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Sundown: How Do You Say ‘Palestinian State’ in Spanish?

Plus Brooklyn and Justice Department menorahs, and more

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• The Spanish foreign minister announced his country will press for Palestinian statehood when it takes over the E.U. presidency on January 1st. [JTA]
• A Chabad-sponsored menorah at an entrance to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park has prompted a heated discussion on the legality of religious displays on city property. [NYT]
Newsweek’s ace investigative reporter Michael Isikoff asked Attorney General Eric Holder at a holiday party why his Department of Justice had only five lit candles (plus the shamash) on Hanukkah’s sixth night. [Vos Iz Neias?]
• The anonymous buyer of a Rembrandt for over $33 million last week turns out to be casino mogul Steve Wynn (né Weinberg). He once accidentally put his elbow through a $48 million Picasso. [NYT]

Circumcised Sex As Good or Better … For The Woman

New study tells Jewish men what they totally already knew

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Most scientific examinations of sexual pleasure and circumcision have focused on how the man’s experience is affected. But a new study in the journal BJU International (pun implied) considered women, and found there is not a significant difference in a woman’s sexual pleasure between when the man is sporting the theater version and when he is screening the director’s cut, with all the deleted scenes included. In fact, though a majority of the 455 Ugandan women who participated in the study reported no difference, nearly 40 percent claimed that sex with their partner actually got better post-op. Next time, you ladies will have to think of a different excuse.

Sex Equally Satisfying with Circumcised Men: Study
[Reuters]

Meet Your 2009 Major League Dreidel Champion

You don’t need to be Jewish to be a great spinner

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Congratulations to John Heywood—spinning name: Jonny Hei-z (“Hei” as in Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin)—who won the honor last weekend in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, despite the arguable disadvantage of not being Jewish. Heywood told Tablet Magazine that the competition, which is run by friends of his, rates how long spinners can keep their dreidel spinning, rather than which letters their dreidels land on. Moreover, the tournament is decided via a March Madness-style bracket, so it’s all about performing under pressure: Heywood eked out victory even though his (admittedly impressive) 16-second high was not the best of the night. “This is my first year doing it—I’m a rookie spinner,” he said, adding: “I’m the first non-Jew to win—I found it funny. I think it’s great that everyone can be involved. I had friends who were Jewish growing up, so we had dreidels around.”

Adelson Denies Israeli Political Involvement

Philanthropist likes Birthright as bulwark against intermarriage

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Adelson in Hong Kong last month.(Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is arguably the most important person in the world of Jewish philanthropy. The one-time third-richest man in the world (the stock in his company, Las Vegas Sands, has fallen, pushing him down to 25th) has donated millions to Yad Vashem, Jerusalem’s Shalem Center, and particularly Birthright. Adelson is also the owner of Israel HaYom, Israel’s second-largest daily. And, as a New Yorker profile last year illustrated, he holds solidly right-wing views on the Palestine question. JTA’s Fundermentalist blogger scored an interview with him. A few notable answers follow.

How has your stance on Israel evolved over the years?
… I met my wife 21 years ago, and I became cemented more and more to the State of Israel. She is Israeli. Her children are Israeli, and we have all become one big family. I have gotten involved because I spent an awful lot of time there. I am a strong Zionist, and I do what it takes for the support of the State of Israel.

Where do you stand with AIPAC these days?
I believe in AIPAC.

Do you still stand behind Netanyahu now that he has come out in favor of a two-state solution?

I am not against a two-state solution if it is on the right terms. But I don’t think the right terms will ever be achieved.

In Israel, your political involvement is well known …
What political involvement? I am not involved politically in Israel. Period. And everybody thinks I started the newspaper Israel HaYom purely to benefit Bibi. Nothing could be further from the truth. I started the newspaper to give Israel, Israelis, a fair and balanced view of the news and the views. That’s all. It is not “Bibi-ton.” It is not a newspaper started for and operated for Bibi. And this is the propaganda of our competitors to say to their customers, “Don’t take Israel Hayom seriously because all it is is a promotion for Bibi. …”

Have you found any [reports on Jewish organizations] that appeal to you?
Sure. The most important one that we do is Birthright Israel. The study by Brandeis just came out to show that the rate of intermarriage here is 58 percent. Only 42 percent of the American Jews married within the Jewish religion. Today about 76 percent [of Birthright alumni who have tied the knot married] within the religion. … How much more can one contribute to Jewish continuity?

