Today’s News: Run, Shmuley, Run!

Plus Jews have their say on health-care reform, and more


• In an absolutely must-read op-ed, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach hints that he will run for public office should the Libyan Ambassador continue to be allowed to live next-door to him in Englewood, New Jersey. [JTA]
• The United States has urged Israel not to release Palestinian terrorist Marwan Barghouti as part of a swap for captured soldier Gilad Shalit, according to a London-based Arabic paper. [Ynet]
• Jewish groups are taking an increasingly active role in trying to further shape health-care reform before the House and Senate vote on (and likely approve) a single bill. [JTA]
• A moving story of two eight-year-old friends, who happen to be an Israeli Jewish boy and a Palestinian Muslim girl, each injured by a weapon from the other side. “Someone forgot to tell them that they are enemies.” [NYT]
• Percy Sutton, the recently deceased former Manhattan borough president, is remembered for his significant efforts in favor of Jewish causes. [JTA]

Do English Depts. Study American-Jewish Lit?

Hire experts on Roths Henry and Philip, panel suggests


Why don’t university English departments, which routinely include experts in and courses on a range of American minority literatures (African-American, Chicano, etc.), include American-Jewish literature on that list? That question was posed by a panel at the Modern Language Association’s annual conference, which began Sunday in Philadelphia. Professors on the panel—kicked off by Tablet Magazine columnist Josh Lambert—noted that only two of the top 20 English departments in the U.S. have a tenure-track faculty member with expertise on American-Jewish lit, whereas 11 have a specialist in the Native American canon. Further, panelists pointed out, where expertise on Jewish literature does exist within the academy, it’s often focused singularly on the writing of the Holocaust. Though no one suggested that anti-Semitism was afoot, another panelist argued that, within the academy, “Jewishness has been associated with Israel, white privilege, colonialism and racism”: a set of connotations unlikely, to say the least, to garner minority literature points for the Jews.

The Lost Tribe [Inside Higher Ed]

Today’s News: Further On Up The Road

Plus a $200M fraud hits Lakewood, a maybe-march into Gaza, and more


• The Israeli Supreme Court ordered a West Bank highway to be opened to most Palestinian drivers. [NYT]
• A Lakewood, New Jersey, Orthodox man is the target of a $200 million fraud lawsuit, according to court papers. The plaintiffs are several Orthodox real estate investors who allege they were specifically targeted as part of an “affinity fraud.” [The New York Jewish Week]
• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg weighs in with an interesting take on Obama’s anti-Semitism envoy and her controversial comments. [The Atlantic]
• Over 1,000 people, including Holocaust survivor and activist Hedy Epstein, gathered in Cairo to prepare a ‘Cast Lead’ anniversary March into Gaza. But Egypt says it will not open the Rafah crossing for them. [NYT]
• Eugene Zinn, a survivor of Auschwitz who near the end of his life lectured frequently about his experience, died at 85. [LAT via Vos Iz Neias?]

David Levine, ‘New York Review’ Cartoonist, Dies

A Brooklyn red diaper baby, ‘brilliant visual punster’ was 83


David Levine, the cartoonist whose distinctive style was visually synonymous with the New York Review of Books, has died at 83. He was born and bred in (where else?) Brooklyn, where he also lived the end of his life. His father owned a small garment shop, his parents had Communist sympathies: the typical story. But his drawings were anything but typical. In a profile that appeared in Vanity Fair last year, Tablet Magazine contributing editor David Margolick wrote:

What sets Levine’s drawings apart is not just the technical artistry but also the wit. “He was the most brilliant visual punster that ever existed,” says [Edward] Sorel. … Monica Lewinsky smokes a cigar. Hemingway stands on an animal rug with a Hemingway head. Patton is squirreled away in a giant holster. Kenneth Starr is an ayatollah. Osama bin Laden is a long, bushy beard. Dan Quayle is a puny Sword of Damocles hanging over George H. W. Bush.

