Rep. Weiner Agrees: Sen. Lieberman Is ‘A Dick’

N.Y. congressman gives Jon Stewart ‘naches’


Okay, so admittedly there was a slight smile on the face of Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-New York) when Jon Stewart asked him last night, “Is Lieberman a dick?” and he answered, “Yes, Jon.” But he didn’t qualify it! And certainly Weiner might feel sourly toward Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut), given the latter’s brazen health-care flip-flopping.

Weiner was on the The Daily Show to talk about his far more progressive plans for reform: his signature issue is the Medicare buy-in, which would allow certain additional folks—recent college grads, the newly unemployed, the pre-retirement middle-aged—to purchase Medicare, the government-run senior citizens’ insurance program, for themselves. While Weiner had kind words for President Barack Obama, he also made a pointed, sophisticated criticism: “The President has been too much LBJ here,” he said, referring to the former president and Senate majority leader’s legislative savvy. “We’ve been focusing on getting 60 votes in the Senate, and we’ve forgot that 100 million Americans are watching this debate wondering what it means for them.”

Stewart and Weiner also chatted about how they have been friends since the 1980s—apparently they used to go to the beach together. “I don’t know what you’ve done with Anthony Weiner, the one that I knew,” Stewart told him at conversation’s close, “but this new cat, this guy right here, in front of me? It gives me naches. That’s all I’m saying, it gives me naches.”

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Is Joe Lieberman Too Jewish?

The Last Great Yiddish Poet

Nextbook and Tablet authors remember Avrom Sutzkever


“What instruments we have agree/The day of his death was a dark cold day”: W.H. Auden wrote that about W.B. Yeats, but we tend to think it true of most poets, and Avrom Sutzkever, the 20th Century’s greatest Yiddish poet, seems no exception. Born in modern-day Belarus Smorgon, a shtetl located in what is now Belarus, not too far from the Lithuanian metropolis of Vilnius, he smuggled arms into the Vilnius ghetto after the Nazis invaded, managing to escape to Moscow before being shipped away. He soon made his way to Mandatory Palestine, and spent most of the rest of his life in Israel; he died in Tel Aviv  last month at 96. You can read three of his best-known works here.

In Tablet Magazine, Zackary Sholem Berger celebrated Sutzkever’s ability to continue evolving:

While other writers perseverated on the world that was lost—which for many led to artistic stasis—Sutzkever built new worlds in lyric self-expression. Yes, he wrote about ghetto existence, and about life in hiding while the Nazis raged, but those were his Holocaust-era works, not signposts to an unchanging style. Historical moments were for him the raw material for his own poetic vision, not excuses for occasional verse.

At Jewish Ideas Daily, Ruth R. Wisse—author of Nextbook Press’s Jews and Powertestifies that Sutzkever inspired her to become a professor of Yiddish literature: “Sutzkever is a master of precisely the kind of wordplay that defies translation, and of a wit that exploits the singularity of a language whose elements are ingeniously fused.”

And in The New Republic’s excellent new online supplement, The Book, Tablet Magazine contributor Jeremy Dauber finds Sutzkever a premier poet of catastrophe:

Sutzkever’s simple descriptions of enormous horrors—perhaps most famously the couplet “Did you ever see in fields of snow/Frozen Jews, in row upon row?”—split the difference, reducing the traces of mass human homicide to a childlike, wondering response at what seems to have become the new natural landscape.

Golden Link [Tablet Magazine]
Abraham Sutzkever: In Memoriam [Jewish Ideas Daily]
The Elegist [The Book]
Abraham Sutzkever, 96, Jewish Poet and Partisan, Dies [NYT]

Related: Jews and Power [Nextbook Press]

Today on Tablet

In the Glass family apartment, Jewish pork, Davos Shabbos, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Staff Writer Marissa Brostoff arguesthat J.D. Salinger’s Glass family stories are indelibly Jewish in a way that is nonetheless quite different from those by contemporaries Bellow, Mailer, and Roth: “Zooey has plenty of complaints, but Portnoy’s is not one of them.” As pork has become increasingly trendy in the foodie world, reports Lisa Keys, it has even made its way to where it might fear to tread: Jewish cuisine. Business writer Daniel Gross tells us how amid the multicultural networking at the annual World Economic Forum at Davos, he attended a lovely Shabbat dinner with some very powerful Jews. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz savors the small pleasure, and very minor sin, of gossip. The Scroll is Tablet Magazine’s blog: gossip is all we do!