Sitting Down with Sheldon Adelson [JTA]

Related:
The Brass Ring [The New Yorker]

Two Jews, One Argument

Franken and Lieberman get testy in the Senate

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Some people have not yet forgiven the Connecticut senator for his health-care reform betrayal, apparently. Note Sen. McCain coming to his right honorable colleague’s defense following the contretemps; at which point, Sen. Levin cannot help but chime in, too.

Israeli Casspi Stars in First NBA Start

Also, Philly high school squad target of anti-Semitic chants

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Casspi at a Tel Aviv press conference in June.(Jack Guez/AFP/Getty)

Omri Casspi, the Sacramento Kings rookie who is the first Israeli to play in the NBA, got his first start Wednesday. And he came through: he scored a career-high 22 points, grabbed five rebounds, and sunk a crucial late-game three-pointer, which ended up being the difference in the Kings’ 112-109 won.

In other Jewish basketball news, at a game between Upper Darby and Lower Merion High Schools in the Philadelphia suburbs, students from Upper Darby, which has far fewer Jews than its Main Line rival, taunted their opponents with chants of, “Warm up the ovens,” “You’re so Jewish, get your yarmulke,” and “We’ll write you letters when you’re in Auschwitz.” Lower Merion responded by blowing them out, 51-27. One Lower Merion alum told Tablet Magazine this morning: “The surprising thing is not the taunting, it’s that we won.”

Casspi Wows ‘Em in First-Ever Start [Haaretz]
Philly Students Dunked After Holocaust Taunts [JTA]

Earlier: Omri Casspi Is Ready for Primetime

Today in Tablet

Solomon’s baby and a Hanukkah song you haven’t heard

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Today in Tablet Magazine, Liel Leibovitz sees this week’s haftorah—in which King Solomon invents his patented cut-the-baby-in-half method of conflict resolution—as a parable for the self-destructive consequences of the impulse to revenge. From our archives, Julie Subrin’s podcast explores the origins of the popular Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) Hanukkah song “Ocho Kandelikas.” And today is the last day that you can read The Scroll during Hanukkah 2009/5770, so don’t miss out!

‘Washington Post’ Columnist Discovers Shabbat (Sabbath)

Apparently some Jews do this every Friday?

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“Last week I was invited to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner, which observant Jews hold every Friday night,” Sally Quinn, the long-time Washington Post columnist, begins her latest. “After three enlightening years of moderating The Post’s online feature ‘On Faith,’ you would think, I should be totally comfortable going to any religious event. But to tell the truth, I was nervous.” Actually, what you would think is that Quinn, a Beltway hobnobber for decades (she’s been married to legendary Post editor Ben Bradlee for 30 years), would have been to a Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner before. Or would at least be able to discuss the experience with some sophistication.

But the column is notable for its astonishing naivete. “I used my phone-a-friend lifeline. Should I bring something to cover my head? ‘Not necessary,‘ he said. Would a nice set of lavender soap be an appropriate gift? ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘They’re not going to eat it.’” Honestly: how did Quinn not know that lavender soap is consumed only on Shemeni Atzeret? Shabbat (Sabbath) is for rose-scented bars. “I knew enough not to wear red and green,” she boasts. Is that because of Christmas, or because of the Palestinian flag? Because either way, it’s probably not a big deal. Finally, “I was also told by another Jewish friend not to expect any wine. ‘Drink before you go,‘ he advised.” So what she is telling us is she arrived hammered. That would explain her column.

“The dinner turned out to be delightful,” Quinn concludes (and who would have guessed?). “There was plenty of delicious California kosher wine, red and white … The food was spectacular—the best matzoh-ball soup I ever ate. And the conversation was lively and spirited, to say the least: We debated whether this was a Christian nation!” More than we thought, apparently.