The only folks who might find today’s news cheering are the future members of our public carnival of fools: they are lucky to have evaded the David Levine treatment.

David Levine, Astringent Illustrator, Died at 83 [NYT]

Related: Levine in Winter [Vanity Fair]

Today’s News: Livni Says ‘No No’ to Bibi

Plus Israeli nuclear whistleblower violates terms, and more


• Tzipi Livni rejected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s offer to include her Kadima party in his unity cabinet. [Forward/Haaretz]
• Mordecai Vanunu, who blew the whistle on Israeli nuclear activities in 1986, was ordered under house arrest after meeting with “a number of foreigners” in violation of his conditional release from prison. [WSJ]
• Cancer rates among Israeli Holocaust survivors are significantly higher than those of Jews who migrated to Palestine before or during World War II, a new study found. [NYT]
• Peter Orszag, Obama’s budget czar, announced his engagement to ABC News correspondent Bianna Golodryaga. “She’s a Russian Jew who gets up earlier than I do,” he said. [NYT]
• Alice Schiller, who grew up in an Orthodox Indiana household but ended up running one of Los Angeles’s most famous burlesque clubs, died at 95. [NYT]
• Mazel tov to the man in Israel who just secured his country’s record by accomplishing his 11th divorce (all of which were halachic). Ladies, this means he’s single! [JPost]

Administration Rebukes Its Anti-Semitism Envoy

Rosenthal, former J Street advisor, tell us she’s still packing for D.C.


Is Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s new anti-Semitism czar, doomed to become the next Van Jones—an administration official whose impolitic comments force her departure? Last week, she told Haaretz that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s recent criticism of the progressive Israel lobbying group J Street was “most unfortunate.” The remarks prompted several Jewish leaders to complain; Alan Solow, the Chicago Democrat who chairs the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, opined that Rosenthal went “beyond her responsibilities.” Meanwhile, the Israeli government requested clarification, and, late on Christmas Eve, they got it: Obama’s Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs asserted, “The Department of State deeply values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff.” In other words, Rosenthal got some clarification, too.

Tablet Magazine reached Rosenthal earlier today at home in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is busy packing up her furniture for the move to Washington, D.C., later this week. She declined to comment on the furor her comments provoked, except to say that she believes the original Haaretz headline—which said she “blasted” Oren—exaggerated what she actually said, which was that she thought it “most unfortunate” that Oren apparently thinks J Street’s dovish policy positions could put the lives of Israeli Jews at risk.

“The interview focused on what is and what isn’t anti-Semitism,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t think a reporter asking me about J Street is out of bounds, and I don’t think my answer was out of bounds.”

American Envoy Sparks Furor with Criticism of Oren [Haaretz]
U.S. Official Slammed for Criticizing Ambassador Oren [JPost]

Earlier: U.S. Anti-Semitism Envoy Attacks Ambassador Oren

Related: The Anti-Anti-Semite [Tablet Magazine]

No Longer That Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For converts, December can be the cruelest month


On the day after Christmas, the New York Times published a sympathetic article on the emotional bind that many former Christians who have converted to Judaism find themselves in during December 25th:

For thousands of people who convert to Judaism, Christmas is a difficult day of balancing what was once intimately theirs but now represents, in some ways, the essence of what they are giving up.

We are surprised that the Times resisted the temptation to point out a small coincidence in its piece: the paper of record’s lead anecdotal convert, Charlotte Jett, shares a name with maybe the most pop culturally famous convert, Sex and the City’s Charlotte Goldenblatt (née York). But the article is worth your time, and important to read: after all, Christmas is only 362 days away!