Nightmare Austrian Puppy Ad

No wonder he looks unhappy!

Someone hasn’t been fed!(AP/Haaretz)

So that picture was on a flyer advertising an Austrian dog-interest magazine called Wuff. (“Böse” means “bad.”) Above it, the question: “What differentiates us?” Um, you really want us to tell you?

Wuff pulled the ad after the Jewish community (and, hopefully, everyone else) complained. Though for the record, Wuff’s publisher insists that he didn’t intend the image to remind viewers of Jewish persecution. Really.

This seems like a good time to remind folks that Puppy Bowl VI is right around the corner. Some fierce competitors this year.

Austrian Magazine Pulls Ad of Dog Wearing Nazi-Era Jewish Badge [AP/Haaretz]

Daybreak: Clinton Reveals Peace Plan

Plus China nixes sanctions, Lieberman rattles saber, and more


• Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tip the U.S. hand? She said “the 1967 borders, with swaps, should be the focus of the negotiations over borders,” maybe revealing plans to use the Green Line as a basis for the final status. [NYT]
• While Europe and even Russia have toughened of late, China indicated that it is unlikely to approve further U.N. sanctions against Iran at this time. [WP]
• Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman gave a rabble-rousing—some might say blustery—speech warning Syrian leader Bashar Assad that he will be deposed in a future war with Israel. [NYT]
• Though U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon criticized Israel and the Palestinians for not independently probing the charges in the Goldstone Report, Israel was nonetheless overall pleased with Ban’s reception of its response, in which he explicitly withheld judgment of Israel’s exculpatory findings. [JPost]
• In a rare interview, Yigal Amir, Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, accused Israel of putting him in solitary confinement out of spite. [Ynet]
• Elie Wiesel initiated a full-page ad, which will run in the New York Times and elsewhere soon, condemning Iran’s human rights record and nuclear program; over 40 Nobel laureates have co-signed. [Haaretz]

Sundown: U.S. Jews Uneasy With Israel

Plus J.D.’s Jewishness Unease, blustery Dubai, and more


• Diaspora Minister Yuli Edelstein reports from his travels that while the problem of pluralism and gender discrimination in Israel gets little attention among Israelis, it is very important to Diaspora Jews. [Haaretz]
• Some former Obama supporters among Orthodox Jews are feeling buyer’s remorse. [The Jewish Star/Failed Messiah]
• The Dubai police commissioner pledged to seek a warrant for Benjamin Netanyahu’s arrest if it turns out Mossad was behind the assassination of a Hamas weapons procurer there. [Haaretz]
• The head of the Half-Jewish Network stands up for J.D. Salinger’s Jewishness despite the Catcher in the Rye author’s Gentile mother. [Jewcy]
• A profile of Jason Marquis, a 31-year-old starting pitcher about to begin his first season with the Washington Nationals. [Washington Jewish Week via Kaplan’s Korner]
• Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.), one of the more outspoken Jewish politicians (which in a group that includes Barney Frank and Rahm Emanuel is saying something!), is on The Daily Show tonight at 11 P.M. [The Daily Show]

The Semite of ‘Shear Genius’

Hairstylist Jon Steineck


Season 3 of Bravo’s hairstyling competition Shear Genius premiered last night, and already we know which contestant we’re rooting for: Jon Steineck, 38, who in one shot could be seen wearing a “Hebrew Hammer” t-shirt.

If further proof were needed, in a profile with the hometown Des Moines Register Steineck name-checked both Bette Midler and his mother.

Interview with Jon Steineck [Des Moines Register]

‘Commentary’: Feminists Are Ruining Purim

But isn’t some reinterpretation necessary?


Purim is just around the corner (it begins February 28th), and that means just one thing: yummy yummy hamentaschen. Well, two things: yummy yummy hamentaschen and a long essay in Commentary decrying feminist reinterpretations of the holiday.

The article—by Abby Wisse Schachter, an editor at the New York Post—employs the common Commentary tactic of labeling a non-traditional idea “trendy,” then further using it as an example of something Wrong With Society Today. The “trend” that’s been spotted this month is the practice of seeing Vashti, the queen of Persia who is deposed at the beginning of the Purim story for refusing to dance naked for her husband, King Ahasuerus, as the true heroine of the holiday tale. In this reading, Queen Esther—Vashti’s replacement, and the traditional one worthy of praise (the scroll that tells the story is named after her)—is a lesser figure: she lacks her predecessor’s admirable chutzpah, relying instead on a more old-fashioned brand of feminine wiles to get what she wants (that is, to save the Jews of the kingdom).