Sally Quinn’s The Party: The Shabbat Dinner [WP]

Daybreak: Auschwitz’s ‘Work Shall Set You Free’ Pilfered

Plus intelligence leaks, Christmas songs (by Jews), and more in the news

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• The iconic wrought-iron sign that greeted new arrivals at Auschwitz with the words “Arbeit macht Frei” has been stolen. Police suspect neo-Nazis; the theft could be tied to Germany’s recent decision to commit over $80 million to the Polish site’s restoration. [Times of London]
• A left-wing Israeli lawyer living in Maryland pleaded guilty in federal court to disclosing classified communications. Shamai Kedem Leibowitz is alleged to have leaked U.S. intelligence documents to an unnamed blogger. [Politico]
“Person of the Year” Ben Bernanke was approved by a Senate panel for a second five-year term at the helm of the Federal Reserve. Next step: a (likely contentious) vote of the full Senate. [WSJ]
• An AP reporter examines in detail how Palestinian villages in the West Bank are adversely affected by the existence of nearby Israeli settlements. [AP]
• Crooner Michael Feinstein celebrates the rich catalogue of Christmas songs written by Jews (take that, Garrison Keillor!). [NYT]

Sundown: New E.U. Official Chastises Israel

Plus J Street in the center and Shmuley on Tiger, and more

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• In her very first speech, the brand-new E.U. foreign policy head took aim at Israel: “East Jerusalem is occupied territory together with the West Bank.” [JTA]
• J Street’s decision to back the Iran sanctions bill, which the U.S. House of Representatives passed yesterday, represented a move toward the center for the “pro-Israel, pro-peace” American group. [Forward]
• Ambassador Michael Oren and a spokesperson for Special Envoy George Mitchell both denied allegations that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman leaves the room when Mitchell mentions East Jerusalem. [Ben Smith]
• Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has some words of wisdom for and about Tiger Woods. [JTA]
• In Israel, sufganiyot have roundly defeated latkes as the Hanukkah delicacy of choice. [Jewish Chronicle]

Garrison Keillor Doesn’t Like Jews Writing Christmas Songs

Those Unitarians are ruining his holiday season, too

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Keillor in New York City in November, 2008.(Will Ragozzino/Getty Images)

Garrison Keillor, self-appointed cultural representative of regular old Americans, ruffled some feathers yesterday with a mildly xenophobic rant about Christmas. After lambasting a Unitarian church in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for “spiritual piracy and cultural elitism”—tweaking the lyrics of “Silent Night” for a singalong, in layman’s terms—he turned his ire in a different direction:

And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write ‘Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah’? No, we didn’t. Christmas is a Christian holiday—if you’re not in the club, then buzz off.

The Baltimore Sun got some angry letters about this, and understandably so. Hating on Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” is, in a way, the same thing as the American Family Association’s boycott of the Gap for its “failure” to use the word Christmas in ads: both actions reject a dilution of Christmas by outsiders, just in slightly different ways. It certainly does not accord with the generous holiday spirit. And anyway: “Dreck?” Really? Who’s co-opting whom?

Nonbelievers, Please Leave Christmas Alone [Baltimore Sun]

Israel Intensifies Pressure on Britain Over Warrants

Will ban ministerial visits if steps are not taken

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The Israeli government appears ready to ban government ministers from visiting Britain until it is assured that none of them could face arrest for war-crimes charges, which Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni very well could have had she set foot in the United Kingdom Monday. Britain continues to articulate its commitment to ensuring the safe passage of Israeli eminences: it wants to be a major player in the Middle East peace process, it figures, and it can’t do that very well if Israel takes this step. However, British diplomats also denied a report that the attorney general would be required to approve all similar warrants in the future, and it is not clear, among legal concerns over due process and political concerns over those British voters who saw the Livni warrant as a good thing, just how far the British government would go to keep Israeli ministers coming to London. Well, they’ll always have Paris.

