fellas: Heed the Millionaire Matchmaker

Daughter of professional Jewish yenta dispenses advice on Bravo

(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


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


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?

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


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

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


• 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]

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