Why Is This Christmas Different From All Others? [NYT]

High Noon: Bibi Starts Building in East Jerusalem

Plus hot water for Obama envoy, and more in the news


• Israel announced plans to build 700 new homes in East Jerusalem. The move was condemned by Palestinian negotitor Saeb Erekat as well as a U.S. diplomat. [AP/WSJ]
• Alan Solow, a major figure in the Jewish-American organizational world, criticized Obama administration anti-Semitism envoy Hannah Rosenthal for her comments chastising Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren and defending J Street. [JTA]
• The Israeli military killed three West Bank men accused of murdering an Israeli settler a few days before; three more Palestinians died in an airstrike in north Gaza. [LAT]
• Numerous experts predict that the next time Israel finds itself in a Lebanon- or Gaza-style conflict, it will utilize even more force. [NYT]
• If you’ve been following the saga of Sean Goldman, the boy whose American father was trying to get him back from Brazil, then you may want to know that Sean and his father, David, are Jewish. [JTA]
• A scholar who sat on the Catholic-Jewish Historical Commission gives his thoughts on the controversial Pope Pius XII’s continued path toward sainthood. [Forward]

Sundown: Bibi Offers Livni, Kadima Cabinet Spots

Plus bid on your very own fake Auschwitz sign, and more


• As the Kadima Party threatens to split in two, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered Kadima Leader Tzipi Livni membership in his unity government. She said she is considering it. [Forward/Haaretz]
• The British Guardian, which already apologized for implying the blood libel in its headline about Israeli organ harvesting, issued an extended correction on its article. [Haaretz]
• A Pennsylvania name with the online handle “zz panzergrenadier” is attempting to sell a replica of Auschwitz’s recently stolen (and recovered”)“Arbeit Macht Frei” sign on eBay. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has asked the online auction house to shut the item down. [Vos Iz Neias?/Jerusalem Post]
• Popular proto-indie band The Pixies will perform a show in Israel in June at a yet-to-be-determined location. [Haaretz]

U.S. Anti-Semitism Envoy Attacks Ambassador Oren

A former J Street adviser, she defends the group


“Most unfortunate” was how a U.S. administration official characterized the Israeli Ambassador to the United States’s disparaging comments about the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” J Street political organization. Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, told Haaretz that Ambassador Michael Oren “would have learned a lot” from participating in J Street’s conference, to which he declined an invitation. “We may disagree on different paths to get there—but we need to at least admit that peace is the goal and security is the goal,” she said. She was responding to Oren’s statement that J Street, which is Zionist but frequently critical of the Israeli government’s policies, poses “a unique problem” and is “significantly out of the mainstream.” Rosenthal formerly served on J Street’s advisory board; the daughter of a rabbi who survived the Holocaust, she was also an official in the Clinton administration’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Tablet Magazine’s Allison Hoffman interviewed Rosenthal upon her accession to her current position last month. She had this to say about J Street:

Criticizing a certain policy in Israel or a certain policy in the United States regarding Israel does not make someone an anti-Semite. … I think J Street needs to be at the table, and I think other organizations representing many strategies all need to be at the table, because the status quo in the Middle East is totally unacceptable.

U.S. Official Blasts Israel Envoy’s ‘Unfortunate’ J Street Remarks [Haaretz]

Related: The Anti-Anti-Semite [Tablet Magazine]

Earlier: Israeli Ambassador Scolds and Praises J Street

Jewish Left-Wing Sportswriter Lester Dies

An exemplar of his generation


They don’t make ‘em like Rodney Lester anymore. Lester, who died Sunday at 98, had all the bona fides of what was exceptional about his generation of American Jews: a Brooklyn-born grandson of immigrants, he was a left-wing journalist whose only political obsession was civil rights, and whose only real obsession was baseball. His perch was the Communist Daily Worker, but his beat was sports and his writing was largely shorn of ideological hand-wringing. (He joined the Party, only to leave it when the Daily Worker suspended publication: his membership merely followed from his job.)