These trendsetters—mostly veterans of the original 1960s/70s women’s movement—are launching a “feminist war on Purim,” Schachter contends. She is justified in her scorn for some of the more inane Purim revisions: surely it is simplistic (not to mention self-parodic) to extol Hillary Clinton as a modern-day Vashti figure, right?

But these extreme, erroneous interpretations may just be the price we pay for the ability to update our readings of ancient stories in light of contemporary values. And it is a price worth paying: the only alternatives to such reinterpretation are to adopt religious fundamentalism or to reject the tales’ teachings altogether.

In fact, that’s what’s happened recently with the Hanukkah story, which a number of readers—and not raging liberals, either—have argued is deeply jingoistic, and bears a moral that extols fanaticism. Rereading the Purim story, which ends with the Jews killing 75,000 Persians, is what allows us not to throw the whole thing out.

The Problem with Purim [Commentary]

Did Bibi’s Son Inspire Bizarre Speech?

Avner, 15, won Jerusalem Bible Quiz

Avner and his mother, Sara, last March.(David Silverman/AFP/Getty Images)

As Judith Miller reports in Tablet Magazine, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech yesterday at the Herzliya Conference was seen by most as underwhelming, even bizarre: the conference is generally devoted to talk of national security, yet Netanyahu spent most of his speech lecturing about Jewish heritage in Israel; maybe the most substantive initiative he announced was plans to construct walking paths between numerous Biblical sites.

The whole thing seemed inexplicable, especially considering that an Israeli leader looking for more important topics of discussion shouldn’t exactly need to strain himself. Inexplicable, that is, until it’s connected to another bit of news: the winner of the Jerusalem Public School District’s Bible Quiz—held Tuesday, the day before Bibi spoke—was a 15-year-old named Avner Netanyahu. Yup, the First Son (and mazel tov to him!). The Hebrew University High School student scored 98 out of 100 to win the competition, which his father and mother, Sara, attended, earning him the right to compete in the national Quiz.

According to Arutz Sheva, “The organizers state that the objective of the quiz is to encourage interest and study among youth in the Bible as the cultural basis of the Nation of Israel.” Funny: that was also the objective of Netanyahu’s odd speech.

Herzliya Diary [Tablet Magazine]
Jewish Pride: Prime Minister’s Son Wins Bible Contest [Arutz Sheva]

A More Chaste Chandler

‘Srugim’: the Israeli Modern Orthodox soap opera


If you find something missing from your life, and you realize that it’s Friends for the kippah-wearing set, then we suggest you start tuning into The Jewish Channel for newly subtitled episodes of Srugim, the popular Israeli soap opera about Modern Orthodox singles. Promo below. Should I be embarrassed that I think this looks kind of fun?

Watch ‘Srugim’ on American Television—In English [Jewlicious]

Assad Speaks

On the Golan, Hamas, and—yes—J Street

Assad in Paris last November.(Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images)

Syrian President (which is to say, dictator) Bashar Assad has some thoughts on Israel for investigative journalist extraordinaire Seymour Hersh. The clearest stand he takes is that there will be no peace until Syria gets the Golan Heights back: “Peace treaty is what you sign, but peace is when you have normal relations,” he explains. “So, you start with a peace treaty in order to achieve peace. … If they say you can have the entire Golan back, we will have a peace treaty. But they cannot expect me to give them the peace they expect. … You start with the land; you do not start with peace.”

Analyzing Israel’s efforts vis-à-vis the Palestinians (half a million of whose refugees, Assad notes, reside in Syria), he argues,

They do not have any of the old generation who used to know what politics means, like Rabin and the others. That is why I said they are like children fighting each other, messing with the country; they do not know what to do.

[The Israelis] wanted to destroy Hamas in the war and make Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] strong in the West Bank. Actually it is a police state, and they weakened Abu Mazen and made Hamas stronger. Now they wanted to destroy Hamas. But what is the substitute for Hamas? It is Al Qaeda.