Livni Crisis Deepens as Israel Bans U.K. Visits [Jewish Chronicle]
Britain Eyeing Ways to Avoid Warrants [JTA]
Previously: U.K. Pledges to Prevent Future War-Crimes Charges

Op-Eds Duel Over Netanyahu’s Freeze

East Jerusalem is central, and not just geographically

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Barghouti in Ramallah in April, 2007.(Jamal Aruri.AFP/Getty Images)

Two op-eds appearing side-by-side this morning in the International Herald Tribune illustrate how peace in the Middle East could make real progress in the near future—and how the current settlement freeze’s failure to include East Jerusalem might doom this opportunity.

Mustafa Barghouti, the highly respected Palestinian politician, accuses the current Israeli government of intransigence (in an accusation we haven’t seen before, he claims that Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman leaves the room whenever U.S. Envoy George Mitchell mentions East Jerusalem) and the Obama administration of weakness. He carefully advocates continued nonviolent Palestinian protest, while disdaining a settlement freeze that does not explicitly include East Jerusalem. “Eventually,” he concludes, “we will be free in our own country, either within the two-state solution or in a new integrated state.”

On the other side, former Labor Party prime ministerial spokesperson Uri Dromi comes to praise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not to bury him, and to ask Israelis to get behind him. The West Bank settlement freeze and the increased proximity of a deal for captured soldier Gilad Shalit are evidence, Dromi argues, of Netanyahu’s successful balancing among a United States anxious for peace, a Likud Party skeptical of Palestinian goodwill, and a demographic reality that will soon see Israel “either lose its Jewish identity or become an apartheid state.”

Evidence suggests that the Palestinians are trying to lay favorable groundwork—see: a full construction freeze, including in East Jerusalem—for new talks. Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asserted that peace can happen in six months … if Israel imposes a total construction freeze outside the Green Line. Palestinian and Egyptian negotiators also leaked a maybe-true report that Egypt, France, and the United States have asked Israel for a full five-month freeze; America quickly denied the report. So, in conclusion, East Jerusalem is the most ostentatious stumbling-block. That is, unless you count another issue, one that neither op-ed even slightly engaged with: Hamas-controlled Gaza.

When Will It Be Our Time? [IHT]
Netanyahu’s High-Wire Act [IHT]
Abbas to ‘Haaretz’: Peace Possible in Six Months if Israel Freezes All Settlements
U.S. Official Denies Report of New Settlement Deal [Ben Smith]

This is What a Bullet-Riddled Laptop Looks Like

Israel is reimbursing American tourist

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Below, an interview with Lily Sussman, the American tourist whose laptop is a bit dinged up after Israeli border security put three bullets through it. A lot of good shots of the corpse included. Israel is reimbursing her.

Israeli Authorities Will Reimburse Girl After Shooting Holes Through Her Laptop [Gizmodo]

Palin and Huckabee Use Settlements to Set Themselves Apart

Top Jewish Republican strategist explains issue’s appeal

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Noam Neusner, a former speechwriter and Jewish liason for President George W. Bush, has a theory (in the Forward) for why Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee, two possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates, have opposed a West Bank settlement freeze more vociferously and more loudly than even many of their Republican rivals:

their focus on settlements could also be seen as a calculated political move to distinguish themselves from the Republican pack. With virtually the entire Congress—Democrats and Republicans—reliably lining up to support Israel on the easy stuff, you can’t make your mark unless you take on the hard stuff and go further than anyone else.

Palin and Huckabee may also genuinely believe that a settlement freeze is as dangerous as they say. Still, it’s worth distinguishing the robustness of their opposition from that of other potential Republican candidates, who, says Neusner, “have found a way to take issue with the Obama administration’s stance on settlements without climbing out on the limb that Huckabee and Palin have.” For example, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the minority whip, has simply called the whole settlement issue a “distraction” from the more important matter of Iran’s nuclear program. Cantor probably does not need to make quite the same effort to distinguish himself on Middle East concerns, particularly among voters who share his Jewish faith.

Why Palin and Huckabee Dig Settlements [Forward]

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