The one place where Lester was “political” were his insistent pleas, first lodged over a decade before Jackie Robinson put on the uniform of Lester’s beloved Brooklyn Dodgers, that Major League Baseball allow blacks to play. In 1942, he wrote in an open letter to Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis:

Negro soldiers and sailors are among those beloved heroes of the American people who have already died for the preservation of this country and everything this country stands for—yes, including the great game of baseball. You, the self-proclaimed ‘Czar’ of baseball, are the man responsible for keeping Jim Crow in our National Pastime. You are the one refusing to say the word which would do more to justify baseball’s existence in this year of war than any other single thing.

No, they don’t make ‘em like Rodney Lester anymore.

Lester Rodney, Early Fighter Against Racism in Sports, Dies at 98 [NYT]

Did Madoff Get Beat Up?

Reported injuries suggest he did

Madoff in New York City, March 2009.(Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

When Bernard Madoff was moved to his prison’s hospital yesterday, a spokesperson at the federal North Carolina facility would not say why, although she did deny that Madoff was either terminally ill or had cancer. Today, we still don’t know for sure, but reportedly his injuries include broken ribs, a collapsed lung, facial fractures: in other words, it’s looking likely that the 71-year-old Ponzi schemer, currently serving a life sentence, was beaten up.

Report: Madoff Treated for Facial Fractures, Broken Ribs [ABC Local] (via Vos Iz Neias?)

Today on Tablet

A very Yiddish Christmas, Christmas songs by Jews, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Marissa Brostoff presents 1920s cartoonist Milt Gross’s Yiddish-inflected version of “The Night Before Christmas”—“De Night in de Front from Chreesmas”—read by a Yiddish actor and accompanied by Gross’s drawings. Music columnist Alexander Gelfand profiles a klezmer quartet started by two brothers whose father lost his family in the Holocaust. David Lehman and Marc Tracy compile the top ten Christmas songs written by Jews. And let The Scroll get you through the day to the long weekend.

All About Casspi

Israel’s first NBA player gets the ‘Sports Illustrated’ treatment

Casspi goes for a block in a Euroleague game, March 2008.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty)

This week, Sports Illustrated published a feature on Sacramento Kings rookie forward Omri Casspi, the first Israeli player in the NBA (Tablet Magazine profiled him last summer). Fun facts about Casspi abound: per his father’s request, two Israeli flags fly at every Sacramento home game; Casspi wears number 18, for chai. And there’s this: “When NBA commissioner David Stern announced that Sacramento was selecting Casspi, Stern cracked a smile, which Casspi maintains was a little wider than usual. ‘Because he’s Jewish,’ Casspi reasons.”

You also learn about the rich history of Jews in professional basketball. Brooklyn’s Ossie Schectman scored the first-ever basket in the NBA’s precursor league; Dolph Schayes was a 12-time All Star and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame (he also now checks the Kings box score after every game). Meanwhile, Israeli Mickey Berkowitz was likely good enough to play stateside in the late ‘70s, but Maccabi Tel Aviv—which was also Casspi’s squad—would not let him out of his contract.

When this article went to press, Casspi was the Kings’ seventh man (which is fantastic for a rookie). Since then, however, he got his first start. This week may not be the last time Casspi makes SI’s pages.

Welcome, The King of Israel [Sports Illustrated]

Earlier: Israeli Casspi Stars in First NBA Start

Related: Draft Notice [Tablet Magazine]

Daybreak: How Not To Steal a Concentration Camp Artifact

Plus the West Bank mosque arson’s aftermath, and more in the news


• Turns out the three alleged thieves who tried to steal the Auschwitz sign bungled the heist in a thoroughly comedic manner. [NYT]
• While the Palestinian residents of Yasuf, in the West Bank, appreciated Israeli condemnations of the arson against their mosque, what they really want is for the perpetrators (presumed to be Israeli settlers) to be found and brought to justice—which now seems unlikely. [Forward]
• On the generally liberal New York Times op-ed page, a professor argues for U.S. airstrikes on Iran’s nuclear program, ASAP. [NYT]
• The U.S. Senate passed its health-care reform bill, definitively paving the way for historic legislation to reach President Barack Obama’s desk in the coming weeks. [LAT]

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