Oh, and Assad even commented on J Street. “Ahh … that is new!” he said of the group’s willingness to criticize certain Israeli policies. One imagines J Street feeling queasy at the thought of Assad celebrating it, but actually, for the record, he appears to understand that the American “pro-Israel, pro-peace” outfit takes the “pro-Israel” part of its slogan as seriously as the “pro-peace”: “we should educate them that if they are worried about Israel, then the only thing that can protect Israel is peace, nothing else. No amount of airplanes or weapons could protect Israel, so they have to forget about that.”

Direct Quotes: Bashar Assad [The New Yorker]

Today on Tablet

Auslander does death, Turkey’s rise, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Shalom Auslander explains death to his five-year-old son against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Norman Samuels gives a primer on how internal changes in Turkey have affected (and worsened) its relations with Israel. Reporting from the Herzliya Conference’s final day, Judith Miller notes the tepid reaction to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. Joshua Cohen introduces us to Heimrad Bäcker’s avant-garde “documentary poems.” The Scroll is not nearly that fancy.

Livni, Daring Arrest, Will Go To London

This is totally something Clint Eastwood would do!

Livni and U.S. envoy George Mitchell last month.(Matty Stern/U.S. Embassy Tel-Aviv via Getty Images))

Tzipi Livni, the head of the Kadima Party, cancelled a trip to London last December after a judge there issued a warrant for her arrest on war-crimes charges (the writ was initiated by a British Palestinian rights group, not the government). Much sniping between Israel and the United Kingdom followed. Now a defiant Livni has pledged to travel to London to make sure it has been made safe for Israelis. “I will do this not for me, not for provocation,” she insisted, “but for the right of every Israeli to travel freely. I am not going to be restricted by extremists because I fought terror.” The war-crimes accusations concerned Livni’s service as interim Prime Minister during last year’s Gaza conflict. (Current officials are protected from arrest by diplomatic immunity.)

British officials have since promised Israel to ensure the jail-free vacationing of former Israeli leaders. However, over 100 British Members of Parliament oppose the bill to which an arrest-banning amendment is attached, and there are even reports that Justice Secretary Jack Straw is holding it up.

Meanwhile, is Livni’s act truly “not for me,” as she claimed? Well, the audacious move certainly couldn’t hurt a politician whom some see as on the ropes. But it would nonetheless be brave—even if the British government must be smart enough to ensure her safe passage. (Right, guys?)

Tzipi Livni: I’m Coming To Britain
[The Jewish Chronicle]

Earlier: War of Words Continues Over British War-Crimes Warrants
Livni, Defiant, Pledges To Stick Around

Daybreak: Gaming Goldstone

Plus U.S. and Syria reconnect, and more in the news


• In advance of a U.N. follow-up on the Goldstone Report, U.S. diplomats quietly advised Israel to ease the Gaza blockade in order to blunt the Report’s chances of reaching the International Criminal Court. [Haaretz]

• The United States has proposed its first ambassador to Syria since 2005, when it recalled its envoy after Syrian leadership was linked to the assassination of Lebanon’s prime minister. [NYT]

• Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat argued that his side should consider abandoning the Oslo two-state process and instead pursue a single binational state. [JPost]

• It’s looking more like Russia explicitly told the Jewish Agency of Israel it could not hold its meeting in St. Petersburg, as planned (it will now be in Jerusalem), due to the presence on the Agency’s Board of a prominent political enemy of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The Agency’s chairman is Natan Sharansky, who was born in Russia. [Haaretz]

Sundown: The Jewish Agency Hears ‘Nyet’

Plus frum dating, ‘nasology,’ Huckabee in Jerusalem, and more


• The Jewish Agency for Israel feared Russia would not permit its Board meeting to take place in St. Petersburg, and moved it to Jerusalem at the last minute. The group says Russia told it a couple weeks ago that there were issues with its “legal status.” [JTA]

• Solomon Dwek, who wore a wire to help break open a corruption scandal within the Syrian Jewish community of Deal, New Jersey, started sobbing on the witness stand when the cross-examiner asked him if he has any friends. []

• The treacherous world that is the Orthodox Jewish singles scene. [Guernica]

• Introducing “nasology”: a phrenology of noses. Includes “The Jewish or Hawk Nose.” [the ragbag via The Awl]

• How Israel deals with its 300,000 foreign workers—one-third of them illegal—from such places as the Philippines, China, and India. [Foreign Policy]

• In Jerusalem, former Arkansas Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee accused the Obama administration of a “one-sided” approach, disproportionately harsh on Israel, to the peace process. [JTA